Guide to Buying a Christmas Tree

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If you’re anything like me, a real Christmas Tree in the house is an absolute must. The smell of pine in the living room, immediately brings about a festive spirit. It screams Christmas before the decorations are even added! If you’re thinking of buying a fresh tree this year and want some advice – you’ve come to the right place!

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I love the whole experience of purchasing a tree – we always go to a local tree farm for ours and I have to admit it takes me ages to decide which one I want – I pity the poor staff member who gets me as a customer. “Turn it this way”, “ooh now the other way”, “erm no can I look at that one”, “ooh could you compare those two together”.

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Honestly I am a nightmare!  But, I love making a whole day of it – buying the tree, transporting it home, letting it settle, decorating it with Christmas music on in the background and then eating a picnic dinner by it! It’s tradition!

I have learnt a lot over the years of buying real trees though.  It pays to shop as early as you can (otherwise all the good ones go) and it’s also good to do a bit of research before hand so you know you’re getting the best deal.

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Every year is completely different when it comes to the availability of real trees – because they are susceptible to nature – things like insect infestation, tree rot or disease, fire and drought. Anything can hinder the growth or availability and therefore has a knock on consequence to the price!

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It’s a good idea to search around before you decide on a place to buy from.  Tree’s are usually available at most garden centres, garage forecourts, specific tree farms and occasionally you’ll see scouts selling them at the side of the road or from someone’s front garden. Obviously you’re best buying from somewhere that has a larger selection to choose from.

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Prices vary & when you are doing your research it’s good to note (a) what kind of trees are available and (b) what the price ranges are.  We have paid anything from £50 – £120 for our tree’s in the past – we usually opt for a 6ft one as we stand it in our conservatory.  Look out for offers too! Last year for example B&Q were giving away a free 4ft tree if you spent £30 in store & printed out a voucher from their website.

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Before you decide on what tree you’re going to buy, think about the space it will be sitting in – don’t forget you need to be able to walk around it if it’s in the living room and you need room on the top for your tree topper to sit comfortably too.  You generally pay for tree’s by their height, so you don’t want to be chopping the top off if it doesn’t fit as it could be the difference between a £40 tree and a £60 tree!  Don’t forget also that you will be putting the tree in a base which may make it a little higher too!

Ideally you want to put your real tree in a cool place, out of any draft and away from the fire or radiator as it will dry the tree out much quicker! A dry tree is not good and poses more of a fire risk with all the lights on it!

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There are usually four main types of tree available in the UK:

The Norwegian Spruce – this is usually the cheapest, most common and easiest to get hold of tree – they have a nice shape, nice smell and lovely bright green colour. Usually very popular.  Be aware though that these trees drop their needles very quickly!  If you’re happy to sweep up every day or are happy to have a bald tree by boxing day go for it! Personally I’ve had nothing but bother with these trees – one year we even found a wasps nest in it with a handful of wasps left! That was not fun!  Oh and another year there was a birds nest inside it!

Next up the price range is usually the Blue Spruce – these trees look beautiful, always have a nice shape but aren’t always available.  They also have extremely prickly branches that really hurt. Not fun when you’re hanging decorations on (or taking them off after Christmas) and certainly miserable when you’re trying to transport it home.  I wouldn’t suggest buying one of these trees if you have kids or pets.

Third up the price range is the Normann Fir – we’ve had a lot of these trees. A little lighter in the green colour, and the shapes vary dramatically – some years they’re super bushy other years they look thin and sparse.  A good solid tree and they don’t drop too many needles either.

Finally is my favourite tree – the Fraser Fir.  It is more expensive usually, but you do get what you pay for – the needles don’t drop, it always has a lovely shape, smells divine and is definitely a superior tree.  The problem with these trees is always the availability – they’re usually very popular so sell quickly, but for the past couple of years there has been issues with tree disease so hard to find.

At the end of the day however, we are never out to find a specific tree type – we generally go for the design – that’s the fun of buying a tree. You can always find one to suit your own personality.

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I have a friend who always waits until the very last minute to try and buy the saddest, loneliest looking tree on the lot, so they can take it home for a bargain price (most years they usually get given it free!!) and decorate it to make it happy!

Whilst you’re purchasing your tree, it’s always a good idea to get the staff to cut off about 1/4 of an inch off the bottom of the tree – this is for a few reasons – (1) they can shape it for you so it fits into your tree base (2) the tree’s will have been hanging around for some time so the fresh cut will encourage the tree to drink water which is important if you want to keep your tree safe and alive for longer (3) cutting the tree base is a pain in the butt! You need a saw, you need lots of strength as tree trunks are thick and you need quite a bit of energy!  These places offer tree cutting for free whilst you wait – take them up on their offer!

Don’t forget to think about how you’re going to transport your tree home too! Obviously the most popular way will be on top of your car – if that’s the case make sure you have plenty of rope and bungee cord! You don’t want to loose your tree on the way home.

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Some years our tree has fit inside the car which was obviously easier – just a short uncomfortable ride home, squished in the car with a tree!

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Last year we were lucky enough to have the use of a van which was amazing – we just opened up the back, chucked it in and brought it home with minimal fuss!

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When you get your tree home, it’s best to put it somewhere where it can settle once you’ve taken the netting off of it. Leave it bare for at least a few hours so the branches can stretch out and lower and this way you’ll get a lovely shape to it.  Don’t forget you can always trim a stray branch here or there if it’s needed.

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Always put your tree in a base that allows for water too – this is so very important. Trees can drink up to a gallon of water daily so make sure you check it every day and top the water up if needed. Ideally the water should always slightly cover the fresh cut base.  If your tree dries out and dies it becomes more difficult to manage. The drier it is, the more needles will drop and the more of a fire risk it is! Keep them watered!

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The final consideration when buying a tree is how will you dispose of it after Christmas? We actually have a mulcher machine in our garden, so the tree gets broken down and shredded and then added to our garden. One year we actually planted it in the garden and it continued to survive for a further three years!  We have taken it to a local dump before and I think most councils offer a recycling scheme too – check out all your options before purchasing!

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Ooh and if you’re wondering on how many lights you should put on your tree hopefully this will help:

4ft tree = 280 lights

5ft tree = 340 lights

6ft tree = 400 lights

7ft tree = 480 lights

8ft tree = 540 lights

I hope this has given you a little bit of Christmas tree inspiration! Always remember that a fresh tree adds a little personality to Christmas and whilst it might not be perfect for everyone else – it’s perfect for you and your family!

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