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Buying a real Christmas tree in Kent - where to get one and expert tips on keeping it through the season

There have been many unusual things this year, but the next will be the unusual Christmas we are all likely to experience.

It's meant business is booming for sellers of real Christmas trees - but can you put yours up a month before the big day and it still be bright eyed and bushy tailed?

Safety comes first when buying a real tree this Christmas
Safety comes first when buying a real tree this Christmas

Edward Barham, owner of Hole Park in Rolvenden, said: "We are experiencing huge demand for trees this year. If you think that 3 million people cannot travel overseas for Christmas and everyone will be in smaller family groups, at least until the day itself, after a difficult year for many, demand will be high."

"I have seen trees up in the houses already and there is little doubt that they will be very stressed by the time we get to Christmas day. They are a living thing and if brought into the warm too soon and not given water then they will inevitably suffer. Some species have better needle retention characteristics; the ever-popular Nordmann, with broad flat foliage, keep their needles better than Norway spruce, the traditional tree, although both of them are beaten hands down by Bluespruce. But the latter are not everyone’s cup of tea as they can be quite fragrant and spiky."

Christmas trees at Hole Park
Christmas trees at Hole Park

His advice is buy your tree now but...

"To make sure you have the one you want but please don’t bring it into the house until perhaps the first weekend of December - show a little restraint. If you bought your loved one a bunch of roses they would not last six weeks and I am afraid a tree is fundamentally the same. And when you bring the tree in to the house make sure you water it in a proper water retaining stand. I recommend those from the Cinco range."

The tree you buy will be the result of many years of careful management and investment by the grower.

Saplings are planted at about 8ins high (200 mm) at which point they are already three years old and will then sit for a year before growing at approximately 1ft (300 mm) a year.

Edward Barham measures a 20-year-old tree at Hole Park
Edward Barham measures a 20-year-old tree at Hole Park

Edward said: "You can tell the age of a tree, not only by counting the rings in the butt, but also from the annual whorl of branches thrown out each spring.

"In a 20ft tree, it is at about 20 years old, and you can count of those horizontal branch whorls going down from the top."

His advice to find fresh, British-grown Christmas trees is to look at the British Christmas Tree Growers Association website, BCTGA and find a grower near you.

The Christmas tree harvest has started at Hole Park - a tree being cut with a tree shear, like a hydraulic secateur
The Christmas tree harvest has started at Hole Park - a tree being cut with a tree shear, like a hydraulic secateur

Or here's a list of some of the sites you can head to across Kent:

Macknade at Faversham and Ashford

The county's favourite foodie hub will be selling locally-grown Christmas trees from both their Faversham and Ashford sites from this week, with 5% of proceeds gong to the Pilgrims Hospices.

The trees are grown at Rolvenden’s Hole Park Estate and the team should be able to help you select a tree to fit the space in your home. This year, trees will be available to buy from Macknade’s store at Elwick Place, Ashford, where customers can also browse a selection of Christmas gifts whilst completing their essential grocery shop. One of the well known Pilgrims snowdogs will also be located directly outside the store over the festive period.

You can also fill out Macknade’s Christmas order form, selecting your festive food and drink, return your form to a Macknade store or email to christmas@macknade.com by Friday, December 11 and then collect on a chosen date. Find out more here.

Hole Park, Rolvenden

Hole Park has some 60 years of experience in growing Christmas trees. From small beginnings as a by-product of estate forestry, the site is now a specialist grower and member of the British Christmas Tree Growers Association (BCTGA). From the last week in November they are open from 10am to 4pm daily. Visit holeparkchristmastrees.co.uk or on the Facebook page.

The Christmas tree harvest has started at Hole Park - loading trees from the plantations
The Christmas tree harvest has started at Hole Park - loading trees from the plantations

Kingswood Christmas Trees, Maidstone

The family-run business has been providing top-grade Christmas trees to Kent and beyond for some 60 years. Originally selling just a few trees, they now offer a complete Christmas experience for the whole family. There's a chance to meet Santa himself, or sit by a real log fire in the cafe before perusing the foliage to take home.

They are open every day from now until Christmas Eve. Find out more here.

Meopham PYO, near Gravesend

The site in Ifield Road, Meopham opens on Friday, November 27, and will be open on Fridays from 1pm to 6pm; Saturdays from 10am to 4pm and Sundays from 10am to 4pm, until Sunday, December 20.

The trees will be sold alongside the site's own apples, pears, fruit juice and other local seasonal veg, with trees ranging from 3ft potted at £26 right up to 9ft and over at £56. There is also free delivery on Saturdays within a three mile radius. The Finch Tearooms will be open for takeaway drinks and cake, and there are a range of safety measures to keep within government guidelines. Visit the Facebook page to keep updated on what's available or go to meophampyo.co.uk or the Facebook page.

