Ho, ho, ho! It'll soon be that time of year when we bring the countryside into our homes in the form of Christmas TreesHeather Barron looks at the options

MOST homes display a decorated tree at Christmas, and while artificial trees are easy to erect and store, and ultimately cheaper year-on-year, for the more traditionally-minded, a live tree is still the way to go.

Price will depend on the size and type of tree, with a Norway Spruce usually being cheaper than a Nordmann fir. You also get that wonderful pine scent throughout the season, and they can be dressed just the same as any artificial tree, but it will, naturally, need a bit more attention as the weeks go by.

Fresh-cut trees - many now from diversified farms - come in a selection from the fir, spruce and pine families, the most popular being the Norway spruce, the Nordmann fir and the Blue spruce.

Popular since Victorian times, the bright green Norway spruce has a strong scent and dense, spiky needles, which do drop quite quickly, so don’t bring it in until later in December.

Britain’s biggest selling tree is the Nordmann fir, which has less scent but has soft and glossy needles that don’t drop so quickly.

The Blue spruce has a gorgeous silver-blue colour, and holds its needles well, although they are quite prickly.

The tree will have a limited life-span, so choose one that has been freshly harvested. Some needle loss is normal, but they should be bright in colour and the tree should maintain most of its needles when brushed or shaken.

Once you’ve chosen your perfect tree and transported it home, cut off between ½ and 1 inch of the base of the trunk to allow it to easily absorb water, and stand in an appropriately robust, waterproof container, of which there are many and varied types. Fill with water, which must be checked and top it up regularly.

Be sure to choose a cool, draft-free area in the house, and not too close to any radiators or other heat sources. Too much heat will dry the tree out very quickly, or not keeping it topped up with water, and the needles will shed.

Trees can drink as much as four litres of water a day, depending on the type and size of the tree. Make sure your stand has a large enough capacity to keep the base of the trunk submerged at all times.

Carefully consider the space where the tree is going to stand, allowing enough width and height to accommodate it comfortably. Also allow for space at the top to add a star, angel or other ornament.

How you decorate it may depend on what sort of tree it is. Some have very dense branches and lots of needles, and carry tinsel very well. Others have fewer branches and more space between them that will display decorations differently.

As an additional safety feature, a well-hydrated tree provides natural protection against fire hazards, and using smaller, less heat-intensive lights, such a mini lights or LEDs, reduces drying. But be sure to unplug the light when leaving the house or going to bed. And make sure that your tree is stable and secure, and not likely to be toppled by pets or children.

It might be tempting to burn the branches and trunk on an open fire or in a log burner, but a build-up of flammable creosote on the walls of the chimney can create a fire hazard. There are many community or charity recycling programmes that will collect and remove your tree (sometimes for a small fee) when the yuletide is over.

Have a tree-mendous Christmas everyone!