Tried & Tested: The Fake Fir Look

They don't drop needles, and they're re-usable, but how do they look? We hang our lights on artificial trees

Traditionalists often insist that Christmas just wouldn't be Christmas without a decorated tree - a Germanic custom only prevalent in this country since Prince Albert popularised the idea after his marriage to Queen Victoria. Some modernists dispense with them altogether on grounds of taste, space- saving, ecological considerations or general bah-humbug, but others simply update the concept by buying into the plastic variety.

THE PANEL

Our fake Christmas tree judges were Becky Munford, Piers Kotting, Matt Innes, Nigel Floyd and one-year-old Elliott Hudd.

THE TEST

We tried to find a range of fake Christmas trees in traditional and modern style, to please all tastes and size of dwelling. For the most part, decoration is left to the purchaser, but some incorporate it cunningly into their design. This was seen as a plus factor, as were ease of assembly, storage and safe display. The rest was all visual appeal.

***MONTEREY PINE

6ft, pounds 32.99

The panel was largely indifferent to this green "bog standard trad tree" (Piers Kotting) with fir cone feature. But the fake Monterey Pine has reasonably authentic branches which only require bending outwards from the trunk, stands solidly on the floor and sells at a good price for something which will last for years and look fine once it has been decorated. Matt Innes complained that some of the fir cones had been attached upside down "by poor workers in a country where they've probably never seen them growing", but most people wouldn't notice.

*GOLD APPLE AND PEAR TREE

3ft, pounds 39

In theory, a ready-assembled tree with its own integral decorations - particularly ones reflecting "The Twelve Days of Christmas" - sounded perfect, the answer to the lazy tree decorator's dreams. Yet this bright gold incarnation, which stands only 3ft high in a matching glitzy woven basket, was immediately derided as "hideous" by the panel. Only Nigel Floyd acclaimed it as being "magnificent, tasteless, fit for any occasion, the perfect Christmas deterrent, in fact". Even allowing for the lack of colour, the apples and pears are exceptionally unlife-like. They are attached by their bottoms, with extra twig on top as if they had already been picked and stuck guiltily back on. Forbidden fruit, indeed.

WHITE, IRIDESCENT TINSEL TREE

6ft, pounds 50

We ordered this in our quest for something wonderfully camp. It turned up, perplexingly, without a stand and indeed without many branches, to loll pathetically against the wall, the orphan of our collection. "It looks like a broom handle with pipe cleaners and poorly draped tinsel - the sort of thing an advanced infant would bring home from school crafts lessons, except it costs pounds 50," commented Becky Munford. The rest of the panel agreed. "The branches are too short; they look stunted," said Nigel Floyd, while Piers Kotting pointed out that the "top twig isn't central, it looks more like an Indian's feather." "Surely this tree should have a sunshade stuck on top?" was Matt Innes's opinion, relegating it firmly to the land of Seventies jumble sale chic.

**SILVER TWIG TREE

3ft, pounds 39; 4ft, pounds 59

"This is an anti-Christmas tree," said Matt Innes of this skeletal, frosted affair. "No big, cuddly, red-faced Father Christmas worth his salt would put a present anywhere near it." The silver twig tree takes some assembling, since the branches have to be hung on a central pole in order of descending size to create the requisite cone shape, and the frosted effect makes for some very sharp metal. Once up, it was thought "striking in a minimalist way" (Nigel Floyd), but inherently dangerous - especially for small children, animals and those under the influence of Christmas spirits. "This tree makes falling into a fairy-tale forest more like dating a man in spiky armour," said Piers Kotting, but he conceded that "you could use it as a hatstand without the branches." Unfortunately you would then have to find somewhere to store the branches in their special- sized boxes - supposing you still fancied the same cold, winter wonderland theme for Christmas next year.

