THEY travelled from the furthest corners of the UK and have spent a decade nurturing their perfect specimen – and today Britain’s best Christmas Tree growers went head to head in their national competition.
Out of more than 100 entrants, British Christmas Tree Growers’ Association member Andrew Ingram was declared the winner of the Champion Tree category and now has the honour of selecting a tree for Downing Street this year.
Andrew Ingram, from Christmas Tree Common in Oxfordshire, presented an impressive Lasiocarpa tree (a type of fir) at the peer-judged event, which was held today at Hole Park in Kent. It is the third time he has scooped the top prize.
Also emerging victorious and facing a trip to the Prime Minister’s residence this festive season is Hans Alexanderson, from Santa Fir Christmas Tree Farm in Guildford. He claimed a double win and was judged to have the Champion Wreath as well as the runner up position in the Champion Tree category.
Both growers will now visit Downing Street in the first week of December, where Andrew’s choice of 20ft tree will be positioned at the steps of Number 10, while the wreath will hang at the door throughout Christmas, and Hans’s selection of tree will stand within the Pillared Room.
The contest is now in its 17th year and is entirely managed by the British Christmas Tree Growers Association. It typically sees contenders from 18 to 80 coming together to showcase their trees and be judged by fellow members.
Each farmer, who will have spent around 10 years nurturing the tree to full ‘competition’ height, is able to enter categories including Best Nordman, Best Other Fir, Best Pine, Best Norway Spruce, Best Other Spruce, Best Container Grown, and Best Festive Wreath.
Finalists were permitted to submit only one tree into each category, and trees entered must be commercially cultivated and be 1.8 metres ( +/- 400mms) high from base to tip. Each is judged for foliage, colour, shape and marketability.
Andrew said: “We are delighted to have won for a third time. I’m also enormously pleased for Gary Walford, who is our manager and who selected the tree for the event. He’s the hands-on person and deserves the praise.”
Hans, who won with a Douglas Fir, said: “I am really thrilled. We swept the board on wreaths by winning the dressed and undressed category, and are really pleased that it was a Douglas Fir which won for the tree.
“We find the Douglas Fir goes down particularly well with our American customers at our Christmas Tree Farm as that’s a more common choice back in the States. I’m glad we chose to enter it today.”
Harry Brightwell, secretary of the British Christmas Tree Growers’ Association, said: “We’ve seen some exceptional entries in both the tree and wreath categories this year, so judging was certainly no easy task.
“Every one of our members puts a great deal of commitment into a year-round process of farming Christmas trees, so this event is a valuable opportunity for us to applaud their efforts and enable them to meet with their peers and compare notes on growing practices and the like.”
He added: “It’s very easy for someone unfamiliar with the world of Christmas tree growing to assume that they take relatively little time to reach full height, but they are easily a decade in the making.
“Our message this year to all festive lovers is to make choosing a tree a special event for the household – and to ‘Buy Real, Buy British’.”