1 of 12
Trees at Dyrnie Woodlands’, Scotland
2 of 12
6ft pre-lit artificial Winchester pine, Squire's Garden Centres (Shepperton and Twickenham), £149, squiresgardencentres.co.uk
3 of 12
Entwined natural stick heart, Squire's Garden Centre, £3.49, squiresgardencentres.co.uk
4 of 12
Handmade knitted lambswool fairies, Laura Long, £25 each, from Richmond based notonthehighstreet.com
5 of 12
Peresonalised wooden hanging moose, by Chantal Devenport Designs, £14, at Richmond based notonthehighstreet.com
6 of 12
Personalised wooden star, Clara & Macy, £14.75, at Richmond based http://notonthehighstreet.com
7 of 12
Elm wood (dark ) and wild ash wood (light) decorations by Wooden Toy Gallery, £1.50, at Richmond based notonthehighstreet.com
8 of 12
Gingham wooden reindeer; Artcuts, South Godstone, from £3.49 each, artcuts.co.uk
9 of 12
Gingham wooden goose; Artcuts, South Godstone, from £3.49 each, artcuts.co.uk
10 of 12
Vintage collection decoration, B&Q, Leatherhead, from £5 each.
11 of 12
Personalised ceramic decorations by Tadworth artist Katie Levett-Allen, £12 (£15 boxed) each. whatkatiedidnext.co.uk
12 of 12
Natural woodcut decorations by South Godstone based Artcuts, from £3.49 each. artcuts.co.uk
Christmas decorations can be a feast of natural wonder. Sarah Squire scents the arrival of the festive season
Stuff the turkey, put the pies on hold: for flooding the house with festive fragrance, you can’t beat a real Christmas tree. It’s been a tradition in our family since Santa acquired his first reindeer – lights, baubles, star on top. Now it’s my own children doing the decorating, my tall teenage son fixing our star in place.
Christmas trees travel from northern Scotland to get to Squire's Garden Centres (pictured above). That journey could have begun up to 12 years earlier, with the tree specialists at Dyrnie Woodlands’ scaling the best mature 'mother' trees to collect their seeds to plant new trees. After a decade or more of care the skilled growers ensure that the time between harvesting and arrival at Squire’s is minimised, thus maximising the quality of the trees.
Not everyone, however, has the space for a real tree. While the scent is unbeatable – we always choose a Nordman tree, which keeps its needles better than a traditional spruce – the wide range of artificial creations provides a wonderful alternative.
Gone are the days when artificial trees could be safely and snootily bracketed with illuminated giant sleighs as seasonal symbols of untutored taste. Today they are elegant and, in many cases, slim enough to squeeze into any cosy nook. Some are even pre-lit, giving a truly even spread of illumination (pictured above). And, of course, you avoid the hoovering up of needles – an inevitable consequence of placing a real tree in a warm, centrally-heated room.
Aside from matters arboreal, this year I particularly like the range of natural, woodland themed decorations. Made of natural wood, they can be plain or painted, some with a fresh red and white gingham check (pictured above). It is also interesting to see that vintage is still popular: a timeless concept for Christmas with echoes of yesteryear (pictured above). And there are many more decorations now that are great for children’s bedrooms, including small trees and light sets.
What about scent? In the absence of a real tree, there are plenty of other ways to make the house smell of festive cheer. Hyacinths feature regularly in my home, freshening the air and holding out the promise of spring. Or try Jasminum polyanthum, with its delicate pink buds opening out into white flowers, complemented by dainty dark green leaves and a fragrance as delicate as the flowers.
For colour, pair the rich green of your tree with the warm glow of a red poinsettia. Keep them in a warm, bright spot and away from draughts to avoid leaves dropping. And splash out on a St Paulia (African violet): the warm, velvety flowers in deep pinks and purples look just right in winter. Be sure to water in slightly warm water though, as they like the temperature constant and high.
Forward-thinking for his day, it was my father Colin – keen to encourage customers at a quiet time of year – who introduced Christmas lines, including toys, into our Twickenham centre in the early 1970s. Now Christmas is vital for garden centres, as they can offer the whole package – from trees to cards and wrapping – with free parking thrown in.
New this year at three of our centres, including Shepperton, is a 4D Christmas experience for kids. The festive experience evolves: only the magic remains the same.
Sarah Squire is Deputy Chair of Squire’s Garden Centres. Visit: squiresgardencentres.co.uk; facebook.com/squiresGC; @SquiresGC