Mild weather killing Christmas trees

Mild weather killing Christmas trees
Mild weather killing Christmas trees

Heavy rain in October and November combined with the current mild temperatures mean many trees will not last until Twelfth Night.

Garden centres are bracing themselves for a flood of returns from angry customers whose floors could be blanketed by needles before Christmas Day arrives.

Fir and spruce trees like cold weather to keep them fresh after harvesting but the balmy December has caused many to wilt before they even reach customers.

And the heavy autumn rain has saturated their roots, weakening their pines before harvest.

Harry Brightwell, secretary of the British Christmas Tree Growers Association, said: “The weather has not been good for Christmas trees this year.

“They like to have a bit of cold and frost. It’s more important this year to look after the tree due to the weather.”

Around six million trees are bought in the UK each year at an average price of £48, according to the British Christmas Tree Growers Association.

Needles are normally expected to hold from the end of November through to the beginning of January.

Retailers usually expect between one and two per cent of trees to drop their needles sufficiently to require replacing during the festive period.

But that figure is expected to more than double to five per cent this year.

Andy Bunker, who buys around 40,000 trees for Tillington garden centre group – the biggest independent group in the country – said the situation is unprecedented.

He said: “I have collected and had returned about 10 or 12 trees already. That may not sound like a lot but in the 30 odd years I have been in the industry, I can count on my hand the number I have collected.

“This is because of the extremely mild conditions during harvest in Scotland.”

David Mitchell, a Christmas tree expert at Wevale Garden Centres – one of the biggest retailers of festive trees in the UK – is also advising people to take care.

“There have been real issues with mild weather this harvest towards the end of November,” he said.

“As a result people will see more needles dropping off earlier this year which is why it’s especially important to take good care of your tree.

“This is a wonderful traditional time of year for the whole family and the tree is at the heart of gatherings so people can be disappointed if a real tree dries and doesn’t look good in photos.

“We feel that customers should be advised the steps to take during a slightly warmer climate.”

Trees can be kept at their best by cutting half an inch off the butt to open the pores of the tree as soon as its bought, by keeping it in a cool place and storing it in water.

Keeping the tree away from a radiator is also vital.

TOP TIPS FOR STOPPING YOUR CHRISTMAS TREE FROM SHEDDING ITS NEEDLES

When buying a tree, make sure its needles are already firmly attached to the branches and check the base of the tree is pale.

Don’t place your tree next to a radiator otherwise it will shed its needles quicker.

Keep it in a cool place – ideally a hallway.

As soon as you pick it up and bring it home, give it a bucket of water to drink.

Cut half an inch off the butt to open the pores of the tree – this will help it absorb more water.

Choose a good variety – the cone-shaped ‘Nordman’ or citrus-scented Douglas fir are a little bit more expensive than the traditional Norway spruce but they hold their needles well.

If you use a water clamp to hold the tree, make sure it’s big enough.