How to buy a real Christmas tree

If you’re looking to cast off the plastic needles and metal trunk in favour of the real deal, let us give you the lowdown first.
 
  • Couple choosing a real Christmas tree
    Victoria Joy
    Last updated: 22 November 2013, 08:23 GMT

    Why should I buy a real tree?
    A lot of people are put off getting a real tree because they think it will be too much effort but that’s not the case at all – the upkeep is easy when you know how! In terms of being kind to the environment, real trees use about 10 times fewer materials and five times less energy than artificial trees, plus you can’t reproduce their divine Christmassy smell and what’s more - you can recycle it! Where can I buy a real tree from? The Forestry Commission has Christmas tree sales centres across the UK - locations are listed on its website - and if you buy from them, you can be safe in the knowledge that whatever tree you pick has been grown in the UK in a well-managed way. If you can’t find one of these sales centres nearby, try The British Christmas Tree Growers Association website, which has a list of suppliers based on postcode. Failing that, your local DIY store or garden centre should have a good stock.

    When should I start thinking about buying a real Christmas tree?
    If you take good care of your Christmas tree, it can last up to six weeks, so you should be able to pick yours at the beginning of December and still have it looking green and smelling fresh come the New Year.

    How much is too much to pay for a real tree?
    The price that you pay for your tree is completely up to you and it will depend on a number of factors. If you shop in the city, you may find you’re paying a bit more than if you bought your tree in the suburbs, but the benchmarks are usually around £25 for a 6ft Norwegian Spruce and £40 for a Nordmann Fir. One thing we will say – if you find a bargain of a tree, you may want to check that it’s FSC-certified, which means it has been managed according to the Forest Stewardship Council’s guidelines.

    Should I buy my tree in person or online?
    Choosing a tree in person can often be a really enjoyable experience, especially if you have young children who are already getting into the Christmas spirit! Wrapping up and heading out into the forest to pick your own tree has become a festive tradition for many families, and it means that you know exactly what you’re getting and will have a better idea of how your tree will look once it’s in your home. That being said, if you’re short on time, you can go online and buy a tree from the online Forestry Commission Shop and get it delivered to your home on a specified date - it couldn’t be simpler and delivery is free.

    Christmas tree setting

    What should I consider when choosing a tree?
    There are a few things to bear in mind, which are all dependent on who lives in your house and the room in which you’ll display your tree, so the best way to find your perfect tree is to flag your checklist to an expert at the sales centre. Have a think about what your tree needs to deliver on before you head off to the centre. Do you need sturdy needles that won’t fall off every time the dog brushes past? Do you want to fill your home with the fresh scent of pine? Are softer needles best because you have young children who will inevitably play around the tree? It’s easy to see why so many families choose to buy their tree in person and make use of the expert staff’s advice. It’s helpful to know the characteristics of the most popular trees, so we asked the Forestry Commission to give us a brief overview:

    Norwegian Spruce
    With its mid-green colour, fine delicate foliage and a distinctive Christmassy scent, this is the most traditional type of festive tree.

    Nordmann Fir
    Getting into the Christmas spirit and cutting out the need for snow in a can, this species has bold green needles with a silver-white underside. Its shelf life is impressive too.

    Lodgepole pine
    If you want to fill your rooms with a sharp pine fragrance throughout the festive period, the Lodgepole is for you. The bushy tree has a cheerful green colour, slightly tinged with yellow.

    Scots pine
    A really fragrant native conifer, this tree has soft finger-friendly needles with an attractive blue-green foliage.

    Will my tree be delivered?
    Obviously if you choose to go to a sales centre and choose your tree yourself, you’ll probably want to take it home with you there and then. However, if you buy your tree online, you can usually organise home delivery down to a specific day.

    Will my tree come with instructions?
    While it’s unlikely your tree will come with a how-to guide attached, the experts do have some tips on caring for your tree:

    First things first, once you’ve got your tree home, chop off at least one inch (2.5cm) from the bottom of the trunk and gently shake the tree to remove any loose needles. Some centres will do this for you when you buy the tree.

    If you’re not going to decorate your tree immediately, stand it in a bucket of water and keep it in a cool place such as a garage or shed until you’re ready to take it indoors.

    Pot the tree with the trunk immersed in water. Don’t use sand or soil in the tree stand as they restrict water from being drawn up the trunk.

    Stand the tree in the coolest part of the room, ideally next to a window and away from radiators and fires, then top it up with water daily.

    Forestry Commission sites will take back their trees after the Christmas period to be chipped and then turned into compost; just ask when you buy your tree to see if your site is able to do so.

    Victoria Joy
    Last updated: 07 December 2013, 11:22 GMT

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