CHOOSING YOUR TREE
Have An Idea Of What You Want Before You Go Shopping
Think about the room the tree will go in, and how much space you have for a tree, plus the overall style you’d like to achieve, says Richard Lockwood, head Christmas tree buyer at Dobbies garden centres, which sell premium trees nationwide.
There Are Four Main Christmas Tree Varieties
The traditional Christmas tree with a lovely pyramid shape, dark green foliage and rich festive scent.
By far the most popular variety, this one has dark green, glossy foliage and soft-to-the-touch needles that are best dressed in fewer decorations (ideal for minimalists). A low needle-drop means it will look its best throughout the season.
If you prefer a narrower tree for a smaller space, the Fraser Fir is ideal. It is more conical, with dense foliage that’s blue green in colour, and a lovely citrus scent.
A strong, chunky option, the Noble Fir is perfect for hanging larger baubles and decorations from its tiers of branches, which come adorned with gorgeous blue-grey foliage.
Test The Needle Retention Before You Buy
Take the tree by the trunk and tap it on the ground. All evergreens lose needles throughout the year but, if too many fall off, you might want to reconsider. A shiny, glossy green coating on the needles shows you instantly how healthy the tree is.
Check Your Tree Will Fit In The Car
Unless you have a big car, anything over 5ft may be best attached to a roof rack. Make sure the tree’s trunk is pointed toward the car’s front end – this will reduce wind damage to the pine needles. You’ll need plenty of ties to secure it properly for a safe journey home. Dobbies will net your chosen tree to protect it (and your car) in transit. If you are transporting the tree inside your car, lay down a blanket or sheet to catch loose needles and save on post-journey cleaning time.
Leave Your Tree To Stand For 24 Hours
On arrival, release your tree from its net. Then give it a day before decorating, so the branches can settle into place. Make sure it gets enough water: cutting off a couple of centimetres from the stump will enable the tree to take up more water and last longer. Your tree will need approximately 1-2 litres a day, depending on the temperature of the room. Remember: if you put your tree close to a fire or radiator, it’s going to dry out and lose its sheen.
Don’t Overlook A Fake Tree
Fake trees are great if you want one that can stay up for most of December and early January, advises Sam Hood, co-founder and creative director of Amara. “This year at Amara we have bought quite heavily into fake trees and they’ve been a big hit with our customers.” John Lewis and The White Company have also seen a rise in sales this year. “As artificial trees have grown increasingly more realistic over the years, we’ve definitely seen the demand for faux trees grow among customers who appreciate their longevity,” explains Mark Winstanley, chief creative officer at The White Company. “Artificial trees, particularly pre-lit ones, are perfect for those with small children and excitable pets – and there is no needle drop to manage.”
Environmentally Friendly Alternatives
There are lots of farms where you can rent a tree. Some people give them names and get the same trees year in year out, explains Maxine Brady, interiors stylist and blogger at WeLoveHomeBlog.com. Also look out for recycling options – trees can be made into chipping for parks and woodlands.
Cheat The Smell Of A Real Tree
“If you are missing that real tree aroma, you can always opt for a Christmas tree scent such as our beautiful ‘Fir Tree’ with fresh notes of pine, eucalyptus and cedar,” suggest Mark. Even real trees can lose their scent over time so it’s a good back-up to keep at hand.
DECORATING YOUR TREE
Always Disguise The Metal Stand On A Fake Tree
A metal stand can look unsightly and give the game away, admits Maxine. “Invest in a beautiful covering: Cox & Cox and The White Company both have beautiful wicker-style ‘skirts’ that hide the legs for a country feel. Or Lights4fun has a chic linen one for a relaxed look.” Just make sure you have the wicker cover in place around the base first, then put the tree in. “Once the tree is in, there’s no going back – I learnt this the hard way last year,” says Leoma Harper, stylist and founder of Style The Clutter.
Zig Zag Your Lights
Maxine suggests zig-zagging the lights across the front of the tree – rather than wrapping them all the way around – because no one will see the back of your tree. They will be easier to get off afterwards too – no more knotted wires.
Start With The Lights
Make sure they are well distributed with no glaring, and always use a green flex which will disappear within the ferns allowing your lights and decorations to shine, advises Mark. “Our Cluster Lights give such a magical twinkle to any tree and are closely placed to create an almost tinsel-like effect. Another top tip is to guide the lights down the spine of the tree, so you create an inner glow and plenty of depth.”
Biggest Baubles First
To create a balanced, visually pleasing tree, try to buy baubles in threes or sixes, and add these on first in a ‘Z’ shape, advises Mark. Hang larger baubles closer to the centre of your tree to give it more depth, says Sam, and use small ones towards the end of the branches: “My top tip would be to hang expensive, glass baubles at the top of the tree to prevent any breakages.” Add your sentimental or special ones last, so they get easily seen.
Hang Your Baubles Using Floristry Wire
Avoid using the cheap plastic ribbon they come with. It tends to snap and you will struggle to get your baubles onto bushier branches, says Maxine. “Floristry wire will hold them securely to the tree; it also means you can position your decorations anywhere along the branches for a more lush, full effect. Use green wire so it blends into the foliage of the tree.”
You want to build a collection of Christmas decorations you can enjoy year after year and add to as you wish. “This year I am adding a splash of colour alongside the gold and greens I used last year,” says Leoma. “A really cost-effective way to do this is through using mini honeycomb ball decorations, they are so effective and give lovely texture to the tree.” The White Company has starter packs that offer a simple palette of whites, silvers and clear with touches of shimmer, which are great for bouncing light off from your fairy lights.
Don’t Overdo It
While Christmas is often about excess, Leoma reminds us it’s preferable to be able to see the detail of your tree. Especially if you have spent so much time choosing, grooming and caring for it.
But Remember That The Ultimate Tree-Topper Is…
A star! All our stylists agreed it’s the only thing they’d crown their tree with.