1) I have not made a great study of artificial Christmas trees but from what I can see, there is a vast range and both quality and price are equally variable. They are not as easy to customise as a living tree (or a dying tree, to be precise, if you have one without roots). There is a certain danger of ending up with one that looks similar to a shopping centre tree, especially if you opt for decorations that are restrained and unified as is favoured by many designers. For many, much of the charm of the traditional tree lies in the mishmash of family decorations passed down the decades.
2) Where space is limited – I am thinking of small urban apartments or similar shoe-box living – I was very taken by this tall, narrow tree which I spotted in Trade Aid. It comes with built-in star and could be stored easily at the back of a wardrobe for the other 49 weeks of the year. Add a string of lights and a few small angels and birds, and you have an instant feel of festive cheer amplified by the knowledge that your purchase is supporting fair trade. The spiral tree that looks as if it is a variant on stacked sunhats was in a specialist Christmas store and has a somewhat sophisticated ambience for the minimalist decor.
3) If you have a suitable tree outdoors, decorating it with expendable decorations can be a festive greeting to be shared with passers-by. These are thujas. Norfolk Island pines look magnificent with a star on the top if you can work out how to reach their elevated heights. I have seen it done, though I am not sure how one would manage without a cherry picker or a tree-climbing monkey in the family. But folk are sufficiently enterprising to festoon their houses in Christmas lights (and pay the power bill) so no doubt there are some quite capable of decorating trees outside.
4) Our cute little Picea albertiana conica died. I have wondered about shaking all the dead foliage out of it and recycling it for the next few years as a skeleton Christmas tree. It is the perfect size and shape and could be stored in a shed. However, I recall one year using a large yet shapely dead branch which I spray-painted white. The children were young at the time but they were distinctly underwhelmed by their mother’s creativity and just wanted a proper Christmas tree such as other families had.
5) If you want a living tree, you need to set your sights small and choose a dwarf if you are intending to keep it alive for several years. Conifers have relatively large root systems and will not thrive on benign neglect when kept in a pot long term. However the very small growing varieties can be kept for many years with just the usual care that container plants require. They get more characterful with age, though not necessarily a whole lot larger.
6) At the risk of repeating myself from previous years, I offer up our two variations. Both use a handy, permanent, metal frame I was given. The toe-toe tree was spectacular but a one-season wonder. It had a unique Pacifica vibe which was a nice cross-cultural connection given the European history of the Christmas tree (16th century Germany). The woven grapevine version is durable, makes no mess and is very easy to decorate.
First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.