The timeline of the Christmas tree

Summer is long behind us and Christmas is getting close. Amongst everything else, this means 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 originated from and compare real and artificial trees.

Growing the Christmas tree

If you buy a Christmas Tree in the UK or US, it is likely that it was grown here, too. There are many wholesale Christmas tree farmers in the UK or US 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 homegrown.

A popular type of Christmas tree is the Nordmann fir – in fact, 80% of the market choose this tree. It’s a perfect tree for decorating. But before you hang tinsel and baubles off its branches, where did it all begin?

First of all, the seeds are removed from cones of mature trees and planted 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 seeds stay in these beds for three years and after this they are transported to deeper plant beds for two years. This is to allow their root system to grow 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.

A lot of care and attention is given to the trees 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 practice that farmers must do, which is where the buds are removed from the top row of branches to enable the side branches to develop – this results in a thicker tree.

To differentiate between sizes and species, farmers place coloured ribbons around the trees. In total, it takes around 12-15 years from seed to harvest!

Should you purchase a real or an artificial tree?

Despite the attraction of a real tree, many people still choose artificial trees when it comes to Christmas.

Analysis of Google trends over the past year has shown that more people search 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).

One advantage that comes with a real tree is that you can choose one that is just the right size and style for you. From a Nordman fir to a Blue spruce, real trees come in all shapes and sizes, and it’s guaranteed that no one will have the same one as you.

When thinking about pricing, it is likely that it’ll cost you more for a real tree than it would an artificial one. Moreover, an artificial tree will last you around ten years, whereas a real tree will only last a few weeks.

Many believe that purchasing a real tree is not eco-friendly. They think that, as it is cutting down a plant, this interferes with the natural 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.

An alternative to both real and artificial trees is growing your own. Cultivating this profitable crop could be a great investment!


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