Posted 6th Dec 2015
With so many different options available when it comes to finding a tree that's right for you, we spoke to Head of Horticulture at Dobbies, Steve Guy, to find out his top tips for picking your Christmas tree this December
There are four main types of Christmas tree sold in the UK and each has different merits. The Nordman fir has a glossy green colour and big needles which are lovely and soft, making it suitable for those with young children. It’s more expensive than the Norway spruce, which has that classic rich, fresh Christmas fragrance and a very structured pyramid shape. These are inexpensive but their needles are sharper and tend to fall off, and its sap is very sticky — it won’t mess up your house, but you’ll get it on your hands while lugging it home, so watch your clothing.
The two less popular options are the Fraser fir and the Noble fir. The Fraser has a blue-green colour and is a narrower tree, so ideal if you have less space. It has dense foliage, so not ideal for bauble lovers, but lovely if you just want tinsel and lights. The Noble fir is thick stemmed, which can make it a struggle if you’re using a tree stand, but it has better spaced foliage.
You get what you pay for
With a Christmas tree, price does tend to indicate quality. The more expensive ones are more likely to have been hand-trimmed before being cut down or dug up, so are in a good shape.
Judge by looking carefully before you buy — trees are like cats and dogs, you can tell if they’re healthy by the sheen of their coat.
Ideally, the tree should be a shiny, glossy green. I recommend taking the tree by the trunk and tapping it on the ground. Evergreens lose needles all year round, but if too many fall off you might want to reconsider.
Beware of the tag
Although tree size goes up in feet, sellers are allowed 15cm either side — so a 6ft tree (the most popular height) could be a little taller or shorter.
This means it’s vital to know both the exact height of the room you’re putting it in — especially if you want one which grazes the ceiling — and to measure the tree, too. Remember the tree stand will add up to 15cm. All is not lost if you get the height wrong, though. Just trim the trunk and take off some lower branches.
It is vital to look at the tree's shape out of the netting, in case it's uneven - so don't buy ready-wrapped trees.
Watching the wrapping
A ready-wrapped tree might seem helpful — but don’t buy these. It’s vital to look at the tree’s shape out of the netting, in case it’s wider than you want or an uneven shape.
Without seeing it unwrapped you don’t know what you’re getting. Any respectable seller will unwrap and rewrap the tree for no extra charge.
Wear gardening gloves to handle it and be careful of the tip, which can be damaged easily. Make sure any tree is wrapped before you take it home.
Treat it like cut flowers
Once home, cut 2cm or 3cm from the stump straight across using a handsaw. It’s easier than you think, and helps the tree take up moisture, like trimming cut flowers.
Then place it in a tree stand that holds water and generously water the tree every day. It can drink two litres daily, depending on room temperature. Unlike cut flowers, don’t add sugar.
If you want a live tree to plant afterwards, choose a pot-grown version as these have a better chance of living, since the roots are whole. All Christmas trees are grown from seeds not cuttings.
Vitally, whichever type you buy, do not unwrap the tree until it’s secure, otherwise you’ll be fighting branches and foliage. Then, leave it to stand for 24 hours before decorating so the branches settle down.
Keep it cool
Putting a tree close to a stove or radiator will dry it out. A Nordman fir will lose its sheen and a Norway spruce will lose its needles. Obviously, keep well away from candles, as it can easily catch fire.
Many councils will collect trees for you or you can take it to a recycling centre. Alternatively, chop it up and use as a rich scented mulch for the garden. They don’t make good firewood; their sap will take a year to dry out properly.
For more information about the Dobbies range of trees visit www.dobbies.com.
Dobbies Traditional Norway Spruce Trees, 6ft, £29.99
Dobbies Traditional Fraser Fir Trees, 4ft-6ft, from £29.99
Dobbies Traditional Nordman Fir Trees, 4ft-6ft, from £29.99
By Steve Guy, Dobbies