The most recent Garden Academy visit was to the buyer, grower, retailer and supplier of Christmas trees: Needlefresh Direct. They are based near Swindon, and manage a patchwork of fields in West Berkshire of their own. You might not know where your live tree comes from. Perhaps you might assume your Christmas trees herald from Scotland, Scandinavia or maybe further afield. Its worth considering that around 30% of the UK's Christmas trees are grown in Southern England.
The Garden Academy 'Evergreens' team visited and were provided with a fascinating insight into Christmas tree agriculture. We were taken on a tour of the some of their fields, and our guide, Paul, demonstrated how and when trees are felled. As staff in Homebase stores, we would normally only have limited contact with the trees. Employees typically rely on corporate training on how to handle and sell the trees. It was very helpful to see behind the scenes at the supplier of all Homebase's trees. To learn and ask questions. To see how sustainable the process is. To appreciate the scale of the operation. To understand the wide range of issues and problems the tree farmers face: from rising deer populations to short term staffing. From soil quality to changing customer requirements.
It was a great day, and thanks must go to all at Needlefresh Direct for welcoming us.
Top tips for looking after your cut Christmas tree...
* Keep it outside, stood upright in water, undecorated until you are ready to bring it in.
* On taking it indoors. Saw the bottom inch of tree stem off. then place the tree in a stand that holds water. The tree will absorb about 3-4 pints of water after being cut, so keep the water topped up. Treat the tree as you would treat cut flowers. The tree will 'sweat' releasing an attractive scent, and the resin in some spruce that give them their 'blue' hue.
* Keep the tree away from intense heat sources such as radiators. The tree will quickly shed needles if it is too hot.
* Remember to recycle or dispose of the tree appropriately after Christmas. Your local council will likely offer facilities.
* Consider a living tree - which is sold complete with potted and bagged root system. You could plant it in the garden after Christmas. Trees create an excellent ecosystem for wildlife, offering food and habitat for birds. They absorb carbon dioxide, sulphur dioxide and carbon monoxide - harmful gasses - from the atmosphere and produce oxygen. It may also provide you with a (slightly larger) Christmas tree for next year!