Christmas is knocking at the door, and it’s time to start putting up the decorations. If you’ve opted for a real tree this year, you might not realise just how much work has gone into getting that one tree on prime shape to be proudly displayed in your home over the festive period.
Join us from seed to sapling to fully-grown tree as we explore the life of a Christmas tree!
British Christmas trees
It’s very likely that the tree you’ve bought in the UK was grown in the UK too! There are many wholesale Christmas tree farmers in the UK and most of their produce goes to garden centres and supermarkets in the country. UK Christmas tree sales accumulate to £280m on average and three quarters of these are home grown.
The vast majority of the market (80%) plump for the Nordmann fir tree. With soft foliage and glossy green needles, it’s a perfect tree for decorating. But before you hang tinsel and baubles off its branches, where did it all begin?
The first step is to take seeds from the cone of a mature tree. A protective sheet is placed over the top to prevent any damage from frost or sunlight. For the first two years of their life, weed control is essential to eliminate any competition for moisture, nutrients or sunlight.
After three years of growing, the seedlings are put into plant beds for a further two years in order to develop a sturdy root system suitable for moving to the fields. Christmas tree farmers can have hundreds of trees in one field, and must look after them all.
The next seven or eight years are spent making sure the trees grow correctly, and that it looks the way a customer would want. This is done by trimming the sides of the tree regularly to maintain the classic Christmas tree look; it can be cut in different ways to grow into a ‘full’ or ‘open’ tree. Bud-rubbing is another practise that farmers must do which is where the buds are removed from the top row of branches to enable the side branches to further develop – this results in a thicker tree.
Farmers make use of a colour coding system by tying ribbons to the trees to dictate price bracket and height. In total, it takes around 12-15 years from seed to harvest!
Going artificial or real?
Although farmers put so much work into growing the perfect crop of trees, many of us still go for an artificial tree. Looking at average monthly searches in Google over the past year, it appears that more people search for artificial Christmas trees (14,800) than real Christmas trees (9,900). However, this could be due to the purchase process of each (some fake trees can be bought online).
Real trees have so many different shapes, sizes, and types. One advantage of grown trees is that, unlike artificial trees, you can choose a tree suitable for your own home and know that no one else will have one the same.
It’s true that a real tree will likely set you back a little more money than an artificial version. Moreover, an artificial tree will last you around 10 years whereas a real tree will only last a few weeks. But, the environmental benefits of a real Christmas tree mean your tree can be recycled into something useful after Christmas — it could be turned into furniture or play bark!
Some people mistakenly think cutting down these trees must have a poor effect on the environment. However, these trees are a crop and it is not dangerous to cut them down. Unlike artificial trees, real trees are biodegradable too – reducing their carbon footprint further.
Then again, if you’re looking for a great investment and have the time to spare, you could always grow your own Christmas tree!