More and more people are choosing fake trees these days, but if you prefer the real thing, the choice can be overwhelming, so what should you pick?
While I’m a keen gardener and write about it for a living, I’ve got a fake Christmas tree. I bought it in a January sale about four years ago and it’s been dragged out of the loft every Christmas since.
It doesn’t smell as nice as the real thing and it gets pretty dusty, but it fits neatly into its allocated space.
I also know how many decorations I can get on it and there’s no mess or watering involved.
And it seems I’m not alone in choosing fake over fir.
While garden centre giant Wyevale has said that sales of supersized trees are soaring, something it puts down to a combination of machismo and one-upmanship, sales of real Christmas trees have generally fallen by a third over the past decade, as more and more people switch to fakes.
But if you’d like to keep it real and can’t see the wood for the trees when you’re faced with a forest at the local garden centre, here’s some advice that might help you make your choice.
Variety and price
Nordmann Fir or Norway Spruce Between them they corner 90-95% of the real-tree market. Nordmann Fir is the most popular, accounting for eight of ten real trees sold. They don’t drop needles in the way that a Norway Spruce does, although in our testing for Which? Gardening, we’ve found they can look dull if they’re not watered.
Expect to pay around £50 for a 180-210cm (around 6ft) fir tree from most retailers (although Aldi has 150-180cm – around 5ft – trees for £19), compared to about £35 for a spruce.
Containerised, container grown, or cut If you’ve got no idea what this means, then you really need to read this section.
Containerised (or potted or ‘freshly dug’) trees are ones that have been dug up and put into a pot. They usually have few roots and when we tested them, we found they didn’t take up water and were best avoided.
Container-grown trees, on the other hand, are grown in pots. They’re more expensive (usually around £10 more) than either of the other two types, but with watering, they last really well and can even be kept from year to year.
Cut trees are sawn off at ground level. This might not sound like a good thing, but if you treat them as you would a cut flower, we’ve found they can look good for over three weeks.
What type of Christmas tree are you going for this year?
Fake (45%, 180 Votes)
I'm not putting up a tree (31%, 122 Votes)
Cut (19%, 76 Votes)
Container-grown (3%, 13 Votes)
Containerised (2%, 6 Votes)
Total Voters: 397
The right size
Real Christmas trees grown in the great outdoors have room to spread their branches, with no TVs or laden drinks trolleys to cramp their style.
Crucially, there’s no ceiling. If you don’t want to lop the top off your tree or fight your way to the sofa by thrusting aside its bristly branches like Lucy getting into Narnia, then you need to measure your space beforehand.
Looking after a real tree
The secret of a long-lasting Christmas tree is to care for it properly, as then it will be less quick to drop its needles.
Buy it as late as possible – ideally the weekend before the big day. That way, it should look good and last until Twelfth Night.
Are you happy with a fake or do you insist on the real thing? What are your tips on picking the perfect tree and caring for it?