All you need to know about finding the perfect Christmas tree
A little know-how will ensure your festive centrepiece lasts longer, says Sinead Ryan
Whether it's stylishly ornate, coolly minimalist, or has had every tacky trinket thrown at it, a Christmas tree is the centrepiece of every home at this time of year.
But what should we ask if we want to ensure it won't revert to dry twigs before Santa even arrives? There are five million firs in the Irish crop (they take seven to 10 years to grow) and this year over 600,000 will be harvested according to the Irish Christmas Tree Growers Association (who knew?). They even export 200,000 trees abroad, the quality is so in demand.
Why buy a real tree?
Andrew Hatton is a tree farmer in Tinahely, Co Wicklow, and will be selling 4,000 trees this month. "It's an excellent crop this year and you should look for non-shed with a great shape and good shine. Around seven foot tall is ideal - you need room for a stand and a star in a normal room. Expect to pay for quality, but trees can be anything from €30 to €70." A new tree is grown for every one chopped, which helps lower our ozone emissions as they produce 70 -105 tons of oxygen per hectare over their life. Finally, there's nothing like the smell of a real tree.
On a cost-per-use basis, you can't beat it. A decent tree will cost around €100, but can last over a decade. That means, carefully packed, it's always cheaper.
There's less hassle in transporting it (from the attic) and you don't need to worry about watering or needle shedding.
Types of tree
The most popular real trees are Nordmann fir (75pc) for their needle-retaining quality and glossy green colour, and the noble fir (15pc) which has a lovely scent. For outdoors, consider a Norway spruce.
Caring for the tree
According to experts, the key is to have your tree professionally wrapped for the journey home (most shops and forests have netting machines).
Cut two inches off the bottom and stand in a bucket of water, shaking off any loose needles, before bringing it indoors. Add water daily to the vessel it is standing in.
Make sure the tree is properly secured (especially from small children and animals), away from doorways, heaters and open fires.
All lights should be EU safety compliant, with a CE mark and should be fully unplugged at night.
Where to buy
Garden centres and shopping centres will all sell trees. However, your local community GAA club, scout group or school may be selling trees for charity and you may prefer this. They may also have delivery options too.
Families can have a lovely Christmas experience by travelling to a Christmas tree farm where they can select their own tree and have it cut down.
Measure height before you leave as the size will be masked in a huge forest of conifers!
Dressing your tree
Mary Kelly of Brown Thomas has the following tips for a stylish showpiece:
- invest in a good tree - choose from a classic spruce with a full branch or a simple bare branch style;
- decide your theme in advance and, for sophistication, go for white lights - they will integrate with any colour theme;
- always dress your tree from the top down using a diamond formation. Make sure you stand back to see how it looks from every angle and top with a statement decoration.
Christmastreesireland.com has a list of official growers around the country. Lovearealtree.ie has great tips on buying and caring for trees.
All Local Authority websites have recycling points and dates for collection.