In Praise of the Traditional Christmas Tree
Christmas Tree – Not surprisingly, it’s grown quite quiet in the office here at garden furniture towers – there are no Royal Horticultural Society Shows to get ready for, and not a metal garden furniture sale in sight. Time, then to properly prepare for Christmas!
Each year there seem to be an increasing number of synthetic options on the market. Everything from real-look fir trees with lights already attached, to surreal fibre optic versions that change colour with every pulse.
Which Christmas Tree?
For me however, Christmas wouldn’t be Christmas without a traditional fir tree. True, this isn’t a particularly cheap option but the tree we choose will have been grown and tended to for years. Firs grow about a foot a year so it you are buying a 10 foot tree, think about the farmer that has spent almost a decade nurturing this plant; pruning and shaping it gradually so that when the time comes, its branches will hang evenly and provide a worthy support to your favourite decorations. For us, it either has to be a Norway spruce or a needle retaining Nordman.
Support Your Local Christmas Tree Supplier
For the past twenty years, I’ve been getting my tree from a wonderful local firm – Littlefield Farm in Kinsborne Green, Hertfordshire. http://www.littlefieldfarm.co.uk/6.html. Not only does this local business have plenty of friendly service (your tree is carried to the car by cheery little scouts who clearly don’t mind lugging around something two or three times their own size), but they supply trees to some of the top sites in London and beyond. They always supply the beautiful trees at Waddesden Manor, and also for those at Claridges and one of their trees has even graced Downing Street!
Looking After Your Christmas Tree
It’s a common mistake to believe that just because your tree has no roots, it won’t need water. Christmas trees take up water via pores in their bark, even without roots, so in order to keep your tree looking fresh, despite central heating etc, you must provide a reservoir of water. Think of it as a cut flower (all be it a very big one!).
Keep the water level topped up throughout the Christmas period (ideally every day) and the tree will remain fresh without needle drop. Remember, a tree might drink as much as 2 or 3 pints a day! If you let the water reservoir dry out, sap will reseal the pores in the bark which will prevent the tree taking up water when you do top up.
Cut Christmas trees
Just like any cut flower – you need to buy the Christmas tree when it’s fresh. You can tell by looking that it has been freshly harvested – avoid any tree with needles that look dull or dried up, or that drops needles when gently shaken. If you do not plan to dress your tree immediately, it can be stored in a bucket of water, somewhere out of the wind, but in a cool place. If you are doing this, you will need to saw off the bottom inch of the trunk just before you erect it. This will open up the pores in the bark to make sure your tree can take up water.
A Pot Grown Christmas Tree
If you decide you want a pot grown tree that you can plant out afterwards, treat it as you would any houseplant. Such a tree will be small and usually about a metre in height. Properly grown trees will be sold in pots with holes in them for drainage, so you’ll need to stand the pot on a tray, or better still in a bucket of water. If you are placing the pot within a bucket, keep the water level about half way up the bucket.
After Christmas, you need to acclimatize the tree to the outside temperature gradually, so move to a cool room for a few weeks and then perhaps to a shed or outhouse for a while before planting. Remember, like any other young tree, you will need to water regularly throughout its first year until the roots are properly established.