**WIRE LATITUDE TABLE-TOP TREE

1ft, pounds 3.50

For people with no room for a floor-standing Christmas tree and modern tastes comes this delicate, gold, spiral table-top tree, for which you can purchase tiny baubles. "This isn't a tree," said Nigel Floyd, with depressing literalism, "it doesn't count." Becky Munford was more specific: "It looks like Jean-Paul Gaultier's design for Madonna's breast-things," she said, adding doubtfully, "I suppose it would be a talking point." Piers Kotting dubbed it an "executive office toy", so obviously its uses are many, and it is not expensive, even if it is apt to become more lopsided than latitudinal after any slight maltreatment. Bauble-buyers beware, then - they won't hang straight after inadvertent squashing of the tree.

BLUE MOUNTAIN FIR

6ft, pounds 69.99

"This tree is extremely ugly, it is not blue and you'll spend hours assembling it," declared an outraged Piers Kotting, who did indeed spend three-quarters of an hour getting to grips with minimal instructions and a whole forest of branches for this artificial Blue Mountain Fir. Less stressed, the other members of the panel thought that it looked "quite nice, at a distance" (Becky Munford), but not sufficiently Blue Mountain Fir-like to warrant its rather steep asking price.

*****FIBRE OPTIC TREE

3ft, pounds 49.95

Cruelly characterised by Nigel Floyd as "the Yuletide lava-lamp for the caring Nineties", this small, green, ready-assembled tree with glowing lights which change colour at the tip of every branch was nevertheless voted unanimously the winner of our tree survey. It seemed suited to both home and office. The electronics are concealed in a black plastic plant pot which is far too utilitarian, but apart from this the tree is lovely to look at. "Just think," said the mesmerised Matt Innes, "on Boxing Day when you're hungover and everyone's gone home, you could sit and stare at it for hours." You could also save money on both lights and decorations, which made its price seem reasonable. And surprisingly for such hi-tech equipment, the Fibre Optic tree was the most child-friendly of the lot, with its super-soft "needles" and cool lights. Elliot Hudd (aged just one) could and did touch the glowing tips of branches with great fascination and no damage to either tree or small person.

****BLACK TINSEL TREE

6ft, pounds 69.99

Only "slightly tarantula-esque" (Piers Kotting), this big, lush tree with long branches and a stem which is thoughtfully covered with tinsel turned out to be the panel's second favourite. You don't have to attach the branches separately - simply bend them out from the trunk in the traditional manner - to create something with presence and style. "It looks like a cross yeti," said Matt Innes, "it's really cool." "It certainly has an authentic loss of needles," noted Nigel Floyd, but we supposed the tinsel strand loss was a result of installation and would soon stop. The triangular base is practical, but ugly; you would have to heap presents around it. Nonetheless, said Becky Munford, "It's a sexy, sleek tree for a classier Christmas."

STOCKISTS

Fibre Optic Tree and Black Tinsel Tree from Selfridges, London, W1; Monterey Pine and Blue Mountain Fir from Woolworths; Silver Twig Tree and Gold Apple and Pear Tree from branches of John Lewis; White, Iridescent Tinsel Tree and Wire Latitude Table-top Tree from Paperchase (for stockists and mail order, telephone 0171 580 8496). !

Arts and Entertainment
BBC Three was launched a little over five years ago with the slogan: “Three, is a magic number, yes it is.”

BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital move

TV
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer

film
Arts and Entertainment

books
Arts and Entertainment
Armie Hammer in the new film of ‘The Lone Ranger’

TV
Arts and Entertainment

festivals
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Buying a stairway to Hubbard: the Scientology centre in Los Angeles
film review Chilling inside views on a secretive church
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Williamson, left, and Andrew Fearn of Sleaford Mods
musicYou are nobody in public life until you have been soundly insulted by Sleaford Mods
Arts and Entertainment
Natalie Dew (Jess) in Bend It Like Beckham The Musical
theatreReview: Bend It Like Beckham hits back of the net on opening night
Arts and Entertainment
The young sea-faring Charles Darwin – seen here in an 1809 portrait – is to be portrayed as an Indiana Jones-style adventurer
film
Arts and Entertainment
The audience aimed thousands of Apple’s product units at Taylor Swift throughout the show
musicReview: On stage her manner is natural, her command of space masterful
Arts and Entertainment
Channel 4 is reviving its Chris Evans-hosted Nineties hit TFI Friday

