Christmas trees and more at Rectory Farm in Milton
In the summer, the Rectory Farm shop in Milton boasts a unique 'Maize Maze', a maze made entirely out of corn. In the winter, Christmas trees are the primary focus and, over a two-month period, the family-run business sells around 1,500 pine-covered evergreens of varying sizes and specifications.
As well as trees, there is also a cafe, a shop and two very friendly reindeer that children can pet named Figgy and Pudding. All in all, a fun day out for all the family.
“To make a magical Christmas, the Christmas tree has got to be right,” said Rob Chapman, who runs the operation with his wife, Marilyn, “and it’s a very personal thing because everybody has a different idea as to how they want their Christmas tree to look.
“We just try and cater for everybody’s needs – some want it open, some want it very bushy and tight, some want it wide, some want it thin. Every tree is different.”
The experienced gardener continued: “85, 90 per cent of the trees now that we sell are the Nordmans because they are a much smarter tree.
“They grow into that traditional Christmas tree shape and hang on to their needles a lot better, so provided you keep them well-watered in the house, they will last all Christmas and well into the New Year.”
So do Christmas trees still shed their needles at an alarming rate these days?
“In years gone by, what we always sold was Norway spruce and when you touched them, so many needles would fall off,” recalled Rob.
“The Norway spruce has been so superseded now by the Nordman fir which actually hold their needles.
“Every tree will shed a few needles, but the Nordmans just hang on a lot more and you’re not going to get to Christmas Day and have a bald tree – you’ve still got a green tree to look at, which is very important.”
All the trees sold at Rectory Farm are grown in Montrose in Scotland. “They’re actually grown by a Danish grower,” revealed Rob. “There are a lot of Danes now in Scotland that have bought farms there and grow Christmas trees because originally a lot of our trees came from Denmark – they were the biggest grower of Christmas trees.”
Chapman and his team open up their winter business to the general public on the last weekend of November but the first two weekends of December is when the trees really start ‘flying off the shelves’.
“The main piece of advice I give to people when they’re buying a tree is be in a position to be able to water it,” said Rob.
“I always say to ladies who come and buy trees that if their partner bought them a bunch of flowers, what’s the first thing the lady does? She puts them in water. So what’s the difference between that and a Christmas tree? You’re taking a living thing home and putting it in a house and if you don’t water it, it’s going to be severely stressed and droop.”
Discussing current trends in Christmas trees, Rob noted: “People seem to be going bigger – definitely taller. So whereas previously people were buying five/six foots, this year they seem to be buying seven to eight foots.
“We’ve already picked that trend out and I’m not quite sure why that is.”
The trees for the household retail trade are pruned in June specifically to get them to a certain height.
Commercial trees are taller examples for use in schools and public places and are less manicured than their domestic counterparts.
An error people often make when purchasing a tree is believing it will fit in a particular room or area of their house, and then getting it home and realising it doesn’t.
“Underestimating the width of a tree I would say is one of the most common mistakes,” observed Rob, “because it can take up a lot of space.”
Asked what his company has to offer that makes it unique, Rob replied: “I think we offer a Christmas tree experience; we’re not here today, gone tomorrow. We’re here all the time so if anybody has a problem, they can immediately come back to us and we will deal with it.
“We’ve been selling Christmas trees for 25 years now on this site, so we like to think we have a reputation for quality, which has grown over the years. We have a great customer base that keeps coming back, year on year.
“We also sell the stands, we sell the decorations and people can come and see the reindeer, come and see the decorations – we’re a one-stop shop for your Christmas tree and we believe there are not so many people who offer that.
“We take our responsibility very seriously: selling a good tree that’s going to be the centrepiece of everybody’s Christmas, and we hope we provide the tree that makes for a magical Christmas.”