Christmas trees - a long-term growth business

It can take 10 years to grow a tree to the right size for selling
Image caption It can take 10 years to grow a tree to the right size for selling

As we buy our Christmas trees this December, how much thought do we give to where they have come from and the work that has gone into them?

The British Christmas Tree Growers Association does not gather official data but it estimates we purchase between 6 million and 8 million real Christmas trees every year in the UK, making it an industry worth hundreds of millions of pounds.

And Scotland is a large producer, with ideal soil, good weather conditions and an abundance of open space providing an ideal grounding for growth.

At Edenmill Farm, at the foot of the Campsie Hills, near Blanefield in Stirlingshire, thousands of Christmas trees are planted, nurtured and cut down each year.

Managing director Mark Gibson realised that Christmas trees would complement his landscaping and horticultural business by giving the 60-strong staff more to do in the winter time.

He said: "In late November we can start looking at harvesting. December-time we can start looking at retailing, and in January, February, and March we can start looking at pruning and planting. So it keeps everybody busy all year round. It's perfect."

Image caption Mark Gibson from Edenmill farm says Christmas trees provide extra business in the winter months

But like the Scotch Whisky industry, the Christmas tree business requires patience.

A typical Nordman Fir (the most popular type of Christmas tree) has a life cycle of about 10 years, so it is a long-term investment for a grower.

During that time, the Nordman and Fraser Firs, Scots Pine and Norway Spruce trees found in Scotland go through a regime of fertilisation, pruning, and shaping, before being labelled, harvested and wrapped in netting to be sold.

Edenmill Farm is one of many sending Scottish Christmas trees to customers down south.

Mark Gibson explained why they grow so well here.

He said: "We have perfect soil, which is really light and fluffy.

Image caption Scotland has good growing conditions for Christmas trees

"We also have rock six inches under the ground, which really stops the taproot of the Nordman Fir growing which gives it a better shape, because it doesn't grow quickly, and doesn't grow really tall and thin.

"We get enough rain, and we get a bit of sunshine. So the trees are really happy."

After the Christmas lights are switched off and the baubles are put away, trees which are disposed of responsibly can end up being chipped and turned into material for woodland paths or compost.

Back on the land where they came from, the 10-year cycle begins all over again.

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