Fir real: how to choose a beautiful Christmas tree

Exciting times - a young boy chooses a Christmas tree
Exciting times - a young boy chooses a Christmas tree

If you’ve dusted off your tree stand, got your baubles out and are surrounded by sparkling tinsel, it must be almost time to put the Christmas tree up.

Garden centres generally start stocking trees towards the end of November, while The British Christmas Tree Growers Association (BCTGA) recommends getting them from December 1 onwards.

It seems the middle of the festive season, the third Sunday after Advent (December 11) is a good compromise.

The fresher the tree, the more likely it is to last through the festive season without dropping its needles or looking a little tired.

While the most common type of tree is still the Nordmann fir - which accounts for 80% of trees sold - there are some that might better suit your available space and budget.

“Bear in mind the size of the room and the weight of the tree,” says David Mitchell, plant buyer for Wyevale Garden Centres. “A lot of Christmas trees are sold by height, so make sure you’ve got the roof space for it and don’t end up having to cut a section off the top.

“Some trees have a lighter structure. We sell a Swedish-style Nordmann which is lighter. We select the trees in the field and prune them to have a lighter feel, which suits a lot of customers. They are good if you want to experiment with larger decorations or you want to see light coming through the tree. They have more of a layered structure, and they are cheaper than the denser trees.

The four main types of tree on offer this year are Nordman fir, Fraser fir, Noble fir and Norway spruce, each of which has its own characteristics.

:: Nordmann fir (Abies nordmanniana)

The most popular tree, it won’t drop its needles for the duration of the festive season and people love it because of its dense branches, uniform shape and good variety of sizes. Expect to pay from about £20 upwards, depending on size.

:: Fraser fir (Abies fraseri)

This is ideal for those with limited space, who want a real Christmas tree.

It’s a slim tree, so you’re less likely to brush past it and knock off decorations in a smaller room, but it also has a great shape and fresh citrus scent, and its dark olive-green needles don’t drop. It’s likely to be more expensive than the Nordmann, and there won’t be as many available as it’s a more difficult tree to grow commercially, says Mitchell.

:: Noble fir (Abies procera)

Consumers buy this tree primarily for its blue-hued needle colour and rich fragrance. It’s non-drop, but is unlikely to be as uniformly shaped as the Nordmann. This tree is ideal for individuals who don’t conform to conventional shapes and sizes of tree.

:: Norway spruce (Picea abies)

This is the traditionalist’s tree. It may shed its needles, but what it loses in longevity it gains in scent. It’s a good tree if you’re putting it up last minute, or at least closer to Christmas, because it won’t last as long as the more expensive non-drop trees.

==“A lot of people look for nostalgia at Christmas time and this is part of the mix,” says Mitchell.

“It smells more Christmassy than the Nordmann, but you do get the dropping needles, although how quickly they drop really depends on how you look after the tree.”