Everyone loves a Christmas tree, but are you going sprightly spruce or faux fir?

When only the real deal will do, there are decisions to be made. Cheryl Chadwick, from Avon Mill Garden Centre in Loddiswell, advises choosing your tree carefully and looking after it well, to ensure it stays looking its best throughout the festive season. "The fresher your tree, the better it will hold its needles, so all of our trees are sourced as close to home as possible – the closest grown just up the road and all from within the West Country," she says.

How about starting a new festive family tradition and going to choose your own tree while it is still in the ground? John Cockram Christmas Trees, based in Chulmleigh (with its sister company Horwood Christmas Tree Farm in Horwood) have a Choose and Cut service, to offer their customers the freshest possible. "We grow a wide variety of trees across our plantations in Devon. We ensure our crops are sustainable and do not cause damage to the local wildlife. For every tree that is sold, another is planted in its place," explains John.

Keep your tree outside, preferably standing in water, until it is needed and then, if possible, place it in a cool spot indoors and definitely away from any direct heat source, such as a wood burning stove or radiator. "It helps to cut a slice off the base of the trunk – this opens up the pores, which allows the tree to take up water," adds Cheryl.

Use a water-holding stand or bucket and keep the water topped up daily. Helen Bowker runs Cotley Farm Christmas Trees in Whimple, near Exeter, and offers trees from 2ft grown in a pot, 4–5ft potted, and cut tree sizes from 4ft–20ft. "If you allow the water level to drop below the fresh cut, a new seal will form over the stem. Remember, trees are very thirsty!" she says.

John grows mainly Nordman Fir and Norway Spruce varieties: "Firs take longer to grow and retain their needles well. Spruces lose their needles more easily but grow faster, which makes them a cheaper alternative."

The Norway Spruce is the traditional Christmas tree, with its long, shiny, dark green needles and strong scent. "They may drop their needles if too warm and not in water, but you get a lot of tree for your money and they smell wonderful. If freshly cut they are great value," says Cheryl. Another option is the Blue Spruce, which has a blue tinge, stiff needles and strong branches.

If longevity is important, non-drop varieties will hold on to their needles for longer. Try a Nobel Fir – it has silvery foliage, a lovely scent, and has a wide base with tiered branches, which is ideal for showing off decorations. "In my opinion, the Nobel Fir is the most needle-fast variety," says Cheryl.

The most popular non-drop tree in the UK is the Nordman Fir. It has dark green foliage with lots of branches, but is not as scented as some other trees. "It is a wider shaped tree, retaining its needles well. It's popular, but not so suited to those with limited space in their homes," says John.

The Fraser Fir, with its green needles, silvery underside and beautiful scent, tends to be slimmer and narrower at the base, which is a better option if space is at a premium.

John advises to think carefully about the size you need: "We offer measuring sticks, as seeing a tree in a large open field can be deceiving. We have had trees returned to us before because customers have bought trees that are 3ft taller than their living room ceiling!"

“Remember, trees are very thirsty!”Helen Bowker, Cotley Farm Christmas Trees

If a real tree is not practical, then the range of artificial trees on the market should offer a solution. Many of them come pre-lit, so just add a few decorations if required, and that's it – job done!

This John Lewis Outdoor Twig Tree, is available in white, and is pre-lit with ice white LEDs. Deliberately understated, it resembles a bare pine, and would look at home placed among some real trees in the garden

John Lewis Outdoor Twig Tree, White. £129-£149
John Lewis Outdoor Twig Tree, White. £129-£149

For a fake tree that closely resembles a real one, try the John Lewis Snowy Pop-Up Pre-Lit Christmas Tree – a bushy and compact artificial Christmas tree, pre-lit with 200 warm white LEDs. This 6ft tree's outer tips are accurately moulded and coloured with a rich, emerald-green to mimic a real spruce, with a heavy pure white flocking to resemble snowfall. It has a pop-up design that's simple to set up and easy to store after the festive season.

John Lewis & Partners Snowy Pop-up Pre lit Christmas Tree, 6ft.£169
John Lewis & Partners Snowy Pop-up Pre lit Christmas Tree, 6ft.£169
Lucy Baker-Kind

Published 29 October 2018

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