Deck The Halls

Get it right if you are going for the real Christmas Trees

December’s arrived and you can almost hear the sound of sleigh bells over the dire warnings of Christmas tree shortages and economic misery.

Tree growers have been bemoaning a lack of tall trees and telling us that buying anything over 7ft is going to be tough. With a suggested shortfall of about 50,000 and the favourite Nordmann expected to cost up to £70 if they are taller than 7ft. get out there now and start looking.

Around 60% of the eight million trees sold in Britain every year are Nordmann firs and the Danes are struggling to provide large numbers after frost damage last year and an outbreak of fungi.

So having secured your tree, treat it well if you want it to last through the festive season. Keep it outside in a cool place and standing in water until you’re ready to decorate it. Before bringing it in, cut half an inch or so off the end of the trunk to open up its pores, as you might with rose stems. Opt for a tree stand that takes water and remember to keep it regularly topped up.

Then there’s the festive look for the rest of the house. When strapped for cash look at whether you can utilise items you already have rather than paying a fortune for something you’ll pack away after the holiday. Vases of twigs and evergreens with a few baubles can look lovely and you can add a set of fairy lights that work off a battery for just a couple of pounds. Remember to have enough batteries to hand and switch them off when the visitors leave.

Perhaps you have a pretty mirror that you could place in the centre of the Christmas table?  By adding candles and some greenery: holly, ivy or trimmings off the Christmas tree, with the candles reflected in the glass this can look fantastic. And why not take a walk and look for pine cones?  A couple of pine cones and some Christmas baubles in a grouping can be very effective.

If you do want something of a new look why not invest in ornaments that you won’t have to put away after twelfth night?  Candlesticks can be decorated and later left plain, pretty glass dishes filled with Christmas pot pourri and later refilled with something more muted. 

Perhaps investing in a new lamp or something that’s all shells and driftwood would create a new focal point that would endure? A tabletop tree made out of driftwood could be decked out with miniature ornaments and surrounded by a garland, later removed to leave the tree on its own when Christmas is over. And if you’re buying a wreath, that can also be left up if it doesn’t scream Santa’s grotto.

If you have lots of guests coming and not enough china or glasses try the local charity shops and if you stick to white you can always add to your stock of china from the likes of T K Max, Ikea or the local supermarket. If you need a tablecloth you could try using a single white bed sheet and scattering it with stars - nobody will know the difference, especially if you buy some matching cheap shiny material from the haberdashery department to make a central runner and buy your crackers to match too.

When it comes to crackers shop around. When did you ever keep the contents?  No I thought not so go for the look rather than those filled with more expensive throw-aways. After several glasses of Christmas wine nobody will care what’s in their cracker and the kids will have thrown theirs aside and gone back to the Wii!

There are bargains out there to be had. M & S have a 3 for 2 range of attractive Christmas items and House of Fraser are doing half price decorations and crackers. Keep a colour theme in mind and don’t leave it all until the last minute and you should be able to get the look you’ll love without breaking the bank.

Patricia McLoughlin