The day is fast approaching when we must take down the decorations, unwind the strings of lights from the Christmas tree, wonder which boxes which baubles came out of and either pack up the tree … if it is a collapsible artificial one … wonder how we are ever going to get rid of it … if it is a real cut one … or, if it a real, live, rooted, growing tree, contemplate just what we are going to do with it.
Over the course of the last fifty years, we have had trees of all three types. We still have three … or is it four? … artificial trees packed, with difficulty, into their original boxes and stored in invaluable cupboards which our house has underneath its eaves. Why do we keep four? Well, we are squirrels who, from time to time, see an irresistible artificial Christmas tree calling out, ‘Buy me! Buy me!’ We won’t buy any more after this one, we promise ourselves: but, a few years later, we see another irresistible artificial Christmas tree. And they are all far too nice to throw out.
We have had cut trees, beautiful when they were bought, tall, elegant and shapely. And we have watched as they have spread a little further with every passing day of the Christmas season, becoming somewhat lopsided, reaching out to clutch at the hems of passing dresses, casting needles in ever-increasing numbers. ‘Guaranteed against needle-drop!’ we think the notice in the garden centre read. But how can one claim on such a guarantee? And we have struggled to reduce the bulk of this now-derelict and very dead piece of browning greenery in an attempt to get it into the car to take to the coup … sorry, the waste transfer station.
We have also had live, rooted trees in pots, trees which drank more water than one could ever imagine, trees which had brought in their branches, needles and bark a bewildering variety and huge numbers of hibernating insect life and awaiting-the-warmth insect eggs, grubs, larvae, whatever. These trees we have always planted out into our garden in early January, one of which in particular grew into a magnificent tree which we had to have felled last year by reason of its having become public park sized rather than garden sized. But we planted these trees into our own garden. I was surprised to read, in the letters columns of a national newspaper, a correspondent advocating taking rooted Christmas trees out into the countryside after Twelfth Night and planting these by the roadside wherever there is a readily-accessible spot.
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I have not consulted any roads and highways authority on this matter: but I am open to being very surprised were such agencies to welcome such actions. National and local authorities very properly discourage the disgusting practice of fly-tipping, that environment-despoiling activity beloved of so many of our fellow-citizens. And my disgust at seeing old mattresses, quilts, duvets and pillows dumped beside laybys or on rural paths is not in any way assuaged by the thought that the stuffings of these items would be a valuable source of nesting material for birds or other animals which like their creature comforts. Nor would I expect to see anyone advocate discarding food waste by the roadside as a useful source of winter food for wildlife. Why, then, should anyone think that second-hand, rooted Christmas trees plonked into the roadside verges are going to enhance the environment, let alone save the world? Fly-tipping is fly-tipping the world over and is not to be encouraged!