Fake plastic trees? Get real this Christmas

Written by jaime guillet
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Fake plastic trees? Get real this Christmas
The lowdown on Christmas trees (Ryan McVay/Photodisc/Getty Images)

A fresh cut British grown Christmas tree will embellish a home for the festive season; the traditional scent of pine and deep green needles are certain to bring out good memories

— Sam Hook, Managing Director, British Christmas Tree Growers Association

US-born comedian, Larry Wilde, once quipped that parents should never worry about the size of their Christmas trees, because “in the eyes of children, they are all 30 feet tall.” Although Wilde’s comment certainly rings true with most parents and children, size ranks among the most important traits to consider when shopping for the family’s next tree. But size isn’t the only consideration. Some palates delight in the taste of Marmite while others detest it. Similarly, personal preferences for the perfect Christmas tree run the gamut. Perhaps a full tree with loads of fresh evergreen scent rings your jingle bell. Maybe you can’t stand bushy trees and prefer a sparser, more traditional-looking species.

Size matters

Size is the first consideration for most people. Determine where you want to display your tree and then measure that space.

After measuring the spot, figure out the style of tree you want before you go shopping.

What is the decorating style of your tree going to be? Elegant? Rustic? More of a ‘granny’ tree? A kids’ tree? Is it going in the living room, the dining room? Are you matching it to a certain decor? All of these things determine what type of tree is best.

Top sellers across the UK

In the UK there are lots of growers who specialise in Christmas trees. There are 320 members of the British Christmas Tree Growers association, who together sell 8 million trees a year.

The most popular tree is the Nordman Fir, described by the association as a "cone-shaped tree with open, spiky branches." The tree is about 180cm (6ft) and will set you back in the region of £35-£45. The Norway Spruce used to top the list but has now been overtaken by the Nordman Fir. It is lighter green in colour and is generally cheaper than the Nordman, costing between £25-£35. The Grand Fir is considered the best tree for those of you who are after the Christmas "scent."

The Fraser Fir is also becoming more and more popular among consumers in the UK and is a "A dense and narrow tree, with short, flat, dark green needles."

Layered look

Fake plastic trees? Get real this Christmas
Behold! The Nordman Fir (Oli Scarff/Getty Images News/Getty Images)

A grower’s shearing probably is the second most important detail that makes people choose one tree over another. Shearing dictates the overall shape of the tree: whether it is sparse, with wood visible between the branches to provide an “old-fashioned” look, or fuller – “layered” – with more greenery and shelf-like branching.

You could have two white pines next to each other, even grown by the same farmer, be the same age, and they can look dramatically different. Most trees would not have the familiar triangular shape without a shearing.

Firs and spruces will have more of a layered look, a little more elegant, so you can hang ornaments and see them, whereas the pines are going to be a little fuller and not as easy to see the layers. Then again, it’s how that grower is going to shear their trees; some are going to have more open spaces, others a little more compact. That’s just a personal taste thing.

Shearing that provides less greenery and more space between shelves is better for long ornaments.


The popular trees can be put into two categories based on foliage: firs and spruce on one side, pine trees on the other. Firs and spruce tend to have thick, stiff branches, perfect for large, heavy ornaments. Spruces have the strongest branches, with the blue spruce the sturdiest of them all.

Tactile-ly speaking

You should feel a tree while shopping to assess the strength of the branches as well as the texture of the foliage. The feel may be important to a family, for reasons including pets and children.

Some have a really soft feeling; others are more prickly and sharp. Blue spruce have a sharp, prickly feel. I know people with pets will pick those specifically because they want to keep their pet away from the tree.

Parents should consider what texture would be best for their children.

Scent and colour

With so many seed sources and varieties, colour is not something that can be described across the board. Tree colour depends to an extent on what the grower does. A grower can pump up the nitrogen to boost the green colour in their trees.

And some growers paint their trees well before the harvest season because the Christmas holidays typically are not the vibrant stage of the tree’s life. Some varieties have distinct colouring, however, such as the blue spruce.

Scent is another factor that can vary widely, even within a species. Firs tend to have the most pleasant scents. Do a smell test while shopping.

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