Choosing & Caring for your Christmas Tree
A Brief History of the Christmas Tree
Germany is credited with starting the Christmas Tree tradition as we know it now, right back in the 16th Century. In 1841, Prince Albert brought a Christmas Tree back from Germany for Queen Victoria. The tree was placed in Windsor Castle, and a famous illustration of the Royal family enjoying the tree helped the traditional Christmas Tree gain popularity here in Britain.
Early Christmas trees were decorated with candles, sweets and cakes, symbolic of the stars in the sky at the birth of Jesus. An angel would also adorn the top of the tree to represent the angels which visited the shepherds in the field. Nowadays, Christmas Trees are decorated with lights, tinsel and small ornaments, but some of the Victorian traditions still remain.
Perhaps the most famous Christmas Tree in Britain is the one in Trafalgar Square. Each year the people of Oslo, Norway send a Christmas Tree as a ‘thank you’ gift to the people of Britain for their help during the Second World War. Since 1947, Norway has expressed its gratitude to Britain by continuing to send a huge Norway Spruce.
Once Christmas has passed, don’t throw away your Christmas Tree. If it is potted or rootballed, there is a chance it will survive in your garden. If your tree was cut, then many recycling centres will recycle it for you. Not only does this help the environment, but shredded Christmas tree trunks and branches, once composted, make an excellent mulch for in your garden.
Cut Christmas Trees
Cut trees are still the most popular choice of real tree as they usually offer the most cost effective solution and are the easiest option for handling. For maximum freshness choose a rootballed tree and have the rootball cut off on the day of dispatch.
Immediately upon receipt of your tree, remove the packaging. Cut about 25mm off the base of the tree and stand it upright in a bucket of water in a cool building (garden shed or garage). Aim to keep the tree in a cool building for as long as possible, taking it inside just before Christmas. Make sure the water in the bucket is kept topped up and the spray the foliage with water daily if possible. Choose the coolest room in the house (hallway etc), away from open fires and direct sources of heat (radiators etc). Before taking the tree inside, check it fits properly in your stand or you’ve trimmed enough branches back if keeping it in a bucket. Put the stand (or bucket) in the chosen place in the house, no closer than 60cm to a wall to allow the tree to stand up. Put the tree in the stand and systematically clamp the tree into the stand, ensuring it is upright. If using a bucket, bricks wedged between the bucket and the trunk work well and offer good counter balance. Keep the tree watered in the stand and ideally spray the needles carefully with water everyday (taking care to avoid the lights!)
Take the tree out of the house as soon as possible after Christmas. There will inevitably be some needle loss in the process but nothing 5 minutes with a vacuum cleaner can’t fix. Take the tree to your nearest recycling centre because once chipped and composted, your tree can be recycled as mulch top dressing.
Potted Christmas Trees
If you want a tree that you can plant after Christmas then smaller potted Christmas trees have the best chance of survival because proportionally, they’ve lost less of their roots to enable them to be taken in to the house, but please remember, they are outdoor trees and taking them inside means we can’t guarantee their survival.
Immediately upon receiving your tree, remove the packaging. Store the tree upright in a cool building (garden shed or garage) and keep it well watered. Aim to keep the tree in a cool building for as long as possible, taking it inside just before Christmas and ideally putting it in the coolest room away from open fires and radiators. Water the tree daily and if possible, spray the foliage with water (taking care to turn off and avoid the lights!).
As soon as possible, after Christmas, take the tree outside. Dig a hole about 50mm deeper than the top of the pot and sprinkle a handful of bonemeal in the hole and on the soil to be back-filled. Carefully place the pot in the hole and pull the tree out of the pot. The soil may fall away but try and make sure that the soil and the roots stay in contact in the hole. Back-fill the hole, firming down each layer with your heel. Make sure the tree is upright and stake at 45 degree angle if necessary. Water roots and foliage copiously in dry periods. Don’t worry if some of the needles fall off initially – it may be transplant shock and they will come back if the tree survives.
We can’t guarantee your tree will live but potted trees often do well and if you follow these directions, you will have given it the best chance of survival.
Rootballed Christmas Trees
Rootballed Christmas Trees are freshly dug from the field. If you are looking to plant the tree after Christmas then we highly recommend not using the tree indoors as this will greatly reduce the chance of transplanting the tree successfully. If you are looking for a tree that is going to keep indoors to plant after Christmas then we would recommend a potted tree.
Immediately upon receiving your tree, remove the packaging but leave the root wrap in tact. Store the tree upright as possible in a cool building (garden shed or garage), ensuring that the rootball is protected from the floor by a piece of plastic or similar (to stop moisture being drained from the roots) and give the rootball a pint of water poured over the top of the rootball and spray the foliage with water daily. If you are going to be using the tree indoors aim to keep the tree in a cool building for as long as possible, taking it inside just before Christmas.
Before taking the tree into the house, check the pot/bucket/half barrel etc will easily contain the Christmas tree roots. Choose the coolest room in the house if possible (hallway etc), away from open fires and direct sources of heat (radiators etc). Put the pot or bucket in position about 60cm away from the wall on a tray or piece of polythene. Put a layer of garden soil in the bottom of the pot and place the Christmas tree such that it sits properly on the soil. Have another bucket of soil ready to place round the roots to stabilise the tree, Do not use sand or peat as often it is not heavy enough to make the tree stable. Firm the soil down, step back to make sure the tree is upright and top up with more soil. The bigger the pot, the more stable the tree will be. Give the rootball approximately one pint of water a day unless it becomes waterlogged (varies depending on house temperature) and ideally spray the needles carefully with water every day (take care to avoid the lights!).
We can’t guarantee your tree will live once planted outside, but by following these directions, you will have given it the best chance of survival. As soon as possible, after Christmas, take the tree outside. Dig a hole about 150mm deeper than the top of the rootball, sprinkle a handful of bonemeal in the hole and on the soil to be back-filled. Carefully place the rootball in the hole and cut the rootball net about 3-4 times with approximately 150mm cuts. Back-fill the hole, firming down each layer with your heel. Make sure the tree is upright and stake at 45 degree angle if necessary. Water roots and foliage copiously in dry periods. Don’t worry if the needles drop off a little – it may be transfer shock and they will come back.