Where to pick up the perfect Christmas tree in Surrey
PUBLISHED: 21:23 11 April 2012 | UPDATED: 12:36 04 November 2015
One of the great joys at this time of year is going out to choose a Christmas tree. Here, JIM KEOGHAN explains why buying a real one can actually benefit the environment and looks at some of the best sustainable options available locally
Originally published in Surrey Life magazine December 2008
Photos by Pete Gardner
As a child of the Seventies, real Christmas trees were always a mystery to me. Like many other families at the time, in our house the artificial tree ruled. They never dropped their needles, you could use the same one each year and for the more adventurous souls, they even came in silver.
What’s more, if you missed the essence of a real tree, then this could easily be achieved via the magic of ‘tree-in-a-can’, the aerosol that recreated the smell of a real Christmas tree (although the one time we tried this, it made the entire house reek of wet cat).
Despite these numerous advantages, the real Christmas tree has been making something of a comeback of late. According to the British Christmas Tree Growers Association (BCTGA), during 2007, sales of real Christmas trees were at their highest for some time.
A growing trend
Anthony Baker, Christmas tree grower and owner of Oxenford Farm, near Godalming, thinks he knows why this trend has started.
“You can’t really beat a real tree,” he says. “They look and smell completely differently from an artificial one. Even the best artificial tree can’t compare and I think people are starting to realise this.
“Coming down to a farm to choose your own tree is great family experience in its own right. The sight of a mass of Christmas trees on display, seen through the eyes of a child or toddler, is a happy and exciting experience that stays with them all their lives. Nothing artificial can ever touch the magic of going and picking your own and then bringing it home to decorate.”
Anthony also feels that an increasing environmental awareness among consumers is a factor in the rise in demand for real trees.
“Christmas trees are a living, breathing crop,” he continues. “As they grow, they absorb carbon dioxide and produce oxygen. An artificial tree can’t do that. We also replant once a tree has been sold and so by choosing a real tree you are not uprooting woods because the entire process is sustainable.
“For many people, we are also producing a local product. The ‘food miles’ associated with our trees are minimal. There’s a very strong chance that if you buy an artificial tree, then it’s been made in China, from plastic, and then shipped or flown across the world, which all adds up to an enormous amount of carbon dioxide.”
According to the BCTGA, each year one hectare of Christmas trees will absorb six tonnes of carbon dioxide. There are 30,000 hectares of Christmas trees growing in the UK, which equates to 180,000 tonnes of carbon dioxide per year.
And the benefits don’t stop there. Once Christmas has passed and you no longer want an enormous tree in your house, especially one that has begun to look a little withered, it can be taken to a local authority recycling site. By contrast, artificial trees are non-biodegradable, and if you eventually tire of the gold and silver mixed tree you bought on a whim, which now looks horribly dated and a little worse for wear, it will be thrown away and languish in a landfill for centuries.
When we say Christmas tree, what most people immediately think of is a Norway Spruce. This has the traditional Christmas tree shape. It also has a reputation for dropping its needles, which in the past has put a few people off, to the extent that sales of this variety have fallen in recent years. Despite this, it is possible with some home care tips to ensure that the Norway Spruce has the right environment to survive in good shape right into the New Year.
Avoiding needle loss
If you want to avoid needle loss completely then Hans Alexandersen of Santa Fir, near Guildford, which has 600,000 trees and is popular with stars such as Eric Clapton and Chris Evans, says you’d be better off opting for a Nordman Fir.
“This is the only variety that we grow because increasingly this is the one that people want,” he says. “It might have a different shape to a traditional Norway Spruce, growing in a more sectional manner, but it still looks great. The attraction of this tree is that it has amazing needle retention. It will look as good on the twelfth day of Christmas as it did when it was cut from the ground.”
It makes sense to go to a local grower because not only can you then
guarantee that the tree has not been imported, something that is not certain with a tree bought from a supermarket or garden centre, you can also be sure that the tree is fresh. Most of the trees grown in local farms are cut or dug just days before sale, or sometimes even on the day itself. By contrast, imported trees and those that have been transported from large farms to sales points within the UK are often cut weeks in advance, which can be detrimental to their ability to thrive indoors.
How to choose
When December comes around, Caroline Smith of Crockford Bridge Farm, near Weybridge, says that choosing a real Christmas tree couldn’t be easier.
“All our trees are free standing on buried spikes, to make selection easier,” she says. “You can really see the Christmas tree before you buy. Once you have chosen your tree, it is simply lifted off its spike and wrapped for you to make transportation more convenient. Of course, if you prefer, you can even cut or dig your own Christmas tree, an American tradition that is catching on here.”
Real Christmas trees are a beautiful sight. Their smell, feel and shape cannot be matched by anything made in a factory and, in these eco-aware times, you’ll be doing your bit for the environment, too, if you choose to buy one. Just make sure you measure your room before popping down to the farm because, believe me, the effect of a real tree is slightly marred if it’s been hacked to bits just to get it to fit into your lounge...
Surrey Christmas tree suppliers
Milford Road, Elstead, Godalming
Tel: 01252 702109
Santa Fir Tree Farm
Tel: 01483 268296
Crockford Bridge Farm
New Haw Road, Addlestone, near Weybridge
Tel: 01932 853 886
Care for a Christmas tree
>> The Christmas tree should be located near a wall or corner where it is not likely to be knocked over.
>> Keeping the tree away from heat sources, such as radiators, wood stoves, fireplaces etc, will help to preserve freshness.
>> Use of lights that produce low heat, such as miniature lights, will reduce drying of the tree.
>> If possible, buy a stand that can take water. If you are able to water the tree, it will last longer and stay fresher.
>> Try not to move the tree once you’ve set it up.
Other local suppliers:
>> The Forestry Commission sells Christmas trees through its sales centre at Alice Hold Woodland Park, at Bucks Horn Oak, Farnham. www.fcchristmastrees.co.uk
>> It’s also worth checking out local garden centres, but do ask whether the trees have been imported. If they are grown locally, they will be fresher and will therefore last longer
>> Many farmers’ markets also stock Christmas trees