Christmas tree

The life of a real Christmas Tree

Christmas is officially upon us. We can no longer complain about festive goodies showing up in the shops, or Christmas decorations appearing in pubs, restaurants, or houses. It’s time to wind fairy lights around every inch of your home, put tinsel on anything that will stand still long enough, and throw any notion of dieting out of the window for at least the next three weeks.

Part of the festive mania sees many of us going out to purchase an entire, fully-grown tree and placing it indoors. If you’re opting for a real tree this year, you might not realise just how long it took for that tree to be living-room-ready. So, before you douse it in brightly coloured baubles and fistfuls of glitter, let’s go all the way back to the start of its life…

From humble beginnings

For those of us in the UK, if you’ve purchased your Christmas tree here, it was likely grown on UK soil. 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.

But which tree is the most popular tree? 80% of the market opts 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?

Cones from mature trees provide the seeds needed for sowing onto flower 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. Then, after three years, the seedlings are moved to plant beds for two more years until their root system is strong enough to be transplanted into a field. Christmas tree farmers can have hundreds of trees in one field and must look after them all.

In order to ensure the trees grow to meet customer demand and trends, the trees are carefully cared for over the next seven to eight years. 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.

Coloured ribbons are tied to the trees to denote height and price range. In total, it takes around 12-15 years from seed to harvest!

Artificial or real

There’s a lot of work that goes into growing Christmas trees. But many people still opt for artificial trees when it comes to the festive season.

In the past year, the average monthly searches on Google reveal that more people search for artificial trees than real, with artificial Christmas tree searches averaging 14,800 monthly searches and real Christmas trees averaging 9,900. However, this could be due to the purchase process of each (some fake trees can be bought online).

Real festive trees come in so many different shapes and sizes. 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. In terms of cost, depending on the size, it is likely that you’ll pay more for a real tree than you would on an artificial one. Moreover, an artificial tree will last you around 10 years whereas a real tree will only last a few weeks.

There are some who believe buying a real tree is harmful to 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, you could always start growing your own and make a little profit from this valuable tree…if you have the patience!

This article was brought to you by grow bag supplier, Compost Direct.



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