It might seem a bit early to start thinking about Christmas in June but for Christmas tree growers, the festive season is never far from their minds.
From eight-inch saplings to the proud centrepieces of homes throughout the country, Christmas trees take a minimum of five years to grow and during that time they receive a lot of care and attention from companies such as Ardo Christmas Trees, based at Hillhead of Ardo in Aberdeenshire.
Roger and Jean Glennie, who run a contracting business from their 60ha farm, are taking part in LEAF Open Farm Sunday (OFS) next weekend, when visitors will have the chance to learn more about the origins of their trees.
Jean said: “Our theme for the day is ‘From farm to festive’. We were inspired to be part of Open Farm Sunday by the people who come to buy trees from us in the winter and ask so many questions about their provenance.”
Tickets are limited and available from OFS or Ardo Christmas Trees websites, and Roger and Jean have an educational and fun day planned, with a self-guided walk through their tree plantation the highlight of the tour.
Visitors will be able to see first hand some of the specialist machinery used to plant, grow and harvest trees as well as a vintage tractor display and a farming yesteryear exhibition by Methlick Heritage Society.
There will be a pop-up craft shop showcasing wood and pebble art and local charity Wood Recyclability will be there. Families can bring a picnic and make a day of it, or just grab a coffee from Symposium Coffee Box.
The farm is a collection point for North East Recycling Services, who will be on site to demonstrate how plastic is baled and made into new products.
Although Roger’s contracting business, which employs three full-time staff, has been working in local Christmas tree plantations for 10 years, it was only last year that the couple planted their first hectare with 15,000 trees, and they plan on planting a hectare each year from now on.
Roger said: “Here on our farm we are specialising in potted trees, which take five years to reach the desired height of three to four feet, and we plan to sell the majority from our own farm direct to the public.”
They are already selling a few thousand locally grown trees each year and have seen the demand for real trees rise. Jean pointed out that as long as the pot-grown tree is looked after over the Christmas period it can be successfully planted in the garden to keep growing.
She said: “For those who want a living tree but don’t have a garden to plant it in, we are offering to take them back and we will plant them as a border/windbreak round our plantation. Even old, dead or misshapen trees are put to use, as they are chipped, composted and put back on the plantation as a mulch.”
The Glennie family have been at Hillhead of Ardo since 1964, and Roger took over in the 1990s. He started his contracting business about 20 years ago, carrying out arable tasks in the area.
However, recently more of his business has been from the Christmas tree industry and, with investment in specialist machinery, he is able to carry out year-round work in the plantations such as ground preparation and crop management.
He does not plant or prune the trees, but is involved in harvesting, netting, palletising and loading for national companies