We fern-ly be-leaf that people shouldn’t fir-get to buy their Christmas tree this year. Okay, we’ll stop with the terrible puns. But Christmas isn’t Christmas until you’ve put up a tree, had an argument about where it should go, blown a few lightbulbs on the fairy lights, and lost the decorations from last year.
We’re all agreed that a real fir is better than a plastic lookalike, but we still have to think about the environment and shop sustainably. It’s also vitally important to choose branches that don’t shed all their needles, so you’re not spending the entire festive season hoovering the carpet and pulling green bits out of your new Christmas jumper.
We’ve hand-selected a few of our favourite seasonal suppliers around London. Pet friendly, extortionately priced or simply just nearby, the choice is yours.
1. Pines & Needles
So whoever thought there was one type of Christmas tree, thought wrong. Over at Pines & Needles (great name), they have all sorts of breeds and each one is grown on a sustainable farm in Scotland.
There’s the fragrant Norway Spruce, perfect for outside, or the pot-grown Fraser fir coming up to a maximum of five foot. The Nordmann Fir is apparently great for the home or office as its needles will stay attached; available from a tiddler three foot to a giant 12 foot, you can order online or visit one of the Pines & Needles pop-up stores. Buy one of their water-holding tree stands, and the branches will stay perky well into the new year.
Where: Various locations around London
2. Petersham Nurseries
Petersham Nurseries will give you the Rolls-Royce of Christmas trees – but it’ll come at a cost. If you’ve never been to Petersham Nurseries, you’re missing out, but your bank balance is not. The problem with this garden centre is that there is literally not one single item you don’t want to buy, except that it’s all ridiculously overpriced. But that won’t stop you.
Potter down and find yourself a smart fir that’ll set you back a few hundred quid and then check out the delectable baubles for another £100. Once you’re done with that, head to the restaurant to drop another £100, and the job’s a goodun.
Where: Church Lane, Off Petersham Road, Richmond, TW10 7AB
3. Neal’s Nurseries
Stuck for options? Why not head to the largest plant centre in Central London – Neal’s Nurseries. Located on the northern tip of Wandsworth Common, Neal’s has been a nursery garden for more than 150 years.
They suggest a Nordman, Fraser or a Noble fir if you have young children around, as they have softer, stronger needles. Apparently the Norway Spruce is a good pet deterrent for those worried the cat’s going to pull the tree down, baubles and all. A few other tips include: looking for a good dark green colour (a sign that the tree has retained its moisture); avoiding browning needles; picking a good shape; testing the durability of needles by gently pulling your hand across the branch; and checking for strong branches to hold the weight of your hefty bauble collection.
Where: Neals Nurseries Garden Centre, Heathfield Road, Wandsworth, SW18 3HR
4. Battersea Flower Station
Battersea Flower Station may or may not be the longest garden centre in London. That’s a fact. Along its green corridor are a selection of traditional Norway Spruces. For those not in the know, each year since 1942, Norway has donated one of its finest Christmas trees to light up Trafalgar Square. So if you want the same regal effect for your sitting room, this is the place to go.
Norway Spruces smell better than any car freshener, but be warned: they will have you on your hands and knees picking up needles for the next 12 days of Christmas. They look chic (they’re a little thinner than the Nordmann Firs) and, well, if you’re going to do Christmas, you might as well celebrate it with the best.
Where: Battersea Flower Station, 320 Battersea Park Road, SW11 3BX
5. Camden Garden Centre
Who knew Christmas tree shopping was essential? Well it turns out it is, so even if we faced another lockdown we’d still be able to get one. In fact, you’d probably be advised to get your Christmas tree now, before the hordes of people takeover garden centres everywhere on 2 December. After that, you’ll have to fake cough just to get people out of the way.
Over at the Camden Garden Centre, you’ll not only be buying the centrepiece to your living room, you’ll also be supporting a charitable cause. The centre doubles up as a charitable organisation offering employment, training and educational opportunities and donates funds to their parent charity. As well as this, if you order your tree online before 30 November, you’ll receive a table-top tree worth £11.99 for free. Who knew you needed so many trees indoors?
Where: Camden Garden Centre, 2 Barker Drive, Camden, NW1 0JW
6. The Chelsea Gardener
There’s nothing like Christmas tree shopping to get into the festive spirit. Don your bobble hat, pour yourself a mulled wine, pick up a pastry and wander through the branches of the boujis Chelsea Gardener garden centre.
The Chelsea Gardener’s team of expert fir connoisseurs have the know-how to advise on which is the best evergreen to buy. This magical one-stop shop has all the decorations, gifts, ornaments, trees and fresh foliage that you could possible want for… and it’s a fun day out too.
Where: The Chelsea Gardener, 125 Sydney Street, Chelsea, SW3 6NR
7. Clifton Nurseries
Clifton Nurseries’ Nordmann Firs are grown in Denmark in sustainable forests, where each metre of tree growth takes three years. They’ve got some top tips to share with us too.
First, remember to measure the height of your ceiling so there’s no need to chop the angel off when you get home. Second, if possible, saw off the bottom inch of the tree and soak it upright in a bucket of water for 24 hours. Third, open up the top third of the tree netting before placing the tree in the stand – this makes it much easier to remove later. Finally, add the lights to the tree, starting at the top and working downwards. Then – hey presto, family arguments averted.
Where: Clifton Nurseries, 5A Clifton Villas, Little Venice, London W9 2PH
8. Three Cheers
We’ve all had to diversify this year when it comes to our jobs – like those government adverts encouraging people in the arts to start re-training as software analysts. In the same way, pubs are now selling Christmas trees.
Three Cheers, the umbrella company that owns The Avalon and The Abbeville in Clapham and The Rosendale in West Dulwich, will be distributing a veritable Narnia of Nordmann Firs for you to take home. Better still, if you buy one they’ll give you a free mulled wine or hot cider. Say no more, we’re there.
Where: The Avalon and The Abbeville in Clapham and The Rosendale in West Dulwich
9. On Cloud Pine
Sustainability is the key message at On Cloud Pine. They have three pop-up stores, selling sustainably-sourced Christmas trees, based in three of London’s Royal Parks: Bushy, Greenwich, and Richmond. Trees arrive fresh directly from the growers, who prioritise minimal use of approved pesticides and fertilisers. Each tree comes with a unique code that gives you information about the journey of your tree. Plus, by purchasing one of these firs, you’ll be contributing to The Royal Parks fund to care for London’s green spaces.
The On Cloud Pine team is made up of people who have suffered from lost opportunities due to the pandemic, such as those in the arts. But they’ve done their training and can point you in the direction of a traditional purchase or push you a little off-piste with a potted Blue Spruce or an exotic-sounding Omorika.
Where: Bushy, Greenwich and Richmond