How to Choose a Real Christmas Tree

Many people believe that Christmas would not have the same festive feel without the scent of a 'real' Christmas tree. They're naturally fresh, giving off a lovely aroma, and here Martyn Loach gives advice on which ones to buy..

Created by Martyn Loach on Thursday, 15th of November, 2012.
Updated on Friday, 28th of August, 2015.


Choosing a Real Christmas Tree

Practicalities, price and personal choice will affect exactly what tree you buy.

A more open tree, might be suitable if you have lots of decorations You might also consider the tree's strength if the ornaments are many or heavy. And to avoid hands that resemble pin cushions, you can choose a tree without sharp needles.

You may prefer a bright or dark green – the latter show lights to better effect - or the tint of a Blue Spruce to go with the colour of a room.

Some trees also have to be shaped when they are grown and this will be reflected in their price. As will be the case with harder to grow and less popular varieties.

Firs, spruces and pines are the traditional species of Christmas trees and here are the most popular ones that you will find in garden centres:

Nordmann Fir (non-drop)

Particularly popular 'non-drop' tree as the glossy dark green needles with contrasting underside are blunt. A 'proper' Christmas Tree shape with a generous base and symmetrical shape.

Fraser Fir (non-drop)

Similar to the Nordmann with soft needles, good fragrance and neatly cone shaped with a narrower base to suit a smaller room. Good needle retention, easy to decorate.

Scots Pine (non-drop)

Great bright green colour and fragrance with a pleasing shape and strong branches, will remain fresh and retain its sharper needles throughout Christmas.

Blue Spruce (non-drop)

Very attractive grey green / blue colour, nice scent, but with non-drop sharp needles. Strong branches are suitable to hold lots of baubles and treats.

Lodgepole Pine (non-drop)

The name gives a clue as tohow American Indians used this tree, it has both great fragrance and excellent needle retention. Similar to Scots Pine.

Norway Spruce

Until recently Britain's most popular tree, but its short and painfully sharp needles will drop very readily especially if water isn't provided.

And here are how they are sold:

Cut Christmas Trees

Commercially grown and cut down just above ground height. If kept in water, this type will survive the Christmas season in good shape especially the non-drop varieties,

Potted (sometimes referred to as Containerised)

These trees have been lifted with some of their roots and potted. Take note that the root system is extremely unlikely to sustain any future growth and won't noticeably prevent needle drop.

Container Grown Trees

These have actually been grown in containers and should be cared for in the same way as a potted plant. They can be planted out in the garden if you have the right type of moisture retentive acid soil.

So before going to the garden centre, consider:

  1. Where is the tree to be placed, hence what size is most suitable and perhaps what colour
  2. or shape
  3. Is needle drop important
  4. How many and what type of ornaments / lights are going to be used for decoration and
  5. what tree is most appropriate for them to be displayed easily and to the greatest effect
  6. How is the tree going to be kept in water I.e will you need a water holding stand
  7. Is the tree destined to be recycled or will you attempt to plant it out in the garden

When you have all the answers, you'll be odds-on to buy the perfect tree for your particular needs.

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