Harrogate is gearing up for busiest ever year for Christmas trees despite Covid threat

Harrogate has a key role to play in trying to ensure there are at least plenty of Christmas trees this year - even if the festive season itself may be under some threat during the fight against Covid.

Monday, 5th October 2020, 3:06 pm
Updated Monday, 5th October 2020, 3:09 pm
Still gearing up for busiest-ever season - Growers at Cadeby Tree Trust in Nuneaton, members of The British Christmas Tree Growers Association, (BCTGA), which is managed from Harrogate.

Despite the impact of the pandemic on normal life, the facts say early orders for UK trees from garden centres and farm shops are significantly ahead of 2019 - and this year’s sunny weather means they are in better condition than ever before.

The British Christmas Tree Growers Association, (BCTGA), whose members are responsible for selling approximately seven million trees each year, is now being managed by the Yorkshire Agricultural Society (YAS) based at the Great Yorkshire Showground in Harrogate.

Its message is straightforward - Christmas is NOT cancelled!

Heather Parry, managing agent for BCTGA, said: “Christmas will certainly be different this year but we are here to spread the message that it is definitely not cancelled.

“It’s more important than ever before that we support our local growers who are now busy doing last minute trimming and labelling of trees for sale for their biggest time of the year.

“They are putting a huge amount of energy into planning new, innovative ways to ensure that farm-fresh trees can be sold safely. This can be from increasing their delivery capacity and installing online pre-payment, to busier sites considering timed collection slots.

“There’s nothing like the scent of a real tree at Christmas and this year, more than ever we want a reason to celebrate. We encourage the public to support local growers and sustainability by buying real trees.”

Covid-19 has led to many growers changing the way they sell, introducing online sales for the first time as well as social distancing measures for those who want to visit their local plantation to enjoy the experience of choosing their tree.

But the industry is still gearing up for its busiest season ever.

Already, early orders for UK trees from garden centres and farm shops are significantly ahead of 2019 and this year’s sunny weather means they are in better condition than ever before.

Cadeby Tree Trust in Nuneaton, Warwickshire, is the largest grower in the whole of England, supplying farm shops and garden centres across the country.

Sharon Scamell-Katz, sales manager, said: “After such an unprecedented year, Christmas is the one thing we can focus on and look forward to, and orders from our retailers are already 28% up compared to last year.

"There’s more of a drive to purchase UK grown Christmas trees and any retailers with click and collect online, are putting in higher orders as consumer habits have changed because of Covid, with more and more buying online.”

With consumer trends changing, Rory Young from Scottish Christmas Trees, in Dumfries, said it’s important the public are aware that they can also buy their real Christmas trees online.

He said: “We would say: buy British, buy local to support local businesses and don’t forget there is always the option to buy online which is something that a lot of local retailers are likely to be offering this year.”

This year’s weather has also meant that growers are on track to supply some of the best quality Christmas trees yet.

Colin Palmer, BCTGA’s independent forestry expert said: “Across the UK, the trees have just loved the prolonged sunshine, broken by spells of intermittent rain that we’ve experienced this year.

"They have grown well and are a lovely dark green where nutrient levels have remained constant.

Planted in March and September, growers make huge investments in their crop as Christmas trees take up to 10 years to nurture before harvest.

Most popular tree varieties in the UK

Nordmann Fir – Nordmann is mostly grown from seed collected in the Caucasus Mountains of Georgia. This is the most popular Christmas Tree in the UK as it has excellent needle retention, with lush, dark green needles. They are symmetrical trees with strong branches, great for displaying ornaments.

Fraser Fir – These trees have great fragrance with dark green, needles that are silvery underneath. They have good needle retention and are more slender and space-saving - 'Slender Pyramid Shape'. Fraser Fir is a native of the UA Appalachian Mountains where wild seed is still collected in North Carolina. The main benefit we usually repeat is that it is

Noble Fir – Ideal for great needle retention and a fresh fragrance. With bluish-green needles and short, stiff branches; great for heavier ornaments; keeps well. It was first introduced into Britain in 1830 from North America.

Douglas Fir – Probably the strongest scent of all Christmas trees, very popular in the USA. A true fir with great shape but a little harder to decorate with baubles as usually much denser.

Norway Spruce – Keep them well watered for good needle retention and enjoy this traditional Christmas tree which is dark green and has a strong fragrance along with a great conical shape.

Blue Spruce – Beautiful, unique blue colouring, needs watering well and has good stiff branches, great for hanging heavy decorations. An ideal small or second tree.

Lodgepole Pine – A low needle-drop tree with beautiful tapering branches, that rarely lose their needles if well hydrated. The needles are green/yellow in colour. The traditionalists Christmas tree.

Serbian Spruce - Tall and slender, with graceful upswept branches. It has glossy dark green needles with slender streaks of white, a very good ornamental alternative. It originally rose to popularity in Central Europe.

Visit www.bctga.co.uk to find your local growers.

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