Selling trees grown at Wakehurst Place
In the last six years we have planted 12,500 trees worth almost £150,000 at retail prices. Trees are sold by the shops at both Wakehurst Place and Kew Gardens. Linda Partrick, who manages the Wakehurst shop, has seen sales rise from 140 trees in 1994 to more than 500 last Christmas, but says, 'It has not been easy understanding what our customers like. As well as selling traditional Norway spruce we are trying to create a niche by selling unusual trees, in some cases species that are not available elsewhere. Our range of species means there are shapes and colours for all tastes.' Her personal favourite is the Nordman fir.
The first Friends of Kew 'dig your own' event taught us at lot. We had decided not to retail our crop of Douglas fir - we did not think they were good enough - but it proved to be the most popular dig your own tree. We were in time to cut 40 for retail and they were sold as soon as we delivered them. Last Christmas, Friends dug and cut trees that varied from a 5 metre giant redwood to a 30 centimetre corkbark fir. 'You can't predict what people will choose,' says Amanda Millar, the Friends co-ordinator at Wakehurst. 'But even the youngest child takes part in the selection and several families choose two.'
The Christmas tree project at Wakehurst will continue to develop as we learn more about which species will thrive with us and attract customers. We have also started to grow eight holly varieties that form a windbreak within the Christmas tree plantations. Berrying varieties with red, yellow and orange fruits also combine gold and silver variegation and vary in thorniness from a veritable hedgehog through to almost spineless. We will also sell mistletoe but it is a rare plant at Wakehurst and we are not planning to cultivate it.
When organising your family's Christmas this year remember to search out a real tree, preferably one from the Wakehurst Place plantations. If not look for the British Christmas Tree Growers Association label that indicates the tree was grown in the UK and be sure to recycle your tree by chipping it at Kew or Wakehurst Place, or your local authority's centre.