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Christmas Tree, Oh Christmas Tree

It was Prince Albert, husband of Queen Victoria, who popularised the Christmas Tree in Britain. He set one up in Windsor Castle in 1841. Nowadays the choice is tremendous – real or artificial – the choice is yours.

Decades ago Christmas trees were not brought into the home, let alone decorated, until Christmas Eve. Nowadays, Christmas trees can be a big expense so we tend to want to get our money’s worth.

When is the best time to buy a real tree?
Tradition dictates that the earliest you can put your tree up is the start of advent (which this year is Tuesday 28th November) but a real tree put up this early probably won’t have many needles on it by 12th night. The British Christmas Tree Growers’ Association say mid-season is a good time to buy – around the 11th December.

If real, what should I look for?
A tree that is locally sourced if possible.

What species?
Picea abies (Norway spruce): Traditional Christmas tree with a good scent, but quick to drop its needles. Spraying with 'Spray 'n Save' Christmas tree spray will help reduce needle drop.

Abies nordmanniana (Nordmann fir): Dark green needles that are very slow to drop, but more expensive than Norway spruce.

Picea pungens Glauca group (Blue spruce): Blue needles, more prickly than other trees, holds its needles better than the Norway spruce.

Abies koreana (Korean fir): Dark green, slightly curling needles. Excellent needle-holding quality.

Abies fraseri (Fraser fir): Good needle-holding properties, a lovely pine fragrance and the regular shape of a Norway spruce.

How do you make it last as possible?

1. Keep it outside or in a cool place for as long as possible before moving it inside.

2. When you're ready to decorate it, chop a couple of centimetres off the stump and put it in water straightaway.

3. Water it every day - they drink lots - and try to position it away from radiators and open fires. Christmas trees don't like heat.

4. Always turn your Christmas tree lights off before watering and going to bed.

Why choose an artificial Christmas Tree?
Obviously this is a matter of personal taste but if you’re thinking a fake tree is more environmentally friendly, you’d be wrong. Most artificial trees come from China, so have a large carbon footprint. Growing a real tree will release oxygen and absorb CO2.

The big bonus is cost: artificial trees can last for decades, so they work out cheaper than paying for a real tree every year.

Along with no needles to hoover up there’s a huge array of choice from tall to short and slim to wide. You can also have ones that are pre-lit.

Go for a tree with a high tip count. This refers to the number of needles; the higher the count, the fuller the tree will look.

The decision – is all yours!  Real or artificial will both look lovely. The only big difference is the lovely smell of a real tree which the artificial ones can’t emulate – yet!

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