Christmas and trees are really not a good mix, writes Julie Thomson.

I thought having a real Christmas tree was as sacred as the feast itself – poor misguided me. So year-in, year-out we trudged with our kids to the local state pine forest and selected what looked like a “perfect” shaped tree.

But back in our living room, it had branches that were too irregular to hold the lights and tinsel with any symmetry and sloped downwards so all the ornaments slipped off. It would never stand straight and by Christmas morning we had a shedding, sap-bleeding, almost nude tree, precariously held upright by string tied to the window handle. But, boy it smelled nice!

Here’s where I depart from most gardeners’ creed. There is something better. It’s plastic or acrylic, regular-shaped, balanced, upright and sometimes even comes with attached lights. It does the job, carries the symbolism of the occasion and no oxygen is taken from the atmosphere in the process.

Real trees are for the garden, the paddocks and the fields. Christmas is for tinsel, baubles and showy bling, so let’s not inflict that on a dignified flora specimen. If you must, then consider a tree that you can re-pot or plant so it can live on.

Trees often chosen for Christmas duty

Norfolk Island pine – the branches are ideal for decorating, but it can grow past 10 metres;
Norway spruce – rows of pine needles and stiff branches;
Dwarf Alberta spruce – an attractive dwarf conifer which does well in a pot and comes to a point at the top for your star;
Blue spruce–this European conifer has horizontal branches and thick needle leaves;
Radiata pine – another giant in the pine world with upward-pointing branches and long pine needles that offer a wonderful pine scent;
Wollemi pine – Looks good all year round on the patio too;

Aussie natives such as the Callitris and the Gymnosperms, i.e. Casuarinas, Bunya Pine or Hoop pine; and, the Douglas Fir tree – a favourite image for the northern hemisphere Christmas cards.

Interesting Christmas tree facts

The first decorated tree was in Latvia in 1510.
Sixteenth century folklore credited Martin Luther as the first to decorate an indoor tree. After a walk through a forest of evergreens with stars overhead, Luther tried to describe the experience to his family by bringing a tree into their home and decorating it with candles.
In 1834, Queen Victoria’s husband, Prince Albert, was credited with bringing the first Christmas tree to Windsor Castle.
An acre of Christmas trees provides the daily oxygen requirements of 18 people.
Thomas Edison’s assistant, Edward Johnson, created electric lights for Christmas trees in 1882.
Every year since 1947, the people of Oslo have given a Christmas tree to the city of Westminster, in gratitude for Britain’s help in World War II.