Choosing and Caring for your Christmas Tree
Buying your Tree
Its my favourite time of year, late November and early December. Garden centres have rolled out their Christmas displays, the nights draw in, the weather gets colder and we get cosier at home. Spiced apple scented candles, roast dinners, apple pies and planning Christmas decorations with your other half over a good bottle of wine - perfect! One of the most important tasks, and the first thing to be done, is to choose the perfect tree, the centre and basis of your festive decorations.
I like to buy my Christmas tree nice and early, my friends and family say I’m bonkers “It’s waste of money and it won’t last the season" but there's method in my madness!
I once asked a Christmas tree seller (outside IKEA) when his trees were cut, he said two weeks earlier and this was the first week in December, they were cut mid November. He told me that most trees are cut in November and then distributed to sellers, some continue to be cut according to demand through December but mostly they are already trussed up in nets and ready to be sold by the end of November. This got me to thinking, the trees had already been cut and they haven’t been getting any water all that time, what if I buy my tree now take it home and give it some tender loving care, it just might make it through the holiday season.
Most tree sellers, and even large garden centres, lean the trees in groups according to size or stand them in large discs of timber without water and you have no way of telling how long they have been on display or when they were cut. I get my tree around the first week of December (any earlier than that and your choice of size and shape are limited) and take it home and give it a good drink. Doing this seems to help the tree along a bit better, some needle drop is to be expected but your tree should be green and perky right through to New Year.
I like to shop around for my tree. I once chose a tree through my car window at traffic lights whilst taking my Mother-in-law to Paddington Station. I declared to hubby’s Mum that the tree on the farthest left was mine, and on my home I pulled over in Camden and bought my perfect tree from an independent street seller. Independent sellers can sometimes be a little cheaper than the garden centres and DIY stores but they often have less to choose from. Less stock then affords them the space to have them fully on display and not in nets. DIY superstores, such as Homebase and B&Q will offer the best value for money but you can rarely see the shape and actual size of the tree before buying it (and don’t bother asking a member of staff to show you one!). If price is your greatest concern then try and choose a tree that seems to be of even shape all around whilst in its net, has a fresh scent and if you can get hold of a needle it should be firmly stuck to the tree with no signs of browning. For a couple of years when we were trying to keep costs down we have got trees from the chain garden stores and been lucky, for around £25 we have got a 5’ Nordman Fir of good shape and quality.
By far the best tree I ever bought was from my favourite Sunday mooching place, Sunshine Garden Centre in North London. It was very expensive for a tree, but we were feeling a little flush that year! A 6’ Norway Spruce for £60!!! What you get for your £60 isn’t only a great quality healthy tree, but also top notch customer service. The staff know all there is to know about the trees and are happy to show you every single one outside of its net until you find the perfect tree (or hubby threatens to leave you there and go to the pub). I didn’t measure the space before we bought it and a had to do a fair bit of pruning, but it was a magnificent tree that year and I had lots of off cuts to be creative around the house with.
Don’t throw away your cuttings if you need to prune the tree. You could make a door wreath or even add long springs to a flower and berry arrangement, or they could form part of your Christmas table centrepiece.
Caring for your Christmas tree
· Once home remove a 1cm disk of wood from the base of the tree before putting it in a bucket of water or in the stand with water.
· Keep the net around the tree whilst the tree is outside drinking, I think this helps to stop the braches drooping too soon.
· Keep your tree away from sources of heat and direct sunlight.
· A Christmas tree can drink up to a gallon of water a day so keep the water level topped up. Some people add sugar or vodka but water is just fine and anything else could be harmful to pets or dehydrate your tree.
· Check if it needs water every day, particularly in a warm home. Keeping your home a little cooler will also help the tree stay perky longer.
· Now is a great time to switch to LED lighting. Not only are they more environmentally friendly and easier on the pocket in terms of power consumption but they give off less heat than conventional lights and so keep your tree cooler and so fresher.
You needn’t spend a fortune on decorations to have a beautiful festive tree. Each year hubby and I sit with a glass of wine and ‘Elf’ on the telly, a big bag of popcorn and cotton and make our own popcorn garlands. We find that pre popped bags of sweet popcorn work better than freshly popped in the microwave, the pre popped corn is a little stale and so it doesn’t crumble when you get a needle and cotton near it. We also like to tie bunches of fresh chillies together to hang on the tree, mix reds, oranges and yellows together for a cheerful bunch. If you have a park or forest nearby and you can get your hands on some red berries and holly, tie them together in groups for a lovely pop of colour. Don’t forget ribbons, tie to branches and remember to use some further into the centre of the tree to give it depth. We also have a selection of wooden toy decorations and vintage looking baubles and figures and all together it makes a lovely effect that's not at all gaudy. Once you have put all you natural and homemade decorations on your tree you may just a need s few baubles for a bit of glitter and sparkle and then plug in your new LED lights and sit back with a glass of wine and admire your handy work.
Merry Christmas and happy tree shopping!
LED Christmas Tree Lights
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