Real Christmas Trees – the expert guide
The focal point of the festive season has to be the Christmas tree. A day out to choose the perfect tree has become a magical highlight of the countdown to Christmas and it quickly becomes the star of the show once home and decorated. The go-to destination for real Christmas trees, the experts at Dobbies Garden Centres, have put together their essential guide, including tips to help you choose the picture-perfect one, keep it looking its best, and finally what to do with it when the time comes to take it down.
Decide what style to go for. At Dobbies, there are two main types, Nordmann Fir and Fraser Fir – both available as cut or pot grown. With demand high, make sure choosing your tree is one of the first things on your list this December as that way you will have the biggest choice of trees.
Each year, Christmas trees seem to go up earlier and earlier, but to keep your tree looking its best through to the 25th, the best time to buy is the first or second weekend of December. The busiest day for real Christmas trees, dubbed ‘Bring Your Christmas Tree Home Day’, falls on the second Saturday in December, which falls on the 12th this year.
Nordmann Fir: With its classic Christmas tree shape, glossy green foliage and fresh pine scent, it’s easy to see why this is by the far the most popular variety for the perfect festive centrepiece. British grown for Dobbies, the Nordmann Fir has good needle retention and the softer foliage makes it the ideal option for families with young children or pets.
Fraser Fir: This tree is slightly narrower in shape, making it a good alternative for smaller areas, but still with plenty of taller options to make the most of vertical space. It also has a citrus-like cent. Dobbies will be stocking the Fraser Fir in selected stores.
Pot-Grown: Not just a wonderful choice for Christmas, a pot-grown tree has extra green credentials given that it can planted outside afterwards, providing an environmentally friendly choice. Once inside and decorated, this tree gives off a fresh and festive scent of natural pine, filling your home with the scent of Christmas. They look equally as good outside your home, greeting guests at the door with a festive display or creating your very own winter scene in your garden. Wind battery operated outdoor fairy lights for the final finishing touch.
Healthy trees will have a shiny, glossy green coating on the needles which feels slightly waxy to touch. A quality tree should have good needle retention and sturdy branches. Avoid bare branches with a simple needle retention test before you make your final selection, it is much easier than it sounds! Take the tree by the trunk and give it a gentle tap on the ground. All evergreen trees lose needles all year round, but any more than a few fallen pine needles then you may want to reconsider your tree choice.
Bringing it home
Dobbies nets all of their real trees once you have chosen, which helps protect it for the journey home. Put a blanket down to protect your car’s interior. The same goes if you are putting it on the roof of your car. Securely fasten your tree down with rope or cable ties and drive slowly and carefully home.
Once you get home, take the tree out of the car and take out of the net as soon as possible. Then, remove a few inches from the base and stand in water. The sawing off of the stump should be done outside. Place it upright against an exterior wall or fence, out of direct sunlight if it is a warm winter’s day, as this will stop it drying out.
Keep it looking good
Un-net your tree and leave it to stand for 24-hours before decorating so that the branches can settle. As exciting as it can be to get the tree instantly up and decorated, it will look much better if you give the branches a chance to drop into place after being unnetted, you’ll then be able to see were best to place hanging decs, lights and baubles.
Choosing a suitable Christmas tree stand will be important to help keep your tree looking its best. Opt for a stand with a water reservoir to prevent your tree from drying out and cover it with a Christmas tree skirt. There are plenty of stylish solutions available and these can help to achieve your overall look.
Next thing to consider, making sure your real tree gets enough water. Sawing off a couple of centimetres from the stump when you first got it home will help the tree to take up more water and help it last longer. Your tree will need approximately 1 – 2 litres a day, depending on the temperature of the room.
Try to avoid putting your tree next to a radiator. Keep the tree stand water reservoir topped up regularly and keep the room cool when it’s not in use. Make sure you are not placing it too close to any Christmas candles.
If you are bringing a pot-grown tree indoors, be mindful to keep the compost moist but not wet.
If you find that your tree is too wide for the space you planned it for, you can clip some of the larger branches lower down to make it fit. Save the cuttings, as these can make a lovely decorations, in vases or as part of a homemade wreath.
Dobbies encourage people to recycle their trees. Check with your local council for more information on collection services from your doorstep.
If you opted for a pot-grown Christmas tree, plant it as soon as possible in January so you can enjoy the following year. Select a spot that has well drained soil, sun, and enough space for the tree to sit comfortably. Then all you need to do is keep the tree watered and protected.
Water and feed your pot grown tree regularly in its first year when planted out in the garden. Remember when planting a pot grown tree out in the garden that they will grow to be very large, so check you are leaving enough space for it to grow!
Top tips to get your tree Insta-ready:
Rebecca Stanton, Stylist at Dobbies Garden Centres, shares her top five Christmas tree styling tips –
Light it up: No tree is complete without the twinkling of fairy lights and to make your home really sparkle, you will always need more than you think. Turn the lights on before moving to add baubles and decorations, to make sure you have good coverage all over.
Go big: The tree you decide on will impact the overall styling and final look. For example, certain types of real tree will help bring to life a traditional scheme, whilst other types will lend themselves to a more contemporary Scandi style. The height of the tree is also really important, as if you are going for an opulent look, a tall tree will set this up perfectly.
Level up: To make a real statement and take your tree a level up, think big. To create a more contemporary look, use extra-large baubles and clusters of smaller baubles together in your tree. Carefully place your larger baubles first to ensure your tree feels balanced then work around those to add in smaller baubles and decorations.
Bauble packs: To instantly update your usual Christmas tree style pick up one of our mixed size bauble packs, we have a variety of shades to suit any colour palette. These baubles are great because not only do they instantly set the theme, they help to spread colour throughout your tree, think a base layer for you to build on top with your more special decorations. Top tip, if you wire three baubles together using silver floristry wire and attached them deeper on the branch it helps to fill out your tree and creates are more stylised look.
A layer of nature: Decorating your real tree doesn’t need to end at the baubles. Try adding some dried flowers to your tree to give that added layer of nature. You could use dried grasses, heather or eucalyptus to lay on the branches of your tree along with orange slices and cinnamon sticks to bring the smell of Christmas into your home.