Island Life Magazine Ltd December 2008/January 2009 - Page 80

life GARDENING Branching out for the environment Roz Whistance meets the lady making Christmas happen at Thompson’s “I don’t think people realise how much is grown on the Isle of Wight,” says Ursula Thompson. We have been watching the cutting of the first Christmas trees of the season at their Christmas tree farm, and Ursula is laying to rest some of those “real or artificial” niggles that still persist. Is it environmentally sound to cut off a tree in its prime just to enjoy it for a couple of weeks before Christmas? “It’s a crop like any other,” says Ursula, “and we are constantly replanting. I think the Isle of Wight is going to have a wonderful environment soon: the trees attract so much wildlife.” When she and her husband, David Thompson, took over the farm where they now grow their trees, he invigorated the soil with large quantities of organic material, and they are seeing the results: earthworms, birds 80 and wildflowers are making an active return, and even red squirrels are hovering on the sidelines. Then of course trees absorb carbon dioxide. It is reckoned that each acre of Christmas trees gives off enough oxygen each year to meet the needs of 16 people. So somehow when you see the display of trees at Thompson’s, you feel a great sense of relief. You also feel festive and jolly, and frankly bowled over by scent of pine. The huge variety of trees that are there also knocks you for six. In the past the most popular tree was the Norway Spruce: it grows quickly, so can be more cost effective, which means it is a lower priced tree. The scent is lovely, but it’s reputation is slightly tarnished for dropping needles. “When they used to be imported from Denmark they were often cut at the beginning of October and by the time they got to the UK they’d been stacked on crates, they weren’t fresh and there was a problem with nee dle drop,” Ursula explains. However, as Thompsons cut their trees fresh each week, they should not drop needles, as long the tree stand has a water reservoir, and isn’t near a radiator. However, non-drop varieties, such as the Nordman and the Frazer Firs, were developed to counter the problem. The former takes longer to grow, so is more expensive than the Norway Spruce; the latter has a lovely bluey underside to the branches. If space is a problem, consider the Serbian Spruce for its lovely slim shape. Then there is the Blue Spruce, with its amazing colouring, but which is costly because it is so very slow growing. Thompson’s sells this as a pot-grown tree, The Island's new funky radio station www.wightfm.com