Choosing a Christmas tree should be a straightforward process and here, the Christmas.co.uk team take a closer look at how to choose a real Christmas tree.
Whether you want an artificial Christmas tree or a real one for your home, do you know the difference between a Norway spruce or a Nordmann fir?
Understanding the tree varieties is a big part of choosing the perfect Christmas tree for the festivities.
Clive Collins who runs catsfieldchristmastreefarm.com in Battle, East Sussex, told us his tips when buying a real Christmas tree: “Is the tree fresh looking? Is the tree the correct shape? Is the tree a dark green in colour? Does the tree have six inches of clear stem at the base? Is the tree full?
“The Danes say that if you can see your mother-in-law on the other side of the tree, then this tree is not full enough.”
Also, understanding which Christmas tree is the most suitable for a particular environment is important and you’ll need to understand how to care for your tree to ensure that it lasts until January and looks great without shedding needles.
The Christmas.co.uk team enjoyed this report from BBC News about the impact that Christmas trees – real and artificial – have on the environment.
We buy nearly eight million grown trees every year
In Britain, we buy nearly eight million grown trees every year and they are popular because they are not only traditional, but they have an unbeatable festive smell too.
Mark Rofe, the owner of online tree retailer ChristmasTrees.co.uk, highlights that knowing where a tree will be standing is also important.
He said: “Before you even begin to choose your Christmas tree, there are several things you should consider first that will help you to make your decision.
“Some types of Christmas tree are better suited to an indoor environment, while others are more suited to being placed outdoors. If you’re looking to place your Christmas tree outdoors, then you should consider a Norway Spruce tree, this is the species of tree that is put up in Trafalgar Square each year.
“However, if you are looking to place your Christmas tree indoors, you should avoid the Norway Spruce, because it doesn’t typically last long indoors.”
He added: “Of course, choosing your tree also comes down to personal preference too, this can be from the shape of the tree, the colour, foliage, smell, to how long you want it to last.
“The most popular Christmas tree in the UK is the Nordmann fir, which is known for its long-lasting needles. However, for something more exotic looking, you could opt for a Korean fir tree which occasionally has cones on its branches, or a Blue Spruce tree, which as its name suggests has slightly blue foliage.”
Hew Stevenson of London Christmas trees stockists, Shoots and Leaves, says he stocks Fraser firs and Nordmann non-drop fires because, “Nordmann firs are full, bushy, well-proportioned with growth to the top as well as being long lasting.”
However, Robert Morgan, the owner at gowerfreshchristmastrees.co.uk in Swansea, says: “Lots of people are now choosing Fraser fir as a slimmer tree that has a great citrus Christmas tree smell, with a bluey hue and great needle retention.”
How To Choose A Christmas Tree: 5 Top Tips is an informative and entertaining video from David Domoney really does spell out the advice you need to choose a real Christmas tree in the UK.
Which is the best real Christmas tree to choose?
There’s no doubt that for many families around the country, choosing their real Christmas tree has become a cherished highlight of the festive season.
Along with the shape and size of the tree, you also need to understand the various tree types. They include:
The Norway spruce is a traditional choice, and it’s also known as the father of Christmas trees. It’s popular because:
- It has a nice shape
- There are lots of branches for hanging decorations
- It delivers a lovely scent for Christmas
- But the needles can be quite sharp.
One of the big attractions for the Norway spruce is that it delivers the smell and classic look of a tree for Christmas.
The best time to buy the Norway spruce is closer to Christmas Day because once brought indoors, it can lose its needles fairly quickly.
TOP CHRISTMAS TREE TIP: To avoid losing needles, or help prevent them from turning brown, you need to keep the Christmas tree away from a fire or radiator, and water it every day.
The BCTGA offers this helpful video for the Norway Spruce.
The association makes clear that this was the traditional tree in the UK – mainly down to its traditional shape.
The Nordmann fir is Europe’s most popular Christmas tree because:
- The tree has an even shape and soft foliage and is easy to decorate
- The needles are dark green and glossy
- The branches are strong – so great for big decorations
- The Nordmann fir is popular with families since the needles are soft and large without being sharp.
- But the tree can be quite wide, so you need a large area to show it off properly. For a 6 ft tree, you will need a space that is at least 5 ft across.
This ‘treetorial’ from the BCTGA explains more about the Nordmann Fir and why it is now the most popular Christmas tree in the UK.
The second most popular choice for a real Christmas tree, is the Fraser fir. It is popular because:
- It looks fairly similar to the Nordmann but has shorter needles
- The needles have a silver underside to help boost the tree’s overall colour
- The Fraser fir offers a nice scent
- It is ideal for smaller rooms because it’s a slimmer tree.
You may find also that the Fraser fir will retain most of its needles until you decide to take it down.
The ‘treetorial’ from the BCTGA explains why the Fraser fir is popular – it holds onto its needles really well and has a distinctive citrus scent.
Christmas trees: real or artificial Christmas trees?
As mentioned, many people who take the time and trouble to buy a real Christmas tree do so because it’s a traditional festive undertaking and brings a nice scent to a room.
For other people, buying a real Christmas tree does appear to be wasteful and more effort than it’s worth so choose an artificial tree instead.
However, the British Christmas Tree Growers’ Association say that the benefits of a real tree include:
- Having a real Christmas tree that is a festive attraction for your home, it looks stunning and the evocative, evergreen fragrance is the scent that says ‘Christmas’
- A real tree excites our seasonal senses and helps to create the ideal festive atmosphere
- Decorate it as you wish, with treasured ornaments, collected over many years – it is always a joy to re-open the box of treasured baubles.
Also, a real pine or fir tree absorbs carbon dioxide and releases oxygen.
The Carbon Trust also points out that a Christmas tree has a much lower carbon footprint than an artificial tree.
And don’t forget, that real Christmas trees are biodegradable!
More tips on how to choose a real Christmas tree
Perhaps the most important part of choosing a real Christmas tree in the UK is to measure the space that you have.
Real trees tend to look much larger once they are placed in your home so you should measure the height of the room the tree will go in – and how wide it is.
It’s also possible to pay a premium and buy a live Christmas tree that has great needle retention.
However, it will be rare to find a tree that is completely needle-drop free.
The big difference is that a premium tree will lose some needles, but certainly not the deluge that some trees will leave by Boxing Day – which is another reason why you should buy a tree from a reputable supplier.
You should also buy a fresh tree that will last for the festive period, and you can do this by:
- Check the tree first by tapping it on the ground
- Check for needles falling off
- If it loses lots of needles, choose another one.
Another important tip to choose a tree comes from Alastair Lucking of Love a Christmas Tree, who says: “Visit a local Christmas tree farm and discuss your requirements with their staff.
“If you are unsure where your local Christmas tree farm is, go to the British Christmas Tree Growers Association website for assistance.”
He added: “Shop locally with a member of the Association for the best customer service, an authentic tree buying experience and for the best quality trees from sustainable plantations.”
Mark Rofe of ChristmasTrees.co.uk also points out: “For anyone that is new to real Christmas trees, it’s important that you look after your tree to make sure it lasts.
“Some people will choose to place their cut Christmas tree inside a bucket filled with soil, however as the tree has no roots this will prevent it from getting the water that it requires.
“So, it’s important you purchase a Christmas tree stand with your tree which is specially designed to not only hold your tree in place, but it also holds water which keeps the tree hydrated. Make sure to keep your tree topped up with water and keep it away from direct heat.”
Mark also points out that one trend in recent years has been towards pot grown Christmas trees – these are trees that are grown in their pot with their roots, so they can be used indoors at Christmas and then can be replanted outdoors, ready to be brought in again for next Christmas.