Christmas tree guide: how to choose the perfect tree, plus homemade decoration ideas

When it comes to choosing a Christmas tree, do you go for a real tree or fake? Nordman fir or Norway spruce? Our Christmas tree guide looks at tree varieties, how to choose the perfect Christmas tree, plus advice on how to care for your tree and environmentally friendly options

Christmas tree

Nothing beats the smell of a Christmas tree over the festive period, but which is the best tree to choose? Our Christmas tree guide looks at the history of the tree in Britain, plus tree varieties and decoration ideas.


The history of the Christmas tree in Britain

In the UK the Christmas tree was first introduced in 1800 by the wife of King George III, Queen Charlotte, who brought the tradition from her native Germany, where it was common custom to have a Christmas tree in your home Yew She requested a Yew tree be brought to Queen’s Lodge in Windsor, which she decorated herself.

Christmas Eve At Windsor Castle, The Queen’s Christmas Tree (Photo by: Getty Images)

Germany’s history with the Christmas tree dates back to medieval times, when a fir tree known as a ‘Paradise tree’ was hung with apples to represent Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden.

By the time of her death in 1818, Christmas trees were a popular British festive tradition. Victorian Christmas trees were decorated with candles, sweets and homemade

Spiced Christmas Tree biscuits (Photo by: Maciej Nicgorski / EyeEm via Getty Images)

Christmas tree varieties – which is the best tree to choose?

Choosing your real Christmas tree is always a highlight of the festive season, but other than the size and shape, what are the things to consider when buying your tree? England’s Forestry Commission sheds light on choosing the right tree for your home.

Norway Spruce

The Norway Spruce – the ‘father of Christmas tree’

Known as the ‘father of Christmas tree’, this traditional spruce is known for:

  • A wonderful shape and an abundance of branches – great for hanging lots of decorations!
  • A lovely ‘Christmassy’ scent that’s perfect at this time of year
  • Being a little sharp and spikey to touch

Who does it suit?

With a long lasting scent and a traditional shape, Norway spruce are perfect for those who appreciate the classic look and smell of Christmas.

Tips on looking after your tree

It’s best to buy your Norway Spruce nearer to Christmas as it can lose its needles quite quickly once brought indoors. To help your spruce retain its needles for longer, keep it away from the radiator and ensure it’s watered every day.

Nordmann Fir

Nordmann Fir Christmas Tree
The Nordmann fir Christmas tree, pictured here growing in the Netherlands, is one of the most popular varieties in Europe (Photo by: Getty Images)

This fir is easily the most popular Christmas tree in Europe, known for:

  • Having soft foliage and an even shape – making it a joy to decorate!
  • Glossy, dark green needles that have a whitish/light blue underside
  • Strong branches, which are great for hanging those big glass decorations

Who does it suit?

The big, soft needles make this tree a firm favourite with families who have children

Tips on looking after your tree

The Nordmann fir can be a rather wide tree, so a reasonably large space is needed if you want to show it off. For a 6ft tall tree, allow approximately 5ft space.

Lodgepole Pine

If you have high ceilings, the Lodgepole pine may be the tree for you

If you have high ceilings, the Lodgepole pine may be the tree for you, as it looks its best in a big, tall and open space. It’s known for:

  • It’s bushy appearance and luscious long green needles
  • Branches that point upwards
  • That wonderful pine scent
  • It’s great needle retention, which makes it a long lasting tree

Who does it suit?

With the best needle retention of them all, Lodgepole pines are perfect for those who like to decorate their tree and little earlier and don’t want Christmas to end.

Tips on looking after your tree

Decorate, decorate, decorate! The long needles on Lodgepole pines accentuate any decorations – so you can definitely go to town on this tree.

The great Christmas tree debate: Real vs fake – which is better?

Artificial Christmas Tree
Real or artificial? The great Christmas tree debate (Photo by: Getty Images)

There’s nothing quite like the smell and feel of a real Christmas tree, but often it’s more effort and seems rather wasteful when Christmas is over compared to the re-usable artificial ones. So why bother buying real?

Real trees use ten times fewer materials and five times less energy compared to artificial trees – and they are totally biodegradable. The Forestry Commission ensures it only sells trees that are UK grown and that more trees are planted each year than harvested.

Each tree sold comes with a free baby sapling – allowing you to plant and grow you own real Christmas tree for the future.

Places to choose and chop your own tree

Christmas tree
Why not choose and chop your own tree this festive season? (Photo by: Getty Images)

Why not have the great satisfaction of chopping your own Christmas tree at a tree farm? Here are a couple of places which allow you to choose and chop your own Christmas tree.

Salem Christmas Tree Farm, Llandeilo

Turn choosing a Christmas tree into a festive day out in this 27-acre Welsh smallholding, which also offers stunning woodland walks, a Christmas shop and the chance for children to meet Father Christmas.

If you don’t fancy chopping your own tree, freshly cut trees are also on offer. This festive farm is open for business until dusk on Christmas Eve.

Friezeland Farm, Warwickshire

Choose from more than 30,000 tree varieties including,  tradition spruce trees, non-drop trees, blue spruce and pot grown trees at this large woodland estate in Warwickshire. You can pick and chop your own tree or opt to have it potted so you can plant in your garden after the festive season.

Leaton Knolls Estate, Shropshire

Leaton Knolls has a great variety of trees that have established it as Shropshire’s leading Christmas tree retailer for the past 30 years. With a range of pre-cut trees also available, those feeling adventurous can wander among the trees of the plantation and cut down the tree they want for their home. 

Environmentally friendly Christmas tree options

Environmentally friendly Christmas tree options
Rent a tree or buy potted and reuse to help cut down on waste this Christmas (Photo by: Getty Images)

It is estimated that more than six million Christmas trees will become household waste each year. While many councils will turn old Christmas trees into green waste – shredding them and turning into compost, this process still generates 160,000 tonnes of waste each year, according to the Carbon Trust.

Alternatively, why not rent a tree or buy a potted tree which you can use each year?


Make your Christmas tree ornaments

Make spiced Christmas tree biscuits to hang from your tree with this easy recipe

Spiced Christmas Tree biscuits (Photo by: Maciej Nicgorski / EyeEm via Getty Images)
Spiced Christmas Tree biscuits (Photo by: Maciej Nicgorski / EyeEm via Getty Images)

Make your own tree decorations

Bring a touch of woodland charm to your festive tree this Christmas, with these easy-to-make birds…