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Christmas tree advice from Hever Castle head gardener Neil Miller

By Neil Miller

Putting up a three hundred plus Christmas trees at Hever Castle each year is actually a highlight for me as a gardener.

We have taken delivery of our shipment from Hole Park at Rolvenden and are currently putting 251 of them out along the Christmas Trail and in the grotto as well as a further 75 in the castle itself and the restaurant and offices here.

The trees are all cut and come without root balls, but as they have to last until after Christmas itself, we make sure that there’s a reservoir of water for them all. We are lucky in the main that most of our trees will be displayed outdoors so they look fantastic for a long period of time.

Neil's team of little helpers get to grips with the first of the trees

If you’re going for a cut tree this year then the best tip I can give you is to leave it outside for as long as you possibly can. If you are buying a tree with a root ball then the same rule applies - I know of people who leave them outside in their pot until Christmas Eve and only bring them in hours before Santa is due to arrive.

If you want to buy a pot-grown tree then make sure you choose one with a really healthy root ball that’s been wrapped in burlap. It’s even more important to keep your tree well-watered while it’s indoor so that it doesn’t dry out.

Stand the tree somewhere cool indoors - beside your patio window is a better spot than beside the fire!

Christmas Trees in the Long Gallery at Hever Castle

If you're planning on planting the tree in your garden, make sure you get the tree outside as soon after Christmas as possible. The shorter it’s stay in doors the shorter its odds are of surviving are outdoors.

You might want to gently acclimatise your tree if it’s coming straight out of your centrally heated lounge, so pop it in the garage for 24 hours before you plant it in the frosty garden.

If you can cut into the earth, it’s better to plant the tree, but you can always leave it in it’s pot on the patio as long as you remember to water it regularly.

Neil has more than 300 trees to put up at Hever Castle

If you’re really keen to 'grow your own' then you could try growing from seeds, but it can take as many as 15 years to grow a tree to six feet.

Christmas is actually a really exciting time for us gardeners at Hever - it’s great to seeing the visitors explore the gardens under the twinkling lights of the Christmas trees.

However, it’s one thing putting the trees up at Hever but it’s another thing entirely to decorate the gorgeous specimens in the castle itself so I leave that to our head of retail, Ashley Collins, and his team who are experts at distributing the baubles and threading the tinsel!

Stunning Hever Castle is in the west of the county, near Edenbridge

More details on Hever Castle at www.hevercastle.co.uk

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