Since my childhood, it has become a family tradition to have a real Christmas tree in our home at Christmas time and the arrival of our tree each year always heralds the start of our festive activities. For many people also, the tradition of having a live centrepiece with its rich green colour and evocative pine fragrance makes a real Christmas tree an essential part of Christmas.
Over the next couple of weeks there will be vast amounts of live Christmas trees available for you to purchase at many retailers across the country and sometimes it is difficult to know which type to choose. Nowadays, there is no reason to feel guilty about buying a real Christmas tree as they are grown in fields for harvesting just like any other crop and they should be considered more like a cut flower. You will not be depriving the world of its trees by buying a real Christmas tree, as growers will replant a new crop next year.
You can buy your tree in many different ways. Choose either a cut tree up to any height, which has been cut off at ground level or a tree with roots, normally up to 1.5 metres in height, which has been potted ready for sale. Bear in mind that trees with roots that have been placed inside your home, will not necessarily survive outside after Christmas.
These days the low needle drop trees such as the 'Nordman', 'Fraser' and 'Noble' Firs are the most popular, as they provide you with a quality looking tree that is well balanced and has the advantage of not shedding its needles so readily. Although they tend to be more expensive, they are well worth the investment, however, if you are working to a lower budget, then the traditional ‘Picea’ Christmas tree is still readily available and a great favourite for many people.
When choosing your tree, always inspect it thoroughly before purchasing to ensure it is the right size and shape for you. Many garden centres will wrap your tree free of charge, ready for the journey home.
Once at home, you should unwrap your tree immediately and cut about 3cm off the base of the stem, before standing it in a bucket of water outside for at least 24 hours, or until you are ready to bring it indoors.
This will allow your tree to take up water and will ensure it stays fresher for longer. You should aim to bring your tree indoors as near to Christmas as possible. Your tree should always be placed into a water-holding Christmas tree stand, which allows you to continue watering your tree until after Christmas.
Try and position your tree in a cool position inside, away from direct sources of heat such as radiators or fires as this will ensure a great looking tree well into the New Year.
Always ensure you switch off any electric Christmas tree lights on your tree before you top up any water-holding Christmas tree stand.