Make mine a half! Scarred by tree disasters of Christmases past, ANTONIA HOYLE (and Herbie) try 2021’s surprise bestselling design
- Parasol Trees are gaining popularity ahead of festivities this Christmas
- Same height as normal Christmas trees but the leaves begin several feet up
- Antonia Hoyle and labrador Herbie put a selection of the trendy trees to the test
The baubles are perfectly positioned, the lights artfully arranged and the gently glimmering star on top is testament to your finely tuned decorating talent. Your Christmas tree, resplendent in all its carefully curated glory, symbolises the fun of festive weeks ahead.
For five minutes, anyway — until your dog decides one of those delicate decorations would make a good chew toy and charges for it, reducing your painstakingly assembled creation to a pitiful pile on the floor.
Every pet owner will tell you that putting a lot of effort into your tree is as risky as expecting to find a turkey supplier in December. As, too, will parents, because animals aren’t the only architects of tree destruction — place a toddler in the vicinity and they’ll tangle the tinsel faster than you can say ‘don’t put those pine needles in your mouth!’. Even an eight-year-old on roller skates, I discovered last year, can bring the thing crashing down with one clunky manoeuvre.
Antonia Hoyle and her labrador Herbie put a selection of trees to the test as the trend of so-called Parasol Trees gains popularity. Pictured: Habitat 6ft Half Parasol Christmas Tree, (£50, habitat. co.uk)
Which may explain the success of a new breed of so-called Parasol Trees. They are the same height as normal Christmas trees but the leaves begin several feet up, leaving the bottom of the tree unburdened by temptation, with the most interesting bits out of reach of inquisitive paws and fingers.
The Parasol Tree may look, well, a bit like a parasol, but it serves another useful function by providing space for presents where pine leaves are missing, making it ideal for smaller rooms. After Habitat launched their 6 ft faux version last week, became the second most searched-for item on their website, and other retailers have also got in on the act. But whose is best? My rambunctious labrador Herbie helped me put them to the test.
Habitat 6 ft Half Parasol Christmas Tree (£50, habitat.co.uk)
Antonia said Habitat 6 ft Half Parasol Christmas Tree (pictured) is hassle-free to assemble
Astonishingly easy to assemble — at least for anyone used to poking their eyes with pine while grappling with full- size spruces — this 6 ft tree comes in four parts. It takes just three minutes to put the three ‘trunks’ together and tighten the 58 cm metal base with the two screws provided. Like most faux trees, the branches are made of hinged metal with PVC leaves attached, to arrange into a tree shape. With 302 tips, the overall effect is lustrous, the dark green colour stylish. (They also offer a white-tipped snowy version for £55).
‘It looks like a Christmas palm tree,’ says my daughter Rosie, 11. But Herbie loves the decorated version. At 86 cm from the base, the lowest leaves are well above his head and there isn’t a scrap of tinsel for him to scavenge — but if anything, that just makes him more awestruck as he sits beneath it, head raised, bewitched by the twinkling lights.
VERDICT: No half measures for a paw-fect look — and hassle-free to assemble. 4/5
Gallery Direct Tree Bruland Christmas, (£140, olivias.com)
Antonia said Gallery Direct Tree Bruland Christmas (pictured) is like a lifelike tree
This arrives in a package too heavy to lift without help, so I wonder if I’ve accidentally ordered a ton of frozen turkey instead of a tree. All becomes clear when I open the box, however, because instead of the usual spindly central trunk, this 5 ft 2 in tree, containing just two parts and put together in seconds, has a metal pole 14 cm in circumference, with a heavy iron base. Both are hand-finished to look astonishingly realistic — the base in a mossy woodland green and the pole brown with entirely plausible burls (the swollen growths that real branches develop).
A contemporary twist on a pine tree, the top of the branch tapers while the faux needles, which begin 78 cm above the base, are so convincing, it is only the faintest smell of plastic that reminds me they aren’t real. Rosie is taken aback by the classiness — ‘to me, the tattier the tree, the more Christmassy it feels,’ she says — but it’s solid enough to withstand a curious Herbie, and I love it. Expensive but beautiful.
