At this time of year, the Christmas tree becomes the focal point of the family home and brings with it a soothingly fresh pine smell that is so synonymous with Christmas.

Buying the tree can be a happy occasion in itself with many farms and garden centres hosting fun festive activities to entice shoppers to stay around a little longer in their shops. And it is an especially busy time of year for farms that sell homegrown trees from sustainable stock, giving customers a surprising variety of 'real' pines to choose from.

Midweek Herald: Yorkshire's towns and cities are pulling out the stops for festive fun. Getty

Yet, this can also lead to a small dilemma and ensuing questions. What is the best 'real' tree to buy for Christmas? What tree holds its needles the most? What tree has the best scent? Let's take a closer look...

Norway Spruce: Often considered as the most traditional of Christmas trees, the classic Norway Spruce has retained a prime position in the 'real' tree market, perhaps due to its lingering pine scent and low price. The trees are often bushy in shape and have mid-green pointed needles that can be prone to dropping if they dry out too much. It's possible to keep needle drop to a minimum by watering the tree frequently, and especially so if it is positioned in a toasty, centrally heated room.

Nordman Fir: Firmly placed as the nation's favourite 'real' tree, the Nordman Fir has gained popularity for its ability to tightly grip its needles. This, of course, makes walking barefoot around the tree possible, and if a needle were to drop, its soft texture is unlikely to inflict any pain. These attractive-looking trees have glossy, rich green foliage on tiered branches that make ideal platforms to display decorative baubles and coloured lights. The Nordman Fir is usually the priciest tree option, largely due to its strong needle holding ability.

Fraser Fir: The highly perfumed and narrow Fraser Fir is a suitable option when space is at a premium. It often has a slim, conical shape that is filled with bushy branches and greeny-silver needles. In the wild these trees can grow pretty tall reaching up to 15 metres in height. Needle retention is very good, and its strong balsam scent will keep the Christmas smell in the house throughout the festive period.

Positioning your pine

A freshly cut Christmas tree should be kept outside in a sheltered spot, preferably standing in water, until the time comes to bring it inside. Trim about half of an inch off the bottom of the trunk with a saw, to assist water absorption. Then, mount the tree and if possible, keep it watered to prevent it from drying out. The ideal location for a pine tree is in a corner away from direct heat and safe from excited toddlers, tail-wagging pets and merry adults. If mains-powered tree lights are being used, accessibility to a plug socket is necessary.

Measure up

To avoid sawing off the top or bottom of your newly bought pine, take a tape measure with you when you buy your tree. Do make allowances for all the decorative extras too such as the tree topper - you don't want to squash the Christmas star or fairy against the ceiling.

Once the tree takes its pride of place in the heart of the family home, embellish it with colourful decorations and sparkly lights, and savour the wonderful Christmassy smells that only come from a real pine tree.

Places to pick a pine in East Devon:

Cotley Farm, Ottery St Mary

The team at Cotley Farm are getting increasingly busy as they prepare for another magical year of festive fun. For many families, a visit to the farm has become an annual Christmas tradition where they can choose a perfect Christmas tree and see the reindeer and other animals. The farm, located near Whimple, will open between 10am and 5.30pm each day from November 25 until midday on Christmas Eve, with late night opening on Fridays, December 1 and 8 when the shop will be open until 8pm. Tickets cost £6.50 or £10 per car, depending on the chosen dates, which will be fully refunded on the purchase of a Christmas tree. To book a slot to visit the farm, see:

Connetts Farm, Dunkeswell

Connetts Farm in Dunkeswell sells a variety of Norway, Nordman and Frasier Fir trees of different shapes and sizes of up to 40ft. The trees can be delivered or chosen and picked directly from the field. For the children, there's a variety of animals to see - including chickens hidden between the trees at times - a snow machine and a giant Father Christmas. Other items on sale include Christmas wreaths and garlands along with year-round produce. Call 01404 891684

Combe Garden Centre, Honiton

A raft of Christmas trees, freshly picked from the Combe Estate, will be available to buy from the Combe Garden Centre from December 1, 2023. An abundance of Christmas decorations and artificial trees are for also sale, and the cosy cafe serves up tasty winter-warming food. Visit or call 01404 515600.