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Mike DeButts, Christmas tree supplier for Pines and Needles
Photograph: Andy Parsons

Things you only know if you’re a Christmas tree supplier

Written by
James FitzGerald

…according to Mike De Butts, 38.

Putting up trees is serious business

‘A 60ft tree with its stand and ballast could weigh 15 tons. At Pines and Needles we put up big outdoor trees using cranes, with help from structural engineers. Then we can say the people who’ve been involved in putting up a tree are also capable of putting up skyscrapers.’

Bigger isn’t always better

‘I got called up once by somebody saying, “I want the tallest tree in London.” But when the tree gets too big, it starts to be a different proportion. The Trafalgar Square tree got slated a couple of years ago because people thought it looked like a cucumber.’

Some spruces need sprucing up

‘Nature isn’t perfect, and trees often require a bit of a facelift to make them look as nice as they should. When we’re up on the cherry-picker adding the decorations, we usually add in some extra branches to fill in the gaps. In some cases, suppliers will basically stick two separate trees together. That’s happened before for the tree in Covent Garden.’

Real trees are a sustainable option

‘We replant one tree or more for each that we cut down. I drive past our plantations and think: They’re putting out a lot of oxygen. The thing about artificial trees is the amount of plastic that goes into making them. They might be better if you use them for 100 years – but will you? ’

Some celebs don’t even see their trees

‘I remember selling Liam Gallagher a tree in the ’90s, and I think we’re doing a tree for Donald Trump’s golf course in Scotland this year. But with famous people, most of the time you don’t even know who it’s for. You’ll be invited to a big house to put up a big tree. You’ll do the job. Then, when you go back to take it down, the butler will tell you the family didn’t even spend Christmas in that house.’

Check out a Pines and Needles tree at Winterville on Clapham Common until December 23.

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