How to find the best Christmas tree

Real or artificial? Here are some timely Christmas tree tips. Sharon Dale reports.

The real versus fake debate will be raging in many households soon and there are compelling arguments on both sides.

Artificial Christmas trees work out cheaper as they last for years. They are also good for people with tree or tree mould allergies.

However, from an environmental point of view, the manufacturing process uses more energy and they are not recyclable so will ultimately end up in landfill.

So if you plan to buy or replace one it pays to invest in quality. Go for a tree with plenty of needles, known in the trade as a high tip count, PE tips are better than PVC versions as they are moulded to look like real needles.

Balsam Hill specialises in realistic faux Christmas trees at the higher end of the market. It has a beautiful blue-green, 6ft Canadian spruce for £169 unlit or £189 lit.

Real trees also have many benefits. They are recyclable, they are truly authentic, they smell like Christmas and choosing one is a Christmas tradition for many.

If you do plan to buy real, here are some tips from Samuel Lyle, owner of Pines and Needles, who says: “Traditionally people have always put them up the first or second weekends of December and that's very much still the case and low or non-drop trees are always the favourites.”

Samuel has the following tips:

*Just before you install your tree, saw off the bottom 3cm of the trunk. This creates a fresh cut and opens up the pores in the bark, which otherwise can block up with sap within a few hours of being cut. The tree is then able to drink water through these pores.

*Trees need routine. Do not expose your tree to sudden changes in temperature.

*Keep it away from any heat sources, such as radiators and fireplaces. Heat dries out your tree faster and leave sit looking less fresh.

*Water your tree. Place your tree in plain water, not soil or sand which would block the pores in the bark. This is best achieved by using a specially designed Christmas tree stand.

*Keep the Christmas tree stand topped up with water. Your Christmas tree may drink two to three pints of water per day, depending on its size and your central heating settings. This is important as once the water level drops below the tree's trunk, sap will re-seal the bark within a few hours, preventing the tree from drinking any further water even if you then re-fill the tree stand.

*Be aware that these trees are natural living things, and once they are cut they begin to die, sad though this is. Time the arrival of your tree with this in mind to increase longevity and get the most out of it.

Table dressing masterclasses: John Lewis stores are running free “Colour My Christmas” table dressing masterclasses.

The 30 minute events have three themes: Amber, a warm and rustic theme, Ruby, a vivid and vibrant look and Emerald.

The masterclasses at the Leeds store in Victoria Gate are tomorrow, November 29 at 1.30pm; December 1 at 12 noon; December 2 at 11.30am and December 5 at 7.30pm. There is also a masterclass running at John Lewis Sheffield on December 1 at 1pm