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ANTONIA HOYLE (and Herbie) Try the Surprising Best-Selling Christmas Tree Design of 2021

The baubles are perfectly positioned, the lights artfully arranged and the softly shimmering star on top is a testament to your finely tuned decorating talent. Your Christmas tree, resplendent in all its carefully curated glory, symbolizes the joy of the festive weeks ahead.

Five minutes at least — until your dog decides one of those delicate decorations would make a good chew toy and charges for it, reducing your carefully curated creation to a pathetic pile on the floor.

Any pet owner will tell you that putting a lot of effort into your tree is just as risky as expecting to find a turkey supplier in December. Just like parents, because animals aren’t the only architects of tree destruction – put a toddler around and they’ll mess up 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 make the thing crash with one clumsy maneuver.

Antonia Hoyle and her labrador Herbie have put a selection of trees to the test as the trend of so-called umbrella trees gains popularity.  Pictured: Habitat 6ft Half Parasol Christmas Tree, (£50, habitat. co.uk)

Antonia Hoyle and her labrador Herbie have put a selection of trees to the test as the trend of so-called umbrella trees gains popularity. Pictured: Habitat 6ft Half Parasol Christmas Tree, (£50, habitat. co.uk)

Which could explain the success of a new species of so-called Parasol Trees. They are the same height as normal Christmas trees, but the leaves start a few feet up, leaving the bottom of the tree unburdened by temptation, with the most interesting bits out of reach of prying paws and fingers.

The parasol tree may look a bit like a parasol, but it has another useful function by providing space for gifts where pine leaves are missing, making it ideal for smaller rooms. After Habitat launched their 6 ft faux version last week, it became the second most searched for item on their website, and other retailers have also been caught red-handed. But who is the best? My rambunctious labrador Herbie helped me put them to the test.

NO STRESS SIX-LEPED

Habitat 6 ft Half Parasol Christmas Tree (£50, habitat.co.uk)

Antonia said Habitat 6 ft Half Parasol Christmas Tree (pictured) is easy to assemble

Antonia said Habitat 6 ft Half Parasol Christmas Tree (pictured) is easy to assemble

Antonia said Habitat 6 ft Half Parasol Christmas Tree (pictured) is easy to assemble

Amazingly easy to put together – at least for anyone used to poking their eyes with pine as they struggled with full size spruce – this 6 ft tree comes in four parts. It only takes three minutes to assemble the three ‘trunks’ and secure the 58cm metal base with the two screws provided. Like most fake trees, the branches are made of hinged metal with PVC leaves attached to it, to arrange into a tree shape. With 302 tips, the overall effect is glossy, the dark green color is stylish. (They also offer a white-tipped snow version for £55).

“It looks like a Christmas tree palm,” says my daughter Rosie, 11. But Herbie likes the decorated version. At three feet from the base, the lowest leaves are well above his head and there isn’t a scrap of tinsel to clear up – but if anything, that just makes him more awestruck as he sits below, head up, enchanted by the twinkling lights.

VERDICT: No half measures for a leg-fect look – and easy to assemble. 4/5

INVESTMENT OPTION

Gallery Direct Tree Bruland Christmas, (£140, olivias.com)

Antonia said Gallery Direct Tree Bruland Christmas (pictured) is like a lifelike tree

Antonia said Gallery Direct Tree Bruland Christmas (pictured) is like a lifelike tree

Antonia said Gallery Direct Tree Bruland Christmas (pictured) is like a lifelike tree

This arrives in a package too heavy to lift unaided, so I wonder if I accidentally ordered a ton of frozen turkey instead of a tree. However, everything becomes clear when I open the box, because instead of the usual spindly central trunk, this 5 ft 2 in tree, which contains only two parts and is put together in seconds, has a metal pole 14 cm in circumference, base with a heavy iron. Both are hand finished to look amazingly realistic – the base in a mossy forest green and the arctic brown with completely plausible nubs (the swollen growths that develop real branches).

