The Real Deal

1st December 2017

Craig Roman offers his top tips for choosing and caring for a ‘proper’ Christmas tree…

IN the season of festive fun, the ultimate centrepiece in every home has to be the Christmas tree – perfect for hanging treasured decorations, creating a glittering window display and acting as a resting spot for all your gifts. Artificial might be tempting (and the choice is a personal one, of course) but six to eight million real trees are sold in the UK every year.

There are four main types, each with their own different star-quality merits… The Nordmann Fir is by far the most popular, due in part to its perfect shape, low-needledrop properties and the luxury feel to its glossy soft green needles. If you like to put your tree up early, this is a good choice. The blue-green Fraser Fir is narrower, making it perfect if you’re decorating a smaller space. With dense glossy foliage, it also has good needle-retaining properties.

The Noble Fir is a little bit special and not available in huge numbers, but if you’re looking for something a little more luxurious this might just be the ticket. Whorls of blue-tinged needles adorn these gorgeous chunky trees, and with nicely spaced foliage it provides the perfect place for all your baubles and decorations. 

Heralded as the traditional Christmas tree, the Norway Spruce boasts a lovely pyramid shape, dark foliage and has that classic rich festive scent. This is the tree we remember from childhood, and although the needles will not last as long as some other varieties, it’s a good choice for cooler rooms, or for those who tend to put their tree up later. They also make great display trees for the front garden to welcome your guests over the festive period.

Just like a cat or a dog, a tree shows its health by the sheen of its coat: ideally, a shiny, glossy green. I recommend taking the tree by the trunk and tapping it on the ground before purchase. Evergreens lose needles all year round – but if too many fall off you might want to reconsider.

Ensure you know the dimensions of the room where the tree will sit. Allow for the tree stand that you plan to use, as this will add height. And avoid buying something ready-wrapped: when a tree is in netting you don’t know what you’re getting – it could be uneven in shape or too wide for your room. You can have it netted to take home.

To get the pick of the trees it’s wise to make your purchase early, but this doesn’t necessarily mean you have to put it up straight away. Once home, cut off the netting to allow the branches to relax and settle into place, before carefully sawing a couple of inches off the base of the trunk. Stand your tree straight into a bucket of water, allowing it to drink just like a bunch of fresh flowers, and put it to one side in the garden until you’re ready to bring it indoors. When it’s time to decorate, make sure the stand holds water to help keep your tree looking fresh throughout the festivities.

Over recent years, Christmas tree growers have perfected the art of growing quality pot-grown trees. Ideal for those with limited space, these lovely trees appeal particularly to children who would love to have a tree of their own or to those of us who traditionally like to buy a tree with roots that can, depending on conditions, be transplanted into the garden after the festivities.

When it comes to dressing your tree, the most important rule is not to begin until it’s secure in its base. If you do, you’ll find yourself fighting with branches and crawling underneath the foliage to rectify the problem. Once it’s positioned and you’re happy it isn’t in the way of pets or little ones, leave it to stand for up to 24 hours so that the branches can settle down.

Think about what you want your tree to say about you before choosing the decorations and then decide what will complement your home. Making a few of your own homemade decorations is a lovely way to get children involved in the festivities, and will create treasured keepsakes for years to come. Select the biggest items from your assortment of decorations and display them on the larger branches, then repeat this winning technique by matching smaller ones to the more petite branches. On my own trees, I always fix my items with wire, rather than string – it means I can completely control where they sit, rather than rely on where they ‘hang’.

Your Christmas tree is a short-term visitor, so it’s only right to treat it properly. Make sure it gets enough water – approximately 1-2 litres a day depending on the temperature of the room. Remember that if you put your tree close to a fire or radiator, it’s going to dry out, losing colour or needles. And make sure you’re not placing it too close to any Christmas candles. Not only will they also dry your tree out, but they could present a fire risk.

After the big day, many councils will collect trees for you or you can take it to a recycling centre – check with your local authority to find out more information on options available. Alternatively, chop it up and use as a richly scented mulch for the garden. 

Craig Roman is Head of Visual Merchandising and in-house tree expert at Dobbies Garden Centres:

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