Choosing the Perfect Real Christmas Tree

“O Christmas tree, O Christmas tree
How lovely are thy branches!”

Christmas comes but once a year, so it’s only right you’d want your tree to be spectacular.

Depending on which variety you choose, real Christmas trees have that gorgeous fresh, woody, balsam scent that’s synonymous with flickering log fires, festive films, and quality family time.

But did you know there are many different species of real Christmas tree? Some of the most popular include:

  • Fir: Nordmann, Noble, Fraser, Douglas
  • Pine: Lodgepole, White, Scots
  • Spruce: Norway, White, Blue, Serbian

If you’ve never shopped for an authentic tree before, it’s easy to feel overwhelmed by the choice. But fear not – identifying them is relatively simple when you know the key characteristics of the varieties of evergreen conifer.

Difference Between the Fir, Pine and Spruce Tree

There are many noticeable differences between fir, pine and spruce trees, and finding the right one for your home is essential.

You don’t just want it to look good; you'll need to consider the size of the tree and whether it'll fit within the space you've set aside in your home. Also, taking into consideration the size and weight of your decorations is important in determining which tree type you should choose. To help make the decision a little easier, here are some of the main differences:

Fir
Shape: Conical pyramid
Scent: Sharp, sweet and refreshing; subtle
Height: 40 - 70m
Price: £48 - £60
Needles: Soft and flat
Pine
Shape: Pyramid and open
Scent: Crispy, spicy, woody; strong
Height: 15 - 45m
Price: £30 - £40
Needles: Thin, soft and long
Spruce
Shape: Classic triangle
Scent: Woody balsamic; strong
Height: 20 - 60m
Price: £25 - £35
Needles: Sharply pointed, square and easy to roll between your fingers

Which Christmas Tree Is Right For You?

Whether you prefer a Christmas tree steeped in tradition or something a little trendier, discover the differences between the most popular trees with this handy guide:

Nordmann Fir

The Nordmann Fir is one of the most popular Needlefast trees. It has a classic pyramid shape and long, glossy dark green needles for a classic and traditional look.

One of the biggest advantages of the tree is that it retains needles well – they’ll stay attached throughout the entire festive season.

It also features soft branches that are better for lightweight decorations, including paper chains and bunting that are a popular trend for 2020. The tree emits a subtle scent that’s not overpowering, imbuing your home with just a hint of festive fragrance.

Choose the Nordmann Fir… if you’re looking for a fuss-free Christmas tree that will last until the BIG day and beyond.

Norway Spruce

Norway Spruce is a fast-growing evergreen conifer. It’s one of the most famous Christmas trees, boasting a classic triangular shape and long branches that droop slightly at the tips. It’s also a lush, vibrant green colour that acts as the perfect backdrop for all your trinkets and ornaments.

One of the Norway Spruce’s most noteworthy features is its pungent forest balsam scent, which infuses every room with authentic Christmas fragrance.

The needles drop easily and can be sharp, so take care when you’re decorating your tree and remember to water it daily.

Choose the Norway Spruce… if you’re looking for a picture-perfect Christmas tree that smells incredible.

Blue Spruce

Blue Spruce is one of the best Spruce trees for retaining needles, which are tinged with a stunning silvery blue tip that gives the tree a magical snowy appearance. They’re prickly to touch but emit a beautifully fresh pine scent that smells divine.

Its branches are strong and perfect for hanging heavier decorations. As the tree matures in the forests of North America, it develops a desirable pyramid shape that will bear your tree topper with pride. Blue Spruce is a whopper too, reaching heights of 115m!

Choose the Blue Spruce… if you’re looking for a sturdy tree that’ll hold onto your treasures and trinkets.

Lodgepole Pine

Lodgepole Pine is a thin, narrow tree that can grow to 40-50 metres. It has twisted yellowish-green needles that remain throughout the entire festive season. The foliage is bright green and long, but it’s not too dense.

The branches are firm and can withstand heavier tree decorations. The thin needles are also perfect for smaller trinkets. The tree gives off a strong aroma, enveloping your chosen room with its traditional pine scent.

However, Lodgepole Pine trees can be a little tricky to find and are on the higher end of the price scale.

Choose the Lodgepole Pine… if you’re looking for the perfect all-rounder and have a little extra in the Christmas tree budget to spare.

Scots Pine

Scots Pine is a fast-growing tree that reaches modest heights of 30 metres. It’s also one of the most common Christmas trees in the UK.

Scot Pine is known as the best needle-retaining tree and boasts long needles that give off a strong pine scent. The tree keeps its aroma throughout the entire festive period.

With a naturally sparse appearance, the tree has plenty of space for your decorations (meaning you can fill your boots with even more ornaments this festive season! We won’t tell if you don’t…).

Choose the Scots Pine… if you have lots of Christmas decorations to embellish your tree with.

How To Measure Your Tree

Christmas trees look much smaller out in the open. Many buyers make the mistake of using their eyes to determine whether the tree will fit into their chosen room, only to get home and realise it’s too big. Nightmare!

Before leaving the house, measure your room from top to bottom accurately, then measure it again. As well as the height, measure the width of the space that you’ve set aside for your tree. Also, remember to factor in the height of the tree stand, which is often forgotten about.

A laser measure makes calculating the height from floor to ceiling easy with no need for any step ladders. Laser measure devices are expensive, but if you’re a keen DIYer, I promise it’ll come in handy many times over.

Buyer’s Top Tips

  • Avoid pre-netted trees. Choose an unwrapped tree based on its shape (look for a tree that’s symmetrical and bushy with no gaps) and freshness.
  • A fresh tree should have glossy needles that are bright in colour, which can vary depending on the species.
  • Run your fingers along the branches to see how many needles come loose. Droppage should be minimal. If lots of needles drop off, the tree was probably pre-cut a while ago and is no longer in prime condition.
  • 2020 has been a tough year for British business. Look for trees bearing the ‘Grown in Britain’ logo to support British forestry and our local economies.
  • Whilst you might assume that felling a real conifer for Christmas is bad for the environment, the opposite is true. Real trees are sustainably grown, biodegradable and compostable, and have a far lower carbon footprint compared to artificial trees.
  • Once purchased and in your home, cut 2-4cm from the trunk at the base – the same as you would with fresh flowers.
  • Before placing it in your chosen room, stand the tree outdoors in a sheltered or shady spot in a bucket of water for 1-2 days. This allows the tree to have a nice big drink before it comes inside.
  • Choose a tree stand that holds water and remember to top-up daily. A real tree can drink up to 2ltrs every day.
  • Place your tree in a cool location, away from radiators or fireplaces.
  • Even twinkly fairy lights can give off heat, especially when switched on for several hours. Remember to switch your lights off every evening to prevent the heat from dehydrating your tree. It also saves electricity and prevents fire hazards.
  • A Wi-Fi or timer socket can switch off lights for you. I use Meross sockets, not just for Christmas tree lights, but also for lamps around my home. I’ve programmed my lights to come on at sunset (which is approximately 4pm throughout December in the UK) and switch off at midnight, but you can customise the settings any way you like. These sockets also work with Alexa, Google Assistant and mobile phone devices.

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