A contemporary twist on a pine, the top of the branch tapers while the fake needles, which start 78cm above the base, are so convincing, it’s just the faintest smell of plastic that reminds me they’re not real. Rosie is stunned by the class — “to me, the messier the tree, the more Christmassy it feels,” she says — but it’s sturdy enough to withstand a nosy Herbie, and I love it. Expensive but beautiful.

VERDICT: Real-life version that puts its rivals in the shadows. 5/5

Antonia said Abaseen 6 ft Half Parasol Christmas Tree (pictured) does not match the description

Antonia said Abaseen 6 ft Half Parasol Christmas Tree (pictured) does not match the description

Antonia said Abaseen 6 ft Half Parasol Christmas Tree (pictured) does not match the description

CHEAP AND BAD

Abaseen 6 ft Half Parasol Christmas Tree, (£55, amazon.co.uk)

The first thing I notice about this 6-foot tree is that the manual in the box is for another full size tree. The second is the bicolor leaves – half are a bushy medium green, the rest a lurid green made of particularly thin plastic. Maybe it should look classy, ​​but it just looks cheap – and nothing beats the uniformly colored image of the tree advertised 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 two feet from the base to the bottom of the tree – too low for some larger dog breeds. The metal base is only 39cm, which feels too narrow to support a tree of this size. I bet it would be overthrown soon.

VERDICT: Clumsy and does not match the description. 2/5

THE BEST FOR A BUDGET

Antonia said ASDA George 6ft Green Half Christmas Tree (pictured) is a bargain

Antonia said ASDA George 6ft Green Half Christmas Tree (pictured) is a bargain

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 comes in an easy-to-carry box with a handle. It has three tree sections that fit together easily, while the metal four-legged base, at 61cm in diameter, is one of the sturdiest and most pet-resistant I’ve tried. The leaves are soft, making hanging baubles easier than other bushy faux versions, and with 296 tips, the overall effect when shaped is pleasingly full.

An advantage of Parasol Trees, of course, is that they don’t require that many lights – a string of 100 is sufficient – although a disadvantage is that you can’t hide the electricity under the lower leaves. I used battery operated lights to minimize unsightly wires. At just 67cm from base to leaf, this tree may not be best suited for larger dogs, although Herbie fits under it easily, and even when he tries to get his squeaky toy from behind the base, won’t knock it over. A brilliant budget buy.

VERDICT: An economical parasol that fits very well with smaller puppies. 4/5

Antonia said Abaseen 6 ft Snowy Half Parasol Tree (pictured) is a snowy choice

Antonia said Abaseen 6 ft Snowy Half Parasol Tree (pictured) is a snowy choice

Antonia said Abaseen 6 ft Snowy Half Parasol Tree (pictured) is a snowy choice

WINTER BEAUTIFUL

Abaseen 6ft Snow Covered Half Umbrella Tree, (£59, onbuy.com)

For those seeking an alternative to a standard faux green spruce, this snowy 6 ft Parasol Tree will bring a touch of ski vacation to your living room. The snow effect makes the leaves of fake trees thicker and thus more difficult to hang baubles on, but with 302 tips, the overall impression is so full and beautiful that no decoration is needed except lighting.

The tree – available since last week and already a best seller – comes in three parts, with the branch below the main body of the tree, the brown trunk giving it a rougher, more realistic look. The base, meanwhile, looks solid, the elevated height almost gives the impression that you are looking at some sort of floating mountain.

Antonia said the Seasonal Aisle 5ft Half Green Pine Artificial Christmas Tree (pictured) is best for those with tall children

Antonia said the Seasonal Aisle 5ft Half Green Pine Artificial Christmas Tree (pictured) is best for those with tall children

Antonia said the Seasonal Aisle 5ft Half Green Pine Artificial Christmas Tree (pictured) is best for those with tall children

VERDICT: Snow tip choice. 3/5

MINIMALIST MAGIC

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 comes in one piece, has a smaller, faux pine top with just 153 points which when arranged measures 105cm in diameter, giving them a smaller room not overshadow. The lower leaves are a few feet off the ground, so even my eight-year-old son would struggle to knock the baubles off. The PVC trunk is solid brown, which gives it a chic look, 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: Boom-mendous choice for those with tall children. 3/5

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