'Real' Christmas trees in favour

FESTIVE HARVEST: Bettina Romano of St Nick's Christmas Tree Farm has been rushed off her feet selling  Christmas trees.
FESTIVE HARVEST: Bettina Romano of St Nick's Christmas Tree Farm has been rushed off her feet selling Christmas trees.

Christmas is steeped in tradition and having a live tree to put your presents under appears to be as popular as ever among Nelsonians.

Despite artificial trees being available in stores, Nelson Christmas tree farmers say they have noticed no drop off in demand.

Bettina Romano, of St Nick's Christmas Tree Farm at Hira, said they had almost sold out of the radiata pine and douglas fir they grow on about half of their 4-hectare lifestyle block.

"It's been a good year and there has been more demand.

"People want real rather than artificial things. They like the smell of fresh pine even if it is only for two of three weeks of the year, it brings back their emotions."

Getting a tree from a farm was also a lot easier than taking the risk of getting caught pinching one from a forestry block.

She said they had sold about 400 trees for a set price of $15, to keep it within reach of families with modest incomes.

Mrs Romano, who also runs a fruit and vege shop in Nelson, said she and her husband started growing for the Christmas market 12 years ago as a way to make some money off their property.

Sheryl Wagner, of Red Baron Barn Xmas Tree Farm in Appleby, has been growing for 10 years and sells mainly to customers who return year after year.

They had a paddock of trees grown on a three-year rotation so they had enough for the next couple of years, and charged from $10 to $20, depending on size.

She said they were as busy as ever.

"People can't cut them down from forestry blocks any more so there are only places like this where you can get them now.

"You used to be able to go to Rabbit Island, but with all the health and safety rules they can't let groups in, which is a shame as it was a good fundraiser for schools."

Murray Russ, who has a plantation of 900 trees on Landsdowne Rd, said he had people turning up at his gate before he had even put out his sign at the start of this month.

"It started earlier this year and has been steady right through."

People, especially families with young children, still got a kick out of being able to wander around and choose and cut down their own tree, he said.

"Once you have one, all you need is a Christmas lily and you have the smell of Christmas."

It was a worthwhile business, particularly now that fewer people were supplying trees, and provided cashflow at a time when his firewood business was winding down for the year.

The Nelson Mail