With Christmas in the air some of you may be looking at investing in a tree to make that air ‘pine-scented’. It doesn’t have to be a ‘traditional’ tree with many options available to the antipodean apart from the usual evergreen conifer such as a pine or fir tree. You may even like to grow your own!

The idea of a Christmas tree indoors harks back to Germany in the 16th Century where trees were decorated with dried fruits, nuts and gifts bought at the Christmas fairs. Some evidence suggests that even back as far as the 7th Century a fir tree branch was hung indoors in winter to embody ‘life’ against the cold drudgery of winter. Trees have had special meaning for mankind since ancient times and it remains so today.

In Australia we tend to lean invariably towards a European look; the most common substitution is the Radiata Pine Pinus radiata, a widely used wind barrier on farms and commercial softwood plantations –often cut purposely for the Christmas tree industry. If using a cut tree remember that they tend to absorb more water in the first week or so after being cut. Radiata’s are easy to grow yourself from cheap seedlings –again some forward planning is required, but not difficult and you can simply line up the trees in your backyard for the years ahead.

There are limited substitutions in Australia’s native flora for the traditional northern hemisphere Christmas tree. Most native trees lack the natural shape and density required. A NSW Christmas Bush Ceratopetalum gummiferum or a red flowering Melaleuca can make a great substitute tree –the Wollemi Pine Wollemia nobilis is gaining popularity and can be kept in a pot that can be used year after year.

A ‘live’ tree like this is a great idea. Nobody really enjoys watching that Christmas tree wither and die. Whatever you choose you’ll need to prune or “shear” the tree as it grows, maintaining that distinctive Christmas tree shape, depending on the species of course. Removing leading shoots and branch tips will also promote a bushier growth and prevent your tree from looking thin and scraggly.

Decorate your tree with traditional or non-traditional decorations, it’s up to you. An angel or star at the top of the tree is said to represent the host of angels or the Star of Bethlehem from the Nativity. Fir dinkum.