Why you should buy a real Christmas tree

 In Christmas, Seasonal Gardening

a decortaed Christmas tree with presentsA real Christmas tree has always been an essential part of our Christmas and in this blog I’ll explain why.

We’re only just into December and real Christmas trees are already selling well!

Is that because we are all looking to cheer ourselves up or merely that to get a good tree you need to shop early?

I suspect that it is a combination of all these factors.




How popular is the real Christmas tree?

With over 8 million real Christmas trees being bought by householders in the next few days, this is a significant purchase in any sense!

Gone are the days when the straggly tops were lopped off forestry plantations as most trees are now purpose grown.

In my experience (*) the real Christmas tree is as popular as it ever was!

(* I used to sell around 800 per year!)


How are they grown?

Close up of fir shoot and secateurs

Fir shoot tip and secateurs

This is a 7-8 year production cycle and so requires a long term commitment from the grower!

Baby trees are planted out, kept weed free, trimmed every year to improve their shape.

They are also protected against pests before they end up in pride of place in our homes!

Deer can be a major problem when the trees are young and the cost of controlling them can be very significant. I’ve written about deer damage to plants in this blog here.

Most trees are now grown in the UK but still a shortfall is made up by imports from Europe and Eire.


Why buy a real Christmas tree?

Buying British grown trees supports the local rural economy. It provides jobs all year round but also a lot of seasonal jobs in the run up to Christmas.

Contrary to popular opinion cutting down a tree is good for the environment too!

This is because for every tree cut several more will be planted and those growing trees recycle carbon dioxide and convert it into oxygen.

Most of us now recognise the value of locally grown produce in reducing transport impact. So why should the bulky Christmas tree be any different?

Perhaps before you buy your tree this year you should just stop a minute and consider where you buy it? Other than DIY and supermarket giants, most businesses that sell Christmas trees are small local businesses and I think that it’s great to support them!

Norway Christmas tree

Norway Christmas trees

So-called “Needlefast” or “non-drop” varieties are steadily replacing the traditional Norway spruce.

These natural trees – which are less inclined to shed needles – represent over two in every three trees sold.

On the other hand artificial trees, being made of steel and plastic, are non-recyclable. In addition to this they usually end up in landfill sites after a few years use.

Generally they are manufactured in the Far East and brought here at great expense to the environment.

So which real tree should you choose?




Nordmann Fir
Nordmann fir Christmas tree

A typical Normann fir tree

Non-drop varieties include the blue spruce, long needled pine, Noble fir and the Fraser fir.

But dominating this group is the wide spreading dark needled Nordmann fir.

This is a species that we know will give a good performance.

It has wide almost horizontal branches which are great for decorations.

However unlike the traditional Norway spruce this one isn’t particularly scented.

It hangs onto its needles really well!




Fraser Fir
Fraser Christmas tree and presents

Fraser real Christmas tree

The Fraser fir has shorter needles.

It has a delicate forest scent.

And it looks like the traditional Norway spruce.

I have found it to be a very good choice where a more compact tree is needed.

In my experience it is very good at hanging onto its needles.





Norway Spruce

The Norway spruce is certainly on the back foot and has been losing ground to the non-drop varieties.

However for a cool room, a porch, a conservatory or for outside this is still a good tree to choose!

Kept well watered and brought in as late as possible before Christmas Day it will still look great and smell even better too!

Norway spruce are also much cheaper than the non-drop tree varieties but it is likely to drop some of its needles on your floor.


Other Varieties

There are a few other varieties that you might come across.

The most likely are the Noble fir, Scots pine, Sitka spruce, blue spruce and occasionally the Serbian spruce.

The Noble and Serbian spruce are very unlikely to drop their needles on your carpet and look very good too. There is only limited availability of these.

For me the Scots pine looks very coarse and the Sitka and blue are just so prickly to handle!

I’d stick with either the Nordmann or the Fraser fir if I were you.


Potted trees

But what of the potted trees?

Well they will have left most of their roots behind in the countryside!

Consequently the chance of them establishing and flourishing in your garden after Christmas is small.

Pot grown Christmas trees

Pot grown Christmas trees

But this is not the case with pot grown trees!

Pot grown trees have spent their whole life in pots.

They have all their roots intact and stand every chance of seeing many Christmases in your home.

But you will need to care for the tree after Christmas and keep it outside until next December.

You could plant it into your garden but do bear in mind that ultimately these grow into forest trees!





What type of real live tree do you usually buy?

Do you mind if the needles end up on the carpet or do you regard that as a part of Christmas?


Further reading

There’s an online list of British Christmas Tree Growers here.

I’ve written about other seasonal evergreens in this blog here.

Bulbs are great festive indoor plants for Christmas and you may like to see my tips on growing them here.

Do take a look at my tips on getting the best out of Poinsettia at Christmas.

Perhaps you need some tips on indoor Cyclamen.

Of course the moth orchid is still number one house plant and so here are some tips on that beauty here.

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A group of people and a tree