For some of us, the scent of a Christmas tree – the sweet sap and drying bark, the outdoor fragrance caught between the branches – is still the most special part of the festive season. Forget the turkey, tinsel and Downton Abbey Christmas special, a freshly cut fir festooned in fairy lights is what Christmas is all about. It’s not something you want to get wrong, so here are our tips for picking the perfect pine.
It can be slightly overwhelming to be confronted with several hundred trussed up trees, but don’t panic and take the first one that looks as though it will fit in the car. Make sure you measure the spot where the tree is going to stand before you leave home, then take your time choosing and you’ll start to see the differences in the forest of green. Make sure the needles are supple and springy (if they’re brittle that means the tree is already drying out), and don’t take a tree with browned needles. Dig your stand out of the attic/garage/garden shed before you leave and measure that too – you don’t want to spend all afternoon chiseling bits off the trunk.
For the traditional look, stick with the Norway Spruce. It’s an attractive tree, but can mean ending up with pine needles sticking through the bottom of your socks. If you’re after something less likely to drop its needles, there are plenty of options. The Nordmann fir is one of the most popular ‘non-drop’ trees, but the blue spruce and the Douglas fir also hold their needles well. These non-drop trees can be more expensive than their less hardy cousins, but it’s worth it if you don’t want to be hoovering up pine needles until Easter.
Think about the environment
Lots of people aren’t sure about having a real Christmas tree. What about the environment? What about deforestation, global warming, rising sea levels? Don’t worry. Real Christmas trees are actually carbon neutral, if you buy them from the right places, so don’t assume you’re better off with a fake tree you can reuse year after year. Just make sure that wherever you buy your tree from has a proper replanting policy and replaces every tree felled. If you go somewhere which is accredited by the British Christmas Tree Growers Association they replace every tree they fell, and take wildlife into account (for example, they won’t fell trees until birds have left their nests of their own accord). For another environmental benefit to choosing a real tree over fake, just think back to your primary school science lessons. Trees absorb carbon dioxide and emit fresh oxygen just like any other plant – one acre of Christmas trees produces enough oxygen for 18 people each day. Once Christmas is over lots of councils will collect your tree and shred it for chippings too.
Don’t think your work is done once you’ve got the tree decorated and looking dazzling. It’s a living thing and needs to be looked after like any other – treat a cut tree in the same way you would treat cut flowers and you won’t go too far wrong. That means keeping it well watered (trees can drink a pint of water a day), not putting it anywhere too hot (like next to a radiator or stove) and maybe even trimming the trunk or making a fresh cut in the bark to help the tree take in more water, as sap naturally starts to reseal the bark.
First published in: November 2016