Getting a real Christmas tree can be a family affair
Getting a real Christmas tree can be a family affair

Newlands Nursery, near Sevenoaks

A member of the British Christmas Tree Growers Association, the site in Ide Hill, Sevenoaks, was established in 1979, and has been growing Christmas trees for more than 30 years. Find out more here.

Farmers Farm Shop, Teston

The family business which started out in the 1980s selling runner beans from a small stable block, now has a range of local produce, as well as Salcombe dairy ice cream from East Peckham, turkeys and Christmas trees, which are grown on the Welsh/Shropshire border. The shop is open six days a week in the run up to Christmas. Find out more here or on the Facebook page.

Stonepitts Farm Shop, Sevenoaks

The farm has a wide choice of Norway Spruce or Nordman Fir trees in a variety of sizes, as well as mistletoe and holly wreaths. The site has easy access and good car parking and is open daily from now on from 9am until dark. You can book online at stonepitts.com or go to the Facebook page.

Buying a real tree this Christmas is high on many people's lists
Buying a real tree this Christmas is high on many people's lists

Spadework, Offham

If you need a reason to buy a Christmas tree from the Offham-based charity - other than the fact that you will help provide care, support and meaningful opportunities to more than 115 adults with learning and other disabilities - staff and volunteers have produced a quirky video for this year, which should persuade you.

You can view the video on the charity's Facebook page, and find out more about what's on offer. Go to spadework.org.uk

Kent Christmas Trees, Chartham, Canterbury

The family-run business that produces homegrown Kentish Christmas trees in sizes, ranging from 2ft potted trees, up to 25ft ones.

The range includes non-drop Christmas Trees and there is a local delivery service. Find out more here.

Bedgebury Pinetum

This year, Forestry England has taken the decision not to sell Christmas trees.

However, it will be sharing tree care tips and a family Christmas tree-inspired activity from the National Collection, celebrating the diversity of Bedgebury’s trees in a fun tree finder trail, which you will be able to do either at Bedgebury or in your nearest green space. For more details click here.

How tall do you want your tree? We have advice for you
How tall do you want your tree? We have advice for you

Struggling to squeeze in a Christmas tree that’s too tall and wide for the space in your home, leaving you reaching for the secateurs in an effort to cut it down to size?

Bigger the better might seem like a good approach when it comes to choosing a Christmas tree, but squashed-in probably isn’t the look you’re really hoping for, so it’s far better to give a little thought to what size and style of tree is going to be best.

Here, David Mitchell, Christmas tree expert and buying manager for horticulture at Wyevale Garden Centres (wyevalegardencentres.co.uk), talks us through choosing your tree…

1. How tall should you go?

The first thing you need to consider is ceiling height. “A lot of people have no idea how tall their ceiling is, and when you imagine a tree in a certain space, it’s easy to get over-ambitious as to what you can fit in there,” he says. “You also have to remember that the stand is going to add perhaps another six inches to the overall height of the tree, and quite often you find that you are having to cut the top off, or something that compromises the shape of the tree. So measure the tree and make allowances for the stand.”

2. How wide can it really be?

“A lot of the trees are coming through very wide. The Nordmann, by its very nature, is a wide variety with a wide skirt around the base. We’ve been doing pruning work in the fields to help keep it within certain limits,” says David.

3. What style of tree is it?

If your space is very restricted and you want a slim tree, the Swedish style Nordmann costs slightly less than a traditional Nordmann – but they sell out first.

“Back in 2014, we recognised there was very much a trend for artificial trees at that time that were very stripped out and minimalist, following a Scandinavian approach, where you could see the light coming through between the branches.

“We decided to do a version of that with our living trees, so we were selecting trees which had that layered effect, and prune in the field to get that shape and layered effect.”

Alternatively, the Fraser fir has a much more narrow profile, with branches sweeping upwards rather than downwards.

4. What sort of scent?

For many people, the fragrances of the festive season are part of the appeal.

“You also have to consider whether you want something highly scented, which might steer you towards a Fraser fir. You can get artificial scents to put in the tree, but there’s nothing like the real thing,” he says.

5. Clipping catastrophes

If you are going to attempt to trim back your own tree, there are rules about pruning.

“Ultimately, you have to cut where is necessary to make it fit the space, but there’s a tidy way of doing it,” says David. “If you cut any given branch half way down its length fairly unceremoniously, then it’s going to look as if it’s been cut off.

“If you cut it in between the nodes, taking off individual ‘fingers’ of the tree, or find a natural break, that’s always going to look better than if you cut it half way down. I wouldn’t just take shears to it and cut it off. Look for a natural join. There’s no risk of damaging the tree but because it’s such a centrepiece, it’s worth spending a bit of time on it and pruning with a bit of finesse.”

If the only spot for your tree is by a radiator, you have to accept that it’s going to dry out. This means it will need more water, if it’s in a trough, and you’re likely to see some areas going brown and a fair bit of needle-drop.

For more Christmas events across Kent click here.

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