While some people prefer artificial trees for their practicality, for others only a real tree will do. As many of us have put up our trees earlier than usual this year, we’ve put together some tips for keeping your tree looking its best throughout the festive season.
Just like any other living creature, your tree will appreciate a drink. Put it in a bucket of water as soon as you get it home so that it can have a good, long soak. Just like cut flowers, trees that have been cut for a while will start to ‘heal’ across the bottom of the trunk and this affects their ability to take in water. If the bottom of the trunk doesn’t look freshly-cut, you might need to saw a small amount off the bottom so that the water can get in properly.
Use a proper stand. You don’t have to use a purpose-made one, but it does need to be something that will hold water such as a heavy bucket filled with sand or gravel. Top your tree up with water frequently, particularly if it’s in a warm place – big trees can drink a surprising amount!
Now comes the tricky bit. We all tend to position trees near to fires, in windows or in corners by radiators out of the way. That might suit us, but it doesn’t suit the trees – they’ll quickly dry out, overheat and drop their needles. If you possibly can, put your tree in a cool position, away from direct sunlight or other heat sources. Position away from walkways, as constant knocking of the branches can also cause ‘needle droppage’. Turn the heating off in that room overnight, if you can. If you’re serious about preserving your tree, you could also put a humidifier in the room. This will stop the air drying out too much and will help preserve the needles.
If you’re using Christmas tree lights, don’t leave them on overnight or while no-one is in the house. Even those low-wattage little lights will create a small amount of heat, causing the branches to dry out.
Our final piece of advice is: know when to call it a day! We’ve all had that moment when we realise we’ve left it too long, tried to pick up a tree and had it explode in a shower of pine needles. You’ll probably still be finding them the following March. If you can manage to catch your tree just before it gets to the ‘dropping’ stage it will make life much easier – look out for dry, brittle, browning needles.
Once the tree is finally finished with, you can mulch it for a home compost heap, arrange with the local council to collect it or saw it into logs and leave it in the garden to provide a home for wildlife in the coming months. You can also burn it in a fireplace or wood burning stove, if you’re careful. Pine burns very easily as it contains a lot of sap, but it can also clog up pipes and chimneys with soot if you burn too much. Chop your tree into small pieces and use one or two pieces each time for kindling before following with a different type of wood such as oak. Pine smells fantastic on the fire, and will remind you of Christmas for weeks to come.
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