VERDICT: Lifelike version that puts its rivals in the shade. 5/5
Antonia said Abaseen 6 ft Half Parasol Christmas Tree (pictured) doesn’t live up to its description
CHEAP AND CLUNKY
Abaseen 6 ft Half Parasol Christmas Tree, (£55, amazon.co.uk)
The first thing I notice about this 6ft tree is that the instruction manual in the box is for a different, full-size tree. The second is the two-toned leaves — half are a bristly mid-green, the rest a lurid green made from particularly flimsy plastic. Perhaps it’s supposed to look stylish but it just looks cheap — and nothing like the uniform-coloured picture of the tree it’s advertised with on Amazon. There are three ‘tree’ sections and the top two don’t fit together properly, leaving an unsightly gap, while the leaves aren’t plentiful enough to hide the hinges. The body of the tree is huge, so there is only 60 cm from the base to the bottom of the tree — too low for some larger dog breeds. The metal base is only 39 cm, which feels too narrow to support a tree of this stature. I’d wager it would soon get knocked over.
VERDICT: Clunky and doesn’t live up to its description. 2/5
BEST ON A BUDGET
Antonia said ASDA George 6ft Green Half Christmas Tree (pictured) is a bargain
ASDA George 6ft Green Half Christmas Tree, (£25, asda.com)
Half the price of its rivals, this tree arrives in an easy-to-carry box with a handle. It has three tree sections that slot together easily, while the metal four-legged base, at 61 cm in diameter, is among the sturdiest and most pet-resistant I try. The leaves are soft, which makes hanging baubles easier than on other, bristlier faux versions, and with 296 tips the overall effect, when they have been shaped, is pleasingly full.
Of course, one advantage of Parasol Trees is that they don’t require as many lights — a string of 100 will suffice — although a drawback is that you can’t hide the electrics below the bottom leaves. I used battery-operated lights to minimise unsightly wires. With only 67 cm from base to leaf, this tree is perhaps not the most suitable for larger dogs, although Herbie fits under it with ease, and even when trying to retrieve his squeaky toy from behind the base, doesn’t knock it over. A brilliant budget buy.
VERDICT: A bargain parasol that would suit smaller pooches very well. 4/5
Antonia said Abaseen 6 ft Snowy Half Parasol Tree (pictured) is a snow-tipped choice
Abaseen 6 ft Snowy Half Parasol Tree, (£59, onbuy.com)
For those seeking an alternative to a standard faux green spruce, this snowy 6 ft Parasol Tree brings a touch of ski-holiday to your living room. The snow effect makes faux trees’ leaves thicker and so harder to hang baubles on, but with 302 tips the overall impression is so full and pretty, it shouldn’t need any decoration except for lights.
The tree — available since last week and already a bestseller — comes in three parts, with the branch below the main body of the tree, the brown trunk giving it a more rugged, realistic appearance. The base, meanwhile, looks sturdy, the raised height almost giving the impression you’re looking at a sort of floating mountain.
Antonia said The Seasonal Aisle 5ft Half Green Pine Artificial Christmas Tree (pictured) is best for those with tall children
VERDICT: Snow-tipped choice. 3/5
The Seasonal Aisle 5ft Half Green Pine Artificial Christmas Tree, (£98.99, wayfair.co.uk)
For those who don’t want a big tree, this 5ft version, which arrives in one piece, has a smaller, faux pine top containing just 153 tips that when arranged measure 105 cm in diameter, so wouldn’t overshadow a smaller room. The lowest leaves are several feet off the ground, so even my eight-year-old son would struggle to knock off the baubles. The PVC trunk is plain brown, giving it an upmarket feel, while the solid iron base will give pet owners peace of mind. The unorthodox look takes some getting used to, but a good minimalist choice.
VERDICT: Tree-mendous choice for those with tall children. 3/5
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