Bonfire night is past us, Halloween is gone and summer seems like forever away. Meaning that the Christmas festivities are looming over us. Amongst everything else, this festivity is all about decorating the home, gift buying and choosing the perfect tree. But have you ever stopped to think where your tree has been before it sits amongst the others, awaiting its Christmas fate? Together with Compost Direct, gardening experts and retailers of multi-purpose compost, we look at where Christmas trees originate from and compare real and artificial trees.
How does your Christmas tree grow?
Many people may believe that their Christmas tree has travelled far and wide, but in fact, if you live in the UK, it is likely that your Christmas tree was grown on home soil. There are many wholesale Christmas tree farmers in the UK and most of their produce goes to garden centres and supermarkets around the country. UK Christmas tree sales accumulate to £280m on average and three quarters of these are home grown.
A popular choice for the Christmas tree buyer is the Nordmann fir tree — a species that 80% of the market opts for. With its soft foliage and glossy green needles, it’s the perfect tree for decorating. But before you hang tinsel and baubles off its branches, where did it all begin?
First of all, farmers take seeds from the cones of mature Christmas trees and sow them in beds. 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.
The seedlings spend the first three years of their lives in these beds until they are transported to larger plant beds that have more room for their roots to grow. They spend another two years in beds before they are transplanted into a field. Christmas tree farmers can have hundreds of trees in one field, and must look after them all.
Over the next seven to eight years, the Christmas trees must be monitored and given a lot of attention to ensure they grow in the desired way. 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.
Before the trees are sent to retailers, famers place coloured ribbons on their trees. These code for different heights, species and price brackets. In total, it takes around 12-15 years from seed to harvest!
Real or artificial — which should you choose?
Many people enjoy the idea of a real Christmas tree, but when it comes to choosing, they usually opt for an artificial one.
This is evident in Google search data from the past year which has revealed that more people are searching 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 come in all sorts of shapes and sizes, from the Nordman fir to the Blue spruce there’s a range of species too. 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.
When comparing costs, it is likely that a real tree will set you back slightly more than an artificial one. Moreover, an artificial tree will last you around 10 years whereas a real tree will only last a few weeks.
Some people believe that the purchase of a real tree is not eco-friendly due to the process of chopping down the tree. 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.
Alternative to purchasing a real or fake tree is the option of growing your own! Cultivating this profitable crop could be a great investment!