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford plays Indiana Jones in The Last Crusade (1989)

film
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
A Glastonbury reveller hides under an umbrella at the festival last year

Glastonbury
Arts and Entertainment

music
Arts and Entertainment
Miles Morales is to replace Peter Parker as the new Spider-Man

comics
Arts and Entertainment
The sequel to 1993's Jurassic Park, Jurassic World, has stormed into the global record books to score the highest worldwide opening weekend in history.

film
Arts and Entertainment
Odi (Will Tudor)
tvReview: Humans, episode 2
Arts and Entertainment
Can't cope with a Port-A-loo? We've got the solution for you

FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets

Arts and Entertainment
Some zookeepers have been braver than others in the #jurassiczoo trend

Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant

Arts and Entertainment
An original Miffy illustration
art
Arts and Entertainment
Man of mystery: Ian McKellen as an ageing Sherlock Holmes
film review
Arts and Entertainment
Kitchen set: Yvette Fielding, Patricia Potter, Chesney Hawkes, Sarah Harding and Sheree Murphy
TV review
Arts and Entertainment
Chris Evans has been confirmed as the new host of Top Gear
TV
Arts and Entertainment
Top of the class: Iggy Azalea and the catchy ‘Fancy’
music
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Seifeddine Rezgui: What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?

    Making of a killer

    What motivated a shy student to kill 38 holidaymakers in Tunisia?
    UK Heatwave: Temperatures on the tube are going to exceed the legal limit for transporting cattle

    Just when you thought your commute couldn't get any worse...

    Heatwave will see temperatures on the Tube exceed legal limit for transporting cattle
    Exclusive - The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Swapping Bucharest for London

    The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

    Meet the man who swapped Romania for the UK in a bid to provide for his family, only to discover that the home he left behind wasn't quite what it seemed
    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Cheaper energy on the way, but it's not all sunshine and rainbows

    Solar power will help bring down electricity prices over the next five years, according to a new report. But it’s cheap imports of ‘dirty power’ that will lower them the most
    Katy Perry prevented from buying California convent for $14.5m after nuns sell to local businesswoman instead

    No grace of God for Katy Perry as sisters act to stop her buying convent

    Archdiocese sues nuns who turned down star’s $14.5m because they don’t approve of her
    Ajmer: The ancient Indian metropolis chosen to be a 'smart city' where residents would just be happy to have power and running water

    Residents just want water and power in a city chosen to be a ‘smart’ metropolis

    The Indian Government has launched an ambitious plan to transform 100 of its crumbling cities
    Michael Fassbender in 'Macbeth': The Scottish play on film, from Welles to Cheggers

    Something wicked?

    Films of Macbeth don’t always end well - just ask Orson Welles... and Keith Chegwin
    10 best sun creams for body

    10 best sun creams for body

    Make sure you’re protected from head to toe in the heatwave
    Wimbledon 2015: Nick Bollettieri - Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games

    Nick Bollettieri's Wimbledon files

    Milos Raonic has ability to get to the top but he must learn to handle pressure in big games
    Women's World Cup 2015: How England's semi-final success could do wonders for both sexes

    There is more than a shiny trophy to be won by England’s World Cup women

    The success of the decidedly non-famous females wearing the Three Lions could do wonders for a ‘man’s game’ riddled with cynicism and greed
    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth: Would people co-operate to face down a global peril?

    How to stop an asteroid hitting Earth

    Would people cooperate to face a global peril?
    Just one day to find €1.6bn: Greece edges nearer euro exit

    One day to find €1.6bn

    Greece is edging inexorably towards an exit from the euro
    New 'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could help surgeons and firefighters, say scientists

    'Iron Man' augmented reality technology could become reality

    Holographic projections would provide extra information on objects in a person's visual field in real time
    Sugary drinks 'are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year'

    Sugary drinks are killing 184,000 adults around the world every year

    The drinks that should be eliminated from people's diets
    Pride of Place: Historians map out untold LGBT histories of locations throughout UK

    Historians map out untold LGBT histories

    Public are being asked to help improve the map