Photo credit: all images with permission from Jeannie @theblushingbean via Instagram
I’m no Christmas tree snob. I’ve bought fake Christmas trees in the past, and a couple of years ago, my boyfriend and I bought a fake Christmas tree simply for the fact we didn’t fancy traipsing pine needles up three flights of stairs!
But, real Christmas trees are the best, aren’t they? The scent of a fresh tree makes a room smell Christmassy in a way that nothing else does, and strangely, I even like the ritual of trying not to poke my eyes out while I thread strings of fairy lights round the spiky fingers of a real tree.
But, where do you begin when it come to choosing a real christmas tree? How do you know a real christmas tree is good (i.e is healthy and won't shed its needles by the 14th of December), and how much should you spend on a christmas tree?
Well, I've been doing my research, and I want to share what I've learnt with you today... who knows - it might mean you don't waste your cash on a christmas tree that simply isn't worth it!
Let me know what you think of these tips, and as ever, if you have anything to add or disagree with something I’ve suggested, please let me know in the comments below!
Head to a reputable retailer
It’s inevitable you’ll run into some ‘Del Boys’ flogging shoddy Christmas trees this winter, but you can avoid falling for their tricks if you know where to look. Pay a visit to a local garden centre (especially if you’ve been happy with the other plants you’ve bought from there before), or rely on recommendations from word of mouth, asking friends, family members, colleagues and neighbours where they buy their tree from.
If you don’t have either of these options available to you, buy one from the British Christmas Tree Grower’s association. You can find a tree seller who’s a member of the BCTGA by clicking here, and you can even order your tree online too. If you want to buy from a Christmas tree from a brand with a household name, try B&Q (browse their real trees here) or Homebase (available here).
Measure up before you buy
I’m rubbish at picturing what six feet, twelve feet or any other measure of ‘feet’ actually looks like. If you’re the same as me, whip out a tape measure before you go shopping and have a look at how high it actually is. Measure the space you have from floor to ceiling, and bear in mind that you’ll need to account for a star or angel on top of the tree.
Also, think about the width as well – measure how large your hallways and doorways are, and make sure you bring your tree home wrapped so that it doesn’t get jammed in the doorway. Take the tape measure along with you while you’re shopping, just so you can check you’re not accidentally buying a tree that’s too big or too small.
Decide which variety you want
I’m not particularly fussy about what variety of tree I’m decorating, but it doesn’t hurt to know what’s what.
Norway Spruce: this is one of the most commonly bought Christmas trees in the UK, and has a truly lovely Christmas scent! Buy this type of tree close to Christmas as the needles drop quickly – it’s not a variety to buy at the beginning of December.
Nordmann Fir: this tree doesn’t smell as wonderful as the Norway Spruce, but its needles to stay on the tree for much longer – even after they’ve turned brown. It’s safe to buy this tree from the beginning of December if you like, and you’ll find it lasts well into the New Year.
Fraser Fir: this tree is the most popular Christmas tree in the USA. It has a narrower base than the other trees on this list, which makes it a good choice if you have a small space to fit it into. It’s not as popular over here, but it’s worth looking for if you fancy a change this year!
Noble Fir: this is probably the most expensive on this list. They’re difficult to find here in the UK due to the fact these trees are grown in forests in Washington and Oregon, but you’ll find that they don’t drop their needles anywhere near as quickly as other varieties. They also have very strong branches, which is perfect if your baubles and ornaments are heavy.
And finally, a variety called Scots Pine is perfect if you don’t really like the sharpness of traditional Christmas tree needles: the needles are a little bit softer than other varieties.
Test the freshness
If you’ve picked a tree to buy, be sure to test its freshness before paying for it. All you need to do this is lift it (wear gardening gloves and ask someone to help you!), giving it a firm tap on the ground. If lots of needles fall off, then it’s worth looking at a different tree – don’t buy a tree that’s shedding too easily as this suggests that it was cut a long time ago and has been stored for while already. Try not to buy trees that have been cut and left in sunlight, if you can – leaving them exposed like this can dry a tree even further.
Consider buying locally
We buy more trees than we grow in the UK, which means we import millions of Christmas trees from places like Norway. If you want to reduce your carbon footprint and have a ‘green’ Christmas, try to buy a Christmas tree that’s been grown locally, and better yet, choose one that’s not yet been cut down. It will stay nice and fresh, and the freshly cut trunk will do better at absorbing water while it’s in your home, meaning it will stay fresher for longer. The Forestry Commission will also pick up some Christmas trees in January, turning the into chippings – so investigate that option rather than heading straight to the tip.
Don't pay too much
The price you pay for your tree will depend on the variety you’re going for, but a standard 6ft Norwegian spruce will probably set you back about £30. Expect to pay up to £50 for a similarly sized Nordmann Fir, and more for other varieties. Bigger trees will cost more, and the straighter the stem, the more they’re worth.
Get your base ready before you bring your tree home
Your Christmas tree will need to be stood in a base that’s strong enough to take its weight, and wide enough to hold water. Buy this ahead of time, and if you’re using the same one from last year, make sure you’ve dug it out before you get the tree home…else someone will be left propping the tree up while you rummage around the garage!
So there you have it – the definitive guide to buying a Christmas tree! Now all you need to do is decide is how you’re going to decorate yours… I'll be writing about that on Monday (don't worry... if you're decorating your tree this weekend there'll still be some useful tricks in there if you're happy to make minor tweaks), and I'll also post a separate article about Scandinavian Christmas decor in particular. It's the best time of year, right!?