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How to buy a perfect Christmas tree and when to put it up

Written by : News | Sun 11th Jan 2015

Do you buy your tree on 1 December, or do you wait for Christmas Eve? Whatever your family tradition is, it’s worth checking our guide to the best firs and how to tell if a 6ft monster is really worth the money.

Trick one: Pick it up and drop it on its stump from a few inches above ground. If more than a few needles drop, it has not been freshly cut.

Trick two: Compare weights. Trees are sold wholesale as premium, standard and third grade. Premium trees are heavier, bushier and have a straight “leader” (the central stem at the top of the tree).

Trick three: The wholesale price of a medium-size Norway spruce is about £7, and £13-£15 for a medium Nordman fir. Standard retail mark-up is typically 100%. If you pay much less than £30 for a standard 5ft Nordman fir, you’re bagging a bargain.

Trick four: Don’t buy Norway spruces at the beginning of December: their needles drop early. But if you prefer to put up a tree closer to Christmas, a spruce should last the 12 days.

Trick five: If you want an early tree, buy a Nordman fir. The needles won’t drop. They cost more because they take about seven years to grow compared to five for a Norway spruce, says David Brown, who runs Festive Forestry Services in Herefordshire and sells 30,000 trees a year. “In my own home I have a Nordman fir. Even months later, when it has gone a brown colour, the needles don’t drop.”

Trick six: The big-box retailers aren’t that bad. B&Q tends to offer standard grade, while the street-corner vendors mostly have third grade. B&Q is selling its medium Nordman fir for £35, while for £53 it will deliver a 6ft tree to your home. Ikea is offering a £20 voucher to spend in its store if you buy its £25 Abies nordmanniana tree, effectively cutting the cost to £5, but the drawback is that the tree is only 4½ft high. John Lewis is selling real trees for the first time this year, but they’re premium pricey: £65 for a 5-6ft Nordman, rising to £100 for an 8-footer in a stand.

Trick seven: Buy from a local grower if you can. Pop on to the British Christmas Tree Growers Association website, bctga.co.uk, and check out members locally. For example, Gower Fresh Christmas Trees near Swansea sells 6ft Nordmans from £30, while Keele Christmas Tree Farm in Newcastle-under-Lyme has Norway spruces starting at £12.

Trick eight: Fake it. Some of the artificial ones aren’t completely naff. But you pay for fake quality: John Lewis has a 7.5ft model with 600 LED lights for £500. Selfridges is the Christmas tree topper on price however, with an imitation of a Scottsdale Fir also standing at 7.5ft, for a cool £699 – plus a £4.95 standard delivery fee.

When’s the best time to put up your Christmas tree?
There’s no definitive answer, writes Rupert Jones. Many people plump for the second Saturday in December. Traditionally, Roman Catholics waited until after noon on Christmas Eve to put up their tree.

A slightly different question might be: when is it acceptable to have your tree up and decorated? While lots have already sprung up in shopping centres and public spaces, a root around on the internet suggests many people take the view that once we’re into December, it is fine to put up your tree. An impressive specimen is due to go up on the forecourt of Buckingham Palace on Wednesday (3 December), while Downing Street’s 20ft tree is due to be delivered in the first week of December and have its lights switched on the following week.

And when should you buy your tree, if you’re opting for a real one? For many of us, it’s not something we give a lot of thought to – at some point before Christmas we’ll drive down to our local DIY store or pick one up from that guy on the corner. Many parents would probably answer: “When the kids start nagging me to get one.”

The British Christmas Tree Growers Association (BCTGA) suggests that trees “should not be purchased earlier than 1 December”.

Mid-December sounds about right if you subscribe to the view that a cut tree will only last a maximum of three to four weeks. It may depend on things such as how hot your house is.

Needlefresh, a UK-based tree supplier, has helpfully published a tree “timetable” on its website to help people avoid the trap of buying too early or too late. It reckons Monday 8 or Tuesday 9 December are the best days to buy your tree (“Make a day of it!”, the website enthuses), though it says you should do your research this coming week. The firm says Monday 15 or Tuesday 16 December are the optimum days for bringing your tree inside so you can put it in position and decorate it.

By Randi Hausken from Bærum, Norway (Morgenstemning  Uploaded by russavia) [CC-BY-SA-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons


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