How to: Choose your real tree

Considering a real Christmas tree this year?

Our in-house expert Craig Roman, head of visual merchandising at Dobbie Garden Centre, shares his top tips on choosing and caring for your real tree for a Christmas to remember.

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1. Choosing your tree

In the UK, you have four choices of cut Christmas tree to choose from:

  • The Norway Spruce: Heralded as the traditional Christmas tree, The Norway Spruce boasts a lovely pyramid shape, dark green foilage and rich festive scent.  
  • The Nordmann Fir: A popular choice, the Nordmann Fir's dark green glossy foilage and soft leaves are best dressed in fewer decorations, making it ideal for minamilist-style homes. It also has the ability to hold onto its needles right up to Christmas. 
  • The Fraser Fir: With its narrower width the Fraser Fir is perfect if you're tight on space. It has a blue green colour and dense foliage - making it ideal for tinsel, lights and a sprinkling of hanging decorations.
  • The Noble Fir: This one is thick stemmed, which means that you may struggle to get it into the stand, but if that doesn’t faze you, it boasts better spaced foliage for all your baubles and decorations!

Of course you could always decide on an artificial tree and if that’s the case, there are lots of stunning varieties to choose from. If you want your artificial tree to look authentic, look for one with long lush needles. Take a look at the full range of high quality artificial trees at your local Dobbies or shop online now.

2. Shop for quality

Always remember, when it comes to Christmas trees, real or artificial, it’s worth that little bit more investment to get exactly what you want.

The quality real trees are likely to have been hand-trimmed in the field before being cut down or dug up, which is why they’re a good shape. Trees are a bit like cats and dogs - you can tell if they’re healthy by the sheen of their coat. Ideally, you want your tree to be a shiny, glossy green.

All our fresh cut trees are UK grown so they’re also fresher than being shipped from Scandanavia. I also recommend taking the tree by the trunk and tapping it on the ground, Evergreens lose needles year round, but if too many fall off you might want to reconsider.

3. Know your room

Make sure you know the height of the room you’re putting your tree in to, the labels are just a rough guide. You also need to make sure you know how big you tree is because whilst tree sizes go up in feet, there can be a margin of thirty centimetres either side. This means a 5ft tree could actually be nearer to 6ft in some retailers. It’s worth bearing in mind that the tree stand will add up to thirty centimetres at the base.

Height isn't the only measurement you need to consider, the width can also vary between trees, which is why you should also never buy a Christmas tree ready-wrapped. When a tree is in the netting you don’t know what you’re getting. It could be too wide for your room or too uneven in shape. Any good seller will be happy to rewrap the tree for no extra charge. At Dobbies, we offer a special bag to protect it (and your car) whilst in transit.

4. Dressing your tree

First and foremost, don’t unwrap the tree and begin decorating until it’s secure in its base. If you do, you’ll find yourself fighting with branches and crawling underneath the foliage. Once the tree is positioned and you’re happy it isn’t in the way of any pets or little ones, leave it to stand for up to 24 hours so that the branches can settle down.

Now for the fun stuff. Think about what you want your tree to say about you before choosing the decorations and then decide what will complement your home. Dobbies has an array of ideas, style and colours, which will make your tree sparkle and look truly spectacular. If you want to bring the outdoors in and cover your tree and home in winter flora and wildlife, you will be bang on trend. Owls, hedgehogs and reindeer decorations are proving popular choices this Christmas. Other trends include using iridescent sparkling decorations, especially those with a fairy tale theme. Explore our key trends for this Christmas for more ideas.

When you’re ready to dress the tree, start by selecting the biggest items from your assortment of decorations and display them on the larger branches, then repeat this winning technique by matching smaller decorations to the more petite branches. On my own trees, I always fix the decorations to the tree with wire, rather than string – this means I can completely control where they sit, rather than rely on where they ‘hang’. 

5. The tree is your guest

Your Christmas tree is only a short term visitor, so it is only right to treat it properly. If you opt for a real Christmas tree, make sure it gets enough water. Fortunately the fashion is for tree stands that hold water and if you cut off a couple of centimetres from the stump, it’s able to get a thorough drink. Your tree will need approximately 1-2 litres a day – depending on the temperature of the room and if you have any pets who may think it’s a new water bowl!

Some people swear by putting sugar in with cut flowers to keep them fresh, and it’s sometimes suggested that the same principle is applied to trees. I have even heard of lemonade being used. Personally, I think water is perfect. 

Remember that if you put your tree close to a fire or radiator, it’s going to dry out - a Nordmann Fir would lose its sheen and look dull coloured by Christmas Day and a Norway Spruce would simply lose more of its needles. Whilst radiators are easy to spot, also make sure you’re not placing it too close to any Christmas candles. Not only will they dry your tree out, but could present a fire risk. For more tips and advice check out our round up of care tips for real trees.

6. After Christmas

Once the Christmas turkey has been devoured and New Year bells have rung, it’s finally time to say farewell to the festive period. You can put your tree to good use by recycling it. Call your local council and ask if they will collect your tree from your doorstep. 

If you opt for a pot-grown Christmas tree, remember to plant it as soon as possible in January to enjoy it the following year. Select a spot that has well drained soil, sun, and enough space for the tree to sit comfortably. Then all you need to do is keep the tree watered and protected.