Christmas is fast approaching for this gardener, whose main role is to present fresh vegetables for the annual feast, flowers, holly, wreaths and garlands for adornments, yule logs for the fire, and the all-important tree.

Friday, 22nd November 2019, 10:00 am
Updated Tuesday, 26th November 2019, 8:46 pm
The all important centrepiece of the family home at Christmas, the tree - but what impact does it have on the environment?

Most of the items are home grown, and a celebration of Christ's birth has always been at the heart of our efforts, a symbolic angel topping the tree and an exchange of gifts in keeping with the event.

However, recent news items have highlighted the concerns of various organisations over the waste associated with Christmas and its impact on the environment. This is an appeal to consider the materials we are using.

The key suggestions are: wrapping presents in a scarf rather than glossy paper, using natural materials such as pinecones and ivy instead of tinsel and sending e-cards instead of the traditional type. Friends of the Earth have quite reasonably suggested that we should be taking advantage of the trend in renting trees for Christmas. So how far will our collective conscience allow us to travel in this direction?

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Such issues were never raised in times of yore but a recent news item on Christmas trees brought the whole dilemma into sharp focus for many.

Most of the spruce, fir and pine trees destined to arrive in our homes over the coming weeks, are without root systems, having been felled for the occasion. Although we can keep them going over the festive period with life-giving water held in a supporting clamp and reservoir, they are destined to die, and what follows is crucial.

They should be taken to the local recycling unit to be shredded and used as mulch, garden path material, or conversion into useful compost. However, an estimated seven million cut Christmas trees are dumped in landfill sites each year, resulting in the production of 100,000 tons of greenhouse gases. This thoughtless action cannot continue.

There really should not be such a problem. Unlike coal, oil, gas and peat, trees are an infinitely renewable resource. Granted it takes a few years from seed sowing to the saleable product but there is a cycle of continuity. If the constant waste continues, I foresee a decline in cut trees and increase in the eco-friendly type.

Artificial trees are bought as a one-off purchase, wrapped and put in storage after the event and this obviates the annual search for a balanced specimen. Such trees have greatly improved over time.

Now it often takes close inspection to determine whether they're faux or the natural type. With care they should last for years. However, they are not made from biodegradable material.

Pot-grown, living trees, have been around for several years. They are hardy and used to outdoor conditions, so when introduced to the house a cool, well-lit room helps avoid needle-drop.

The warmer the temperature, the greater the transpiration and need for water. When the celebrations end your tree should be planted in the garden with the pot intact and just below soil level. Offer water throughout summer to maintain freshness and trim any excess of roots when it`s dug up the following Christmas.

If you judge these trees to be more expensive than the cut version which has flooded the market in recent years, why not try the growing trend of hiring one live for Christmas?

Some garden centres and nurseries will deliver them to your door in a sustainable pot, wrapped in biodegradable netting, and collect them after the celebrations. There is no waste because on arrival back at base the tree is replanted and lives on. Early reports suggest that a small percentage die through incorrect treatment during the hire period, but that must be balanced against the total loss of every tree that is cut for sale, used, then lost to landfill.