Grow Your Own: Christmas trees

Grow Your Own: Christmas trees

Going green with Christmas trees - Darren Venables, head gardener at Chewton Glen, gives priority to sustainability.

What most people don’t know is that Christmas preparations for me start in January as we are taking down the decorations and trees from the previous year. I will talk to the other managers in the hotel and see if there are any other areas of the hotel that would either benefit from Christmas tree displays or if there are any changes needed to make the hotel’s displays even better next year.

With that in mind I will then start planning how many trees we need and what sizes are required in June; believe it or not this is when the trees are actually ordered.

This year we have used 278 Christmas trees of which 235 will be replanted back in the grounds. The biggest of these trees is around 16 foot and the smallest 16 inches. The trees come from three different local nurseries, Everton Nurseries supply me with the majority of the hotel’s cut Christmas trees as well as the larger potted trees. Shallowmead Nurseries supply me with the small pot-grown Christmas trees for the rooms, which they grow especially for me, which I always think is lovely. Finally MacPennys in Bransgore supply the two really huge cut Christmas trees for the main hall.
The numbers of trees we use over the Christmas period is huge and certainly a far cry from the 30 cut Christmas trees I used to order for the hotel, 20 plus years ago when I first started to order them. I think this shows just how much the hotel has grown over the years.

In order to maintain the trees looking 100 per cent for the Christmas period we do several things. Every tree is watered every two days, even the cut Christmas trees absorb a massive amount of water, the big tree in the main hall for instance will use seven litres of water every time. The next thing is that all the indoor Christmas trees in the hotel are changed for fresh new trees just before Christmas so the trees look fresh and new for all the guests staying over Christmas and New Year.

Over the years as the hotel has grown along with my interest in ecology we do things very differently not just in terms of numbers of trees, but also in terms of sustainability. Of the 278 trees, 235 will have roots on them which will mean they can be replanted in the grounds and allowed to grow and thrive. This year these trees will be planted in and around the Tree House car ports. For many months we have been using this area to feed the birds and so by adding lots of pine trees to this area it will also mean the birds can nest as well; the Nordman pines will form a dense evergreen canopy that’s ideal for nesting birds.

The remaining 43 cut trees will be recycled in two ways, some of the trees that are changed before Christmas will be used by Corbin’s Florists to create beautiful Christmas decorations for the hotel or they will be used as decorations on buffet tables. The remaining trees have the branches removed and these are then stacked on top of each other to form a large pile of braches which we call an environmental habitat.  These habitats are used to release hedgehogs, but to be honest they are taken over very quickly by the hotel’s existing hedgehogs. They are also used by birds such as robins to nest in, and because so many bugs inhabit them so quickly it is amazing to see how soon birds start to use them as feeding areas.
So the great thing is although we now have 10 times as many trees as we did 20 years ago the actual wasted trees at the end of the Christmas period is less and the hotels grounds are enriched every year with more and more trees planted in them.

Happy Christmas.