How to buy the right Christmas tree


Should you buy a Christmas tree this weekend, and how much should it cost? Miles Brignall offers a root and branch guide, including 'free' trees and the eco-alternatives



Millions of Britons will this weekend be testing their ability to spot a fine-looking Christmas tree among the heaps on offer at garden centres and abandoned garage forecourts. Should you buy now or wait another week or two? Which type is best? How much should you pay? Is the whole thing environmentally sustainable? Follow our guide to a Happy Christmas Tree …

Is now too early to buy a tree?

The British Christmas Tree Growers Association (BCTGA) says a freshly cut, healthy tree should last six weeks in a home, if cared for correctly – so you can start getting the tinsel and baubles out of the attic. But do you want your young children so excited about an event still three weeks away? Only you can decide.

How do you choose?

The BCTGA's Christmas tree expert, Roger Hay, says it is essential to choose a tree that has been recently cut and is still fresh. Look at the needles: if they look bright, that's a good sign. Avoid any tree with dull and dried up ones. Give the tree a gentle shake and if they start falling off, you need to move on. The tree should also feel heavy because this is a sign it has a high water content and is therefore fresh.

Tree sellers use a simple pricing formula: whatever they can get away with. At least the recession should dampen the biggest chancers.

The Norwegian Spruce is the most common and cheapest, the Nordmann Fir is next up the price scale, and the Fraser Fir commanding commands top-end prices.

Garden centres and charities that have built up a loyal following over the years will generally be a better bet than a new mob who that has just taken over a redundant garage forecourt.

City centre prices are inevitably higher. In London's swanky Kings Road, World's End Nurseries wants between £50 and £100 for 6ft trees, with one on offer at £170.

But if you shop around, there are bargains. Camden Garden Centre, a mere bauble's roll away from Guardian HQ, was this week quoting £24 for a 6ft Norwegian Spruce, and £44 for similar-sized Nordmann Firs. After ringing many suppliers, we've concluded that these prices should probably be the basis of your benchmark.

Outside city centres, prices may be lower, but not that much. For example, Festive Farm Christmas Trees in Dinmore, Herefordshire, wants £23 for a 6ft Norwegian Spruce or £39 for a Nordmann Fir.

Drop or non-drop?

Do you go for the cheaper Norwegian Spruce – firmly in the dropping camp – or should you pay 20% more for a non-drop fir? Hay says a quality spruce is no more likely to drop its needles – if correctly watered – than its more expensive rival. Buyers tend to go for fir trees because they think they look better. Hay says the tree gracing his own home this year will be a Fraser Fir.

Caring for your tree

Keep it outside in a cool shaded place, preferably standing in water, for a day or so before moving it indoors. Before you take it in, cut half an inch off the butt to open up its pores. Mount it in a water-holding stand or wedge it in a bucket with pebbles, small stones or screwed up newspaper, and place it away from direct heat. Keep the container topped up with water every day; you will be surprised how much it drinks.

Is an artificial tree better value?

Man-made trees are much better these days than the shockers that made their appearance in the 1970s – some can be quite tasteful – although the best ones aren't cheap. John Lewis's range starts at £25 for a 4ft tree – curiously they come in black as well as green – but the more likely purchase would be a six-footer at £70. Use it for two years and you're in the money.

If conventional shaped trees aren't your thing, the company will also sell you a rather odd-looking 6ft upside-down tree for £73.

Meanwhile Wilkinson – the store that has replaced Woolworths in the nation's hearts as the place to go for such items – will sell you a 7ft tree for just £25. It also comes with "flame retardant foliage, it's easily assembled, and with no dropping needles."

The environmental alternative – renting

It is now possible to rent a Christmas tree for the festive period. Your chosen tree is dug up prior to being delivered at home, complete with a sustainable root system. Come 6 January, the supplier returns to pick it up and it's replanted and grown on for next year. It's not a budget option, but is surprisingly cost effective, given that it is delivered and collected, and you know your tree will go back into the ground for another 12 months.

Christmas Tree Man, set up by Dorset tree surgeon Martin Cake, has sold his 1,000 tree allocation for this year. However, Trees for Rent, also based in Dorset, has some left. It has sold out of Norwegian Spruces, which cost £49 including delivery/collection.

A 6ft 4in to 7ft 4in Fraser Fir will set you back £69, which is pretty reasonable given how much you'll pay in many inner cities for a one-use tree. Book today, though, as they expect to sell out in the next few days.

Grow your own

You can just buy a tree in a container and after Christmas plant it out, then carefully dig it up next year. A 5ft tree in a container will set you back around £50. Just be aware they can grow two feet in a year – and that once they get much above 5ft they become quite difficult to handle.

Alternatively, buy your own growing kit. For just £2.24 on the Amazon website you can buy a kit that lets you grow a tree. Bear in mind that it takes around 10 years to grow the sort of tree that will impress your children.

Plant it when your baby's born and watch it grow alongside your child, perhaps.

Get a tree for free

B&Q is offering anyone spending more than £30 in its stores this weekend a 4ft-5ft Norway Spruce absolutely free. All you have to do is print off a voucher and take it along to the store. The offer ends Sunday 6 December and is subject to availability.

abandon - opuszczać, oporzucać

assemble - składać, montować

bauble - bombka

butt - pień

dampen - tłumić

flame retardant - opóźniający palenie

foliage - listowie

heap - sterta, stos

inevitably - niechybnie, nieuchronnie

mount - umieścić

Nordmann Fir - jodła kaukaska

Norwegian Spruce - świerk norweski

pebble - kamyczek, otoczak

redundant - zbyteczny; rezerwowy

sustainable - zrównoważony

swanky - szpanerski

wedge - zaklinować

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