There’s no denying that artificial trees have certain advantages – there won’t be any loose needles to clog your vacuum cleaner, and preparing for Christmas is a lot simpler when your perfect tree simply needs to be brought out of storage, rather than wrangled home from a crowded garden centre.
But change is afoot – this year, several of the UK’s biggest department stores and supermarkets are selling real Christmas trees, and there’s also been an increase in the number of smaller, boutique Christmas tree sellers offering top quality, sustainably grown trees which can be delivered straight to your door on a nominated day.
It’s worth noting that certain growers will supply a huge number of supermarkets, nurseries and garden centres, so work out what type of tree you’re after before shopping around for the best deal.
Nordmann firs, known for their glossy, dark green needles and thick, plump branches, are the most popular Christmas tree in the UK.
Fraser firs, which have pretty purple tree cones and a pyramid-like shape, are also incredibly popular, while Korean firs, loved for their strong scent and short, squat profiles, have recently become more widely available, although they’re still relatively rare.
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Croft & Cole 5.5ft Christmas tree starter kit
First things first. We’re aware this isn’t just a Christmas tree, but a starter kit (containing a tree stand and 200 LED lights), but Croft and Cole’s festive fir was always going to steal the top spot, with or without the added extras. To put it simply, Croft & Cole, run by husband-and-wife team Thomas and Rebecca Onslow-Cole, has rather high standards, whether it’s the checks to ensure there are no bare patches, that the leader (tree-speak for the vertical stalk at the top) is ramrod-straight, and that the symmetry is on-point.
The needles on our perfectly-proportioned nordmann were wonderfully plump and glossy, and there was just the right amount of clearance beneath the lower branches, leaving enough space for a sizeable haul of presents, without exposing too much of the trunk.
Buy now £105.00, Croft & Cole
Dobbies nordmann fir pot grown real Christmas tree
Want your nordmann fir to last a little longer? Opt for a pot-grown one – they’re shorter, making them ideal for smaller homes, and can be replanted after Christmas, reducing waste.
All too often pot-grown trees come in ridiculously flimsy containers, but Dobbies’ holly-green plastic pot is both reassuringly sturdy and perfectly sized, with ample room for the roots to spread prior to its post-Christmas replanting. Understandably, given these are pot-grown trees, sizes can’t be specified, but all of Dobbies’ potted nordmann firs will measure between three and four feet.
Buy now £49.99, Dobbies
John Lewis & Partners 5-6ft nordmann fir Christmas tree
Many people don’t realise that John Lewis & Partners sells real Christmas trees online. The department store’s most popular purchase is the nordmann fir – a bushy, thick-trunked tree with plenty of clearance at the bottom for those all-important presents. A supporting cane helped keep the tree centred, and the packaging (made from recyclable plastic) listed detailed growing instructions.
This particular tree was grown by Premium Christmas Trees, which supplies nurseries, garden centres and high street stores throughout the UK. And although we loved the profile of our shapely nordmann fir, we can’t help feel that the price is more in keeping with a tree from a smaller, more boutique grower, and during our testing we discovered similar trees grown by Premium Christmas Trees for a much lower price. We’d also have loved to see a wider range of sizes – options are limited to 5 – 6ft, 6 – 7ft, 7 – 8ft and 8-9ft.
Buy now £75.00, John Lewis & Partners
B&Q potted Norway spruce
We loved the bright green needles on this fragrant Norway spruce, which didn’t just come in a plastic pot but inside waterproof wrapping which reduced the risk of soil spillage prior to its unveiling. It was another pot which had plenty of room for the roots, and the shape of this tree – the fat, rotund profile Norway spruce’s are known for – will complement rooms of all shapes and sizes.
Buy now £49.00, B&Q
Bloom & Wild tiny treats tree
The perfect tree for an office, hallway or kitchen counter, Bloom & Wild’s tiny treats tree offers the best of both worlds – it’s small and compact, but provides a super-sized dose of festive fun, thanks to its DIY assembly. The tiny baubles, chocolate tree decorations and fairy lights are all packaged in beautiful paper envelopes, and the golden pop-up pot adds an extra dose of Yuletide magic. We also loved the thoughtful inclusion of additional slices of greenery to place around the tree’s base and pad out the pot.
Buy now £36.00, Bloom and Wild
Waitrose noble fir
Waitrose is the only supermarket to sell noble firs, which are less common than nordmanns and known for its classic Christmas tree profile, their beautiful blue-tinged branches and their strong scent. Waitrose’s firs are grown in Inverness’s Drynie woodlands, and there’s a reason the Scottish highlands are perfect tree-growing terrain.
High rainfall and minimal frosts produce healthy, plump trees which will – when cared for correctly – last well beyond Christmas Day. We were especially smitten with the lush, two-tone foliage (a combination of dark green and pale blue) and the wide-open spread of the branches, which means plenty of room for decorations of all shapes and sizes. Available from 48 Waitrose stores nationwide, including Wimbledon, Chester, Cambridge and Abergavenny.
Buy now £58.00, Waitrose & Partners
Christmas Trees direct 6ft nordmann fir
Christmas Trees Direct gets bonus points for allowing customers to select a delivery slot – a simple but stress-reducing feature more companies should offer. We also loved the wider range of sizes, from a pint-sized four-footer to a towering 10-foot specimen.
Our 6ft nordmann fir came wrapped in easily-removable netting (great news for those concerned about Christmas-themed contributions to landfill) and had a perfect, triangle like profile with no gaps or holes. We also loved the high fir cone count.
Buy now £54.99, Christmas Trees Direct
Christmas Trees 6ft Korean fir
Korean firs are increasingly popular in the UK but can be hard to find, and if this one is anything to go by, they’re absolutely worth the higher price tag. As is typical for a Korean fir, the foliage was bushy and bright, with a silver-tinged underside and blue-grey cones which gave the tree a snow-dusted look. Korean firs are usually shorter than traditional favourites such as nordmann firs and Norwegian spruces, but are known for their thick foliage and pyramid shape, and our tree’s rugged, upward-sloping branches could easily support the biggest of baubles.
Our fir came with a sturdy wooden support to help it keep its shape, and plastic packaging (albeit recyclable) printed with detailed care instructions – a godsend for those keen to ensure their tree goes the distance.
Buy now £74.99, Christmas Trees
Pines and Needles 5ft nordmann fir
Pines and Needles is another company which allows customers to choose a delivery date, and the company’s quality guarantee (which allows unsatisfactory trees to be returned if an exchange is requested within two days of delivery) provides additional peace of mind. Luckily, this certainly wasn’t needed with our tree, with its perfectly tapered profile and thick swathes of lightly-fragranced foliage. We also liked that the delivery driver who dropped off our Christmas tree was sporting a Santa’s hat, a sure-fire way to add a seasonal sprinkle of goodwill (although we’re still not entirely sure whether this attire relates to a company-wide policy or he was simply feeling particularly festive).
Buy now £53.95, Pine and Needles
Aldi large nordmann fir
Aldi recently started selling real Christmas trees, offering some of the best prices on offer. We loved our large nordmann fir, although we couldn’t help feel that the foliage – especially on the top half – could have been a little thicker. Perhaps unsurprisingly, for trees sold in-store only, there’s not a huge range to choose from in terms of size, although all of Aldi’s trees will measure between 190 and 210cm (ours came in close to the 210cm mark).
These particular trees are great options for anyone concerned about the environment – they’re grown by Lancashire-based, family-run nursery Lovania, and three trees are planted for every one cut down. Available from Aldi stores nationwide.
Buy now £24.99, Aldi