Homes & Interiors

Make it evergreen

Ready to think about Christmas yet? Top tips from Marcus Eyles, horticultural director at Dobbies Garden Centres, on spotting a quality tree and how to keep it looking its best

1 First things first, decide what style to go for

Nordmann Fir  

With its classic Christmas tree shape, glossy green foliage and fresh pine scent, it’s easy to see why this is by the far the most popular variety for the perfect festive centrepiece. It has good needle retention and the softer foliage makes it the ideal option for families with young children or pets.Key credentials:

  • Symmetrical, triangle shape
  • Slow to drop needles
  • Strong branches
  • Glossy green
  • Soft, dense foliage
  • Easy to care for  

Fraser Fir 

This tree is slightly narrower in shape, making it a good alternative for smaller areas, but still with plenty of taller options to make the most of vertical space.

Key credentials:

  • Slightly narrower shape
  • Great for smaller spaces
  • Dense foliage
  • Blue tint to the overall green colour
  • Citrus-like scent


Not just a wonderful choice for Christmas, a pot-grown tree has extra green credentials given that it can be planted outside afterwards, providing an environmentally-friendly choice.

Grown from hand-raised seedlings and transplanted into growing pots plunged in the open field, each pot is dotted with tiny holes which allow the finer tree roots to find nutrients from the surrounding soils, whilst keeping the main root system protected and intact within. It is this method of growing, with minimal impact on the root system, that can give trees an excellent chance of survival when transplanted into the garden after the festivities.

Once inside and decorated, this tree gives off a fresh and festive scent of natural pine. They look equally as good outside your home, greeting guests at the door with a festive display or creating your very own winter scene in your garden.

Key credentials:

  • Great for use in a kid’s bedroom, as generally the trees are smaller
  • Sustainable
  • Best dressed for minimalist style
  • Can be used indoors or out

2 Choosing a quality tree

Healthy trees will have a shiny, glossy green coating on the needles which feels slightly waxy to touch. A quality tree should have good needle retention and sturdy branches. Avoid bare branches with a simple needle retention test before you make your final selection – it is much easier than it sounds!

Take the tree by the trunk and give it a gentle tap on the ground. All evergreen trees lose needles all year round, but any more than a few fallen pine needles then you may want to reconsider your tree choice.

3 How to keep your real tree looking its best 

Treat your tree with TLC. Un-net your tree and leave it to stand for 24 hours before decorating so that the branches can settle. As exciting as it can be to get the tree instantly up and decorated, it will look much better if you give the branches a chance to drop into place after being un-netted. You’ll then be able to see where best to place hanging decorations, lights and baubles.

Choosing a suitable Christmas tree stand will be important to help keep your tree looking its best. Opt for a stand with a water reservoir to prevent your tree from drying out and cover it with a Christmas tree skirt. There are plenty of stylish solutions available and these can help to achieve your overall look.

Next thing to consider: making sure your real tree gets enough water. Sawing off a couple of centimetres from the stump when you first get it home will help the tree to take up more water and last longer. It will need approximately 1-2 litres a day, depending on the temperature of the room.

Try to avoid putting your tree next to a radiator. Keep the tree stand water reservoir topped up regularly and keep the room cool when it’s not in use.

If you are bringing a pot-grown tree indoors, be mindful to keep the compost moist but not wet.

4 What to do with your real tree after Christmas 

Dobbies encourage people to recycle their trees. Check with your local council for more information on collection services from your doorstep.

If you opted for a pot-grown Christmas tree, remember to plant it as soon as possible in January so you can enjoy the following year. Select a spot that has well drained soil, sun, and enough space for the tree to sit comfortably. Then all you need to do is keep the tree watered and protected.

Water and feed your pot-grown tree regularly in its first year when planted out in the garden. Remember pot-grown trees will grow to be very large, so check you are leaving enough space for it to flourish.

Real trees are available to shop online at