• Maureen Little

O Christmas Tree, O Christmas Tree

Please note: This post is not sponsored.

The time is fast approaching when many people will be putting up their Christmas tree – although, dare I say, I’ve already seen some already decorated and lighting up a couple of front windows in our village. I have a feeling it’s got to do with lockdown and trying to instil a modicum of joy in this otherwise dour time.

We never put our tree up until the Sunday before Christmas Day. This is a compromise that we reached many years ago because my husband, who comes from Germany, was used to putting up the tree on Christmas Eve, the custom where he comes from. I, however, used to put the tree up ten days before Christmas, so we negotiated and came up with the Sunday before Christmas. Which is fine, unless Christmas Day falls on a Monday!

When it comes to Christmas trees, I’m an all or nothing type of person. I either have to have a real tree or one that bears no resemblance whatsoever to a real one. If we do have a real tree, there are many varieties to choose from: there is the traditional Norway Spruce (Picea abies) to the less well-known Lasiocarpa Fir (Abies lasiocarpa). I particularly like the Nordmann Fir (Abies Nordmanniana) because it retains its long, soft needles, is a lovely green colour and has a real pine-y aroma. There are more variety choices below.

If you do decide to have a real tree and have chosen which variety to have, the next decision is whether to buy a cut tree, a pot-grown (or container-grown) tree, or a potted (or containerised) one.

A cut tree is self-explanatory: the tree has been cut from its root and is offered for sale with the knowledge that it will die. You can prolong the life of your cut tree, however, by keeping it outside in a sheltered position and, after cutting the bottom 2cm off the trunk, standing it in a bucket of water until you are ready to take it indoors. Change the water each day to prevent it from becoming stale.

When you take your tree inside, try and find a stand that holds at between 2 and 3 pints of water – the tree will continue taking up water for as long as it is available, ensuring that it stays fresher for longer, so keep topping it up as necessary. Transfer the tree from the bucket to the stand as quickly as possible so the sap in the tree doesn’t seal the cut.

A pot-grown tree is one that has been grown in a pot all its life and has been potted on in successively larger containers until it is big enough to be offered for sale. You can take the tree, pot and all, inside and place it in a decorative outer container which will allow you to water the tree. Before you do that, however, keep your tree in a cold greenhouse or garage so it can get used to being indoors. Keep the soil in the pot moist, but not sodden.

After Christmas you can either keep the tree in its pot, transplant it to a bigger pot, or plant it in the garden, weather permitting. Remember to leave it in the greenhouse or garage again before you do any of those things so it can get used to the idea of being out in the cold.

A potted tree is one which has been grown in a field or nursery bed and has been dug up and then put in a pot to be sold. I tend to steer clear of these. When I have bought a potted tree in the past, it has survived for only a few weeks even though I have tended it carefully and followed all the instructions. I think the stress from being dug up, put in a warm environment and then put back outdoors was just too much for a root system that was inevitably pruned to fit in the pot, and was trying to cope with keeping itself alive during such an alien sequence of events.

Whatever type of tree you choose, however, don’t keep it indoors for too long. Cut trees with access to water, should last for about 4 weeks: pot-grown or potted trees should be kept indoors for no longer than 12 days.


Blue Spruce (Picea pungens Glauca group)

Silvery blue; prickly needles; excellent needle retention.

Fraser Fir (Abies fraseri)

Silvery; soft needles; excellent needle retention; fresh aroma.

Korean Fir (Abies koreana)

Dark green; soft needles; excellent needle retention; lovely aroma.

Lodgepole Pine (Pinus contorta)

Dark green; long needles; excellent needle retention; lovely aroma.

Lasiocarpa (Abies lasiocarpa)

Silvery blue; soft needles; excellent needle retention.

Noble Fir (Abies procera)

Blueish hue; soft needles; excellent needle retention; lovely aroma.

Nordmann Fir (Abies nordmanniana)

Dark green; soft needles; excellent needle retention; subtle aroma.

Norway Spruce (Picea abies)

Dark green; slightly prickly needles; poor needle retention; lovely aroma.

The British Christmas Tree Company has lots more information about the different varieties of trees: click here to go to their website.


The Illustrated London News, Christmas supplement, 1848, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Although Prince Albert, Queen Victoria’s consort, is usually credited with bringing the first Christmas tree to England in 1840, it was in fact Queen Charlotte, wife of George III who can lay claim to that honour: she set up a tree at Windsor in December 1800.

Some believe the tradition of bringing a tree, or rather a bough, inside and decorating it with candles dates way back to 16th Century Germany. It really only caught on in Britain, though, during the lifetime of the aforementioned Queen Charlotte, and only then in the upper echelons of society. It was really when periodicals and magazines, such as the Illustrated London News, featured Prince Albert’s ‘royal’ decorated, intact trees, rather than boughs or branches, that the custom filtered down to the rest of society.

The Norway spruce became the go-to tree to use at Christmas and it was only in relatively recent years that the choice became much greater. And now you can have an artificial tree that looks as good as the real thing – or even a tree that bears no resemblance to a ‘proper’ tree at all. The choice is yours!