IN NOVEMBER, we usually explain the different types of Christmas tree and give you a guide to the various options.

In addition, this year we’re going to take things a bit further and answer some of the other questions we’re most often asked when customers buy their tree.


Choosing and caring for the tree


To begin with, customers need to decide whether they want a growing tree or one that has been harvested from a forest.

Since trees filter CO2 and pollutants from the atmosphere – and are, of course, renewable – either is a good environmental choice.

If you are considering a pot-grown tree, make certain that it has been grown in a pot – that means that it will have a sufficiently fibrous root system which, with regular watering, will enable it to survive the shock of a centrally heated home over Christmas and, with care, can be planted outdoors afterwards.

Cheaper ‘potted’ trees may look the same at first glance but, if they have been field-grown and put into a pot just for Christmas, they will not have adequate roots for survival.

For a forestry-harvested cut tree, consider it like a bunch of flowers – trim off the bottom to allow it to take up water, provide plenty water at the base and take care not to place it directly against a radiator or other source of heat that will dry it out quickly.

Next, consider the variety of tree. With cut trees, the main choice is between Fraser and Nordmann Fir, as both have excellent needle retention.

The Nordmann is the UK’s favourite Christmas tree and, with its well-clothed, sweeping branches, it makes a beautiful centrepiece for your festivities. By comparison, the slimmer, more compact Fraser Fir is fragranced and is becoming increasingly popular with our customers.

Provided they are well cared-for, most pot-grown trees retain their needles, so there is more choice of variety. Most good garden centres will offer you the option of Norway or Blue Spruce and either a Fraser or Nordmann Fir.

It’s very much a personal choice as to which shape and colour is your favourite. We often find customers buying two matching trees which can look extremely attractive on the doorstep throughout the year. Decorate with lights and baubles during the festive period and add some underplanting with pansies or other flowering annuals at other times of year.


Lighting the tree


Whilst not strictly gardening, the question most often asked by customers when buying their tree is about lights. There’s such a wide choice on the market it can seem very confusing, so here’s a few points to consider.

For environmental and cost reasons, almost all Christmas lights on the market today are LED and these are remarkably inexpensive to run. Kaemingk, one of the biggest international suppliers of Christmas lights, estimates that on average lighting your tree for eight hours a day for 30 days costs less than a cup of coffee and uses approximately the same energy as a washing machine cycle!

Check the box your lights come in – there should be an energy label there that tells you exactly how much energy the lights use in 1,000 hours.

Strings of lights for Christmas trees tend to fall into three main categories: standard strings have lights spaced approximately between 7.5cm and 10cm (3-4 inches) apart, compact strings have the lights spaced more closely, about 2.5cm (1 inch) apart, and cluster strings will have lights at less than 1cm apart. Clearly, the more lights you have within the length of the string, the more dazzling an effect you can create, so if like us you love Christmas lights, you might want to choose compact or cluster lights!

Most modern string lights will indicate the size of tree that they’re best suited for and, whilst there’s no simple formula, as a very rough guide we’d suggest that a 120/150cm tree would require a lighted length of about 10 times its height (approximately 13.5m lighted length) whilst a 180/210cm tree would need a lit length perhaps 12-15 times its height (approx. 27m or so). As mentioned earlier, the amount of lights you choose largely depends on the effect you wish for your Christmas tree.


The final dressing


Of course, no tree would be complete without its decorations and here the only limit is your imagination.

For some, the Classic Christmas reds and golds are timeless and nostalgic, whilst others will opt for the contemporary and tranquil Winter Wonderland theme reminiscent of frosty evenings, with white and silver accented with blue.

Another popular family theme is Home for Christmas with its fun red and white candy-cane/gingerbread look, and in contrast, Softly Pastel is a gentle, peaceful theme based around soft pinks and greens.

For nature-lovers, the Green Forest theme centred around the beauty and simplicity of nature is the obvious choice, incorporating pinecones (natural or sprayed gold), dried apple and orange slices, berries, cinnamon sticks, strands of popcorn, moss-covered shapes and other dried flower and seed heads gathered from the garden and woodland. We even have customers who put a tree in the garden hung with lots of treats for their garden birds!

As ever, this is only a brief introduction to the magic of your tree at Christmas.

You can find lots more ideas and information on our website at or in store, where our staff are always delighted to help you choose the solution that’s best for you.