We all love a real Christmas tree. The seasonal, fresh pine scent of the needles, the deep green, non-shiny colour, the intricate branching and the slightly irregular shape. A living tree in your home.
When I bought my first home, in 2001, it was the start of a love affair with real Christmas trees. Every year I had to have one, whether I was at home for Christmas or not. Yes, they made a mess of my car, yes, I was never sure of how to dispose of the thing at the end, and yes the vacuuming was endless, but there was no question as to whether it was all worth it. Putting the tree up on 1 December was one of the highlights of the year.
In 2010 we moved to Australia. Paul hoped I might have gone off the idea of an alpine conifer in the middle of summer, but there was no way I was missing out on my Christmas tree. We drove out of Canberra at the crack of dawn one Saturday and I came home a very happy lady. The tree was a bit ‘Australian’; I have never seen the neat, small-needled trees here, but I didn’t mind. It was my beautiful, real Christmas tree.
A couple of weeks later, off we went to Thredbo for a few nights with friends. In the middle of the night our home phone rang my mobile. That meant one thing. Our burglar alarm was going off. After much begging, I convinced the police to go and check our house. They soon called back to say the house was all secure. A bit of a puzzle, but we tried to not worry.
We returned home to find a somewhat saggy Christmas tree with a lone, pink bauble in the middle of the room. It seemed our burglar alarm was just a little overly sensitive and that conifers weren’t too keen on Australian summers. Thank goodness the police were stationed only about 100 metres away, in our embassy-centric suburb, or I would have felt even more guilty!
December 2011 came round, and I convinced Paul that we really did want another real Christmas tree. Off we went to the far away Christmas tree farm to choose our tree. My parents were flying over from England for Christmas and everything had to be just so. We put the tree up and it proceeded to do that lopsided thing, but knowing Paul’s level of patience with such matters, I tried to ignore this small detail, even when each day it seemed just a little more wonky.
About an hour before Mum and Dad arrived, the tree fell over. Completely. Water all over the presents, baubles in the next room, you name it. Our marriage was put to its biggest test yet!
We undecorated the tree, sawed a section off the bottom, found some bricks in the garage and securely, if not aesthetically pleasingly, re-erected the tree, at about 10 o’clock at night. I quickly re-decorated it and the following evening all four of us, Mum and Dad in tow, took a trip back to the Christmas tree farm to buy a top of the range, new, whizzy Christmas tree stand. An expensive, but effective solution.
The following July I was removing the lower branches from our crab apple tree and suddenly had a moment of inspiration. The result is our 2012, 2013 and 2014 Christmas tree:
It is definitely real, if a little dead, and to me, infinitely better than a shiny, factory-shaped, plastic variety. I am still very envious of people with live Christmas trees, but marriage is all about compromise and I still have a few years of pay back to Paul yet!
I will dream of the future, live Christmas trees we will have, but for now, getting this out of the shed each December is quite a convenient, acceptable, marriage-building alternative.
If you fancy an easier alternative to a live Christmas tree, particularly if you live in a hot country, here are a few tips for a stress-free 1 December!
1. Choose your tree carefully
If you can find a crab apple, I’d highly recommend using these branches. You can see that they are highly branched, such that only two stems create quite a large ‘tree’. This makes it very easy to store and fix together, with plenty of hanging places for baubles.
You’ll also want to find something with lots of ‘nodes’, the little points where leaves or side branches attach, which create perfect hanging points. These branches are Malus ioensis ‘Plena’.
2. Use bricks to stand the branches up straight
With just two engineering bricks (the ones with holes in) placed on top of each other, the two stems slot in and, branches interlocked, remain still all season.
3. Disguise the bricks
This is a simple pot from Ikea. Relatively heavy and large enough to cover the bricks. I have then used red Poincettia decorations to cover the top of the pot. Et voila!
I hope you have a very happy and stress-free Christmas, whatever kind of tree you have!