Something to suit all sizes and budgets

We are really spoiled for choice when it comes to deciding which type of tree to buy; a cut specimen, the artificial type, or one living and growing in a container.

Convenience of handling, size and price are generally in our minds when deciding. The majority of trees are already cut for display so do not delay in making your choice. It’s not unusual to find pines, spruces and firs vying for attention.

The traditional Norway spruce (Picea abies) is generally the least expensive, but has a reputation for losing needles under stress. Nostalgia, mingled with a limited choice, tempted us back to this three years ago. The constant water supply kept it going well until Twelfth Night, but there were shed needles after dismantling.

The Nordman fir’s (Abies nordmanniana) popularity is based on its needle-holding capacity, reflected in the price. A grower recently confirmed that it represented 80 per cent of his market crop. By setting it up in a clamp with reservoir we are assured that the needles will stay on board.

I’ve seen more container-grown Nordmans for sale this time than ever. They’re around 1.5m tall and, as with all potted plants, represent a double challenge. First is to keep them growing steadily in the warm, dry environment; second is their life outdoors beyond the festivities.

Full light, coolest room and regular watering summarises their demands in your home.

Then you must find a place outdoors. If the only option is freestanding in a yard, ensure they’re watered and fed regularly. Ideally, find a spot in the garden where your tree can be planted, pot and all, until next Christmas, at which point you dig it up, prune protruding roots, clean the pot and it’s ready to go again.

Top of the range artificial trees have improved to such an extent that it’s only the cost and close examination that betray their identity.

The idea of a one-off investment for something that can be rolled out year-on-year with ease can seem quite appealing, but I’m for the ritual of selecting, setting up and caring for a living organism with a special fragrance.