Prince Albert is often credited with the practice of bringing Christmas trees into the home, but he was merely adapting a practice from centuries before where foliage was brought in to the household to scare away evil spirits. But with Charles Dickens, we can safely say that the modern Christmas scene of gathering around the tree was a Victorian creation of the 19th century that soon spread across the Christian world. Today, throughout the world those celebrating Christmas, which is not restricted to the Christian community, display trees, including, perish the thought, plastic ones!
Christmas would not be complete without a tree under which the presents can be placed and beside which children will work themselves into a fever pitch of excitement in the build up to the big day.
Traditionally all Christmas trees were Norway spruce, because that was what was available in this country and whilst they still have a strong following, they are now largely superseded in the home by Nordmann fir, a native of the Caucasus which produces a soft broad foliage in layered form, usually more open in format than a Norway spruce.
Even the British Christmas Tree Growers Association (www.BCTGA.co.uk) has difficulty in calculating the number of trees that are sold in Great Britain in any given year, but approximately 50% of them are now thought to be grown in this country, with significant plantations in Scotland. Imported trees primarily come from Denmark, but across Britain there are specialist local growers producing bespoke trees for the local market and for anyone supporting the concept of “local”, UK trees or even Kentish ones are a must.
In Kent one such grower is Hole Park Estate, which has been growing trees for the last 60 years in Rolvenden. They are Produced in Kent’s only registered Christmas tree grower and are now gearing up for the 2018 season.
Second generation grower Edward Barham and his team, headed by Foreman David Purnell are carefully tending their extensive plantations ready for harvest.
Edward explains the success of the business. “Being close to our customer base, we can cut our trees at the last possible moment ensuring that they are fresh. At the same time, we can adapt the order to suit their special needs, adding particular trees for customers. We do not palletise our trees, a necessity for haulage of trees travelling long distances, which can damage and in extreme cases see whole pallets written off if they heat up, and so ours arrive both fresher and in better condition than many.
“As well as popular Nordmann and the traditional Norway, we grow a range of other tree species which may not have the same commercial success as their mass production brothers in but add a diversity and variety to our offer. Whilst we do retail a few trees, our business is primarily to supply a strong customer base of farm shops, greengrocers and traders in Kent, Sussex and South East London which includes several well-known PIK members such as Macknade Farm Shop. Faversham”. [ I have not yet sought approval to mention their name]
This year Edward’s trees have put on exceptional growth. The warm weather does not seem to have troubled them. Edward explains, “these trees originate from far warmer climes than ours, Norway spruce from southern Germany and Nordmann fir from Georgia. I don’t think there is anything exceptional to them about 30°C heat, so long as they still have moisture and in that respect our clay soils come to their assistance, retaining moisture far longer than most. There is no doubt that Kent has also been lucky in respect of the amount of rainfall we have received this summer. You might think it has been dry here, and it certainly has, but other areas have been far worse affected than us.
Edward and his team at Hole Park are looking forward to bumper harvest in 2018 and will be delighted to speak to PIK members who may be interested in trade trees, whether they require 1 tree to decorate the premises or 500 to sell.