Meet Our Tree Grower

“It’s important that the trees are bushy and have that classic A-shape, so we start pruning work in late winter and continue shaping until late spring.”
Kjeld Kristensen, Manager of Drynie Woodlands

Ever wondered why Christmas trees grow in pleasing triangle shapes? Kjeld Kristensen, manager of Drynie Woodlands, has the answer.


How did you get into forestry?

I studied agriculture at college in Denmark and became an arable farmer when I left, growing crops like potatoes. Nine years later, in 1988, I started work on a big estate where there was 500 hectares of woodland. They didn’t have a forester at the time, so I took on the role.

And how did you start in Christmas trees?

Part of my job as a forester included looking after some Christmas trees – as a result of that I built up a relationship with the owner of Drynies Woodland and was eventually offered the job of managing the site. It seemed like a good opportunity, so I moved to Scotland in 2000 with my wife and four children.

What types of Christmas trees do you grow?

We grow Nordmann fir, Fraser fir, Norway spruce, Noble fir and Blue spruce as cut trees and all of those, along with Korean fir, as pot-grown trees. We’re always experimenting and try different species in pots each year.

What’s the most popular Christmas tree?

Nordmann fir, by far – these account for 80% of our cut trees and 60% of those sold as pot-grown trees. People like its shape and the fact that it holds on to its needles well.

Why is Drynies Woodland a good site for Christmas trees?

It’s on the Black Isle, a peninsula north of Inverness, and we have an even temperature of about 15-16°C all year round. We avoid extreme cold weather due to our proximity to the Gulf Stream so we don’t get hard frosts, which can damage new growth in spring. Also, the soil here is very good for growing trees as it’s free draining and nutrient rich.

How do you harvest the trees?

It starts in August, really, when a team of 10 mark trees for harvesting. Then we start cutting them on 5th November and continue until 1st December. After cutting, we leave the trees in the field for three days to allow the cut end of the trunk to heal, preventing leaf loss. The total time from cutting trees to their arrival in-store is just five days.

Do the trees require much care during the rest of the year?

Yes! It’s important that trees are bushy and have that classic A-shape, so we start our pruning work in late winter and continue shaping the trees until late spring. In June, we pinch out buds to control the height of the leader (the tallest stem) and to ensure there are no competing shoots. We also feed them with a general-purpose fertiliser to promote vigour and healthy growth, although there’s no need for watering as it rains a lot up here.

How do you replace cut trees?

Christmas trees are grown like a crop, so we replace those that are cut every year. In spring we plant 30cm seedlings in the field and in pots – those in pots are ready for sale after five years, while trees grown in the ground can be sold in six or seven years, when they’re about five feet tall. Some are left for longer to grow taller.


Have you seen any big changes in the Christmas tree market since you started working in it?

Nobody used to be interested in buying pot-grown trees but these are really increasing in popularity, with some shoppers buying both a cut tree for indoors and a living tree for the garden. The Norway spruce used to be the bestseller, but its tendency to drop needles has led homeowners to favour Nordmann firs.

Can you predict any future trends?

I think that the shape of the tree will become more important. People will probably want narrower trees as homes are getting smaller and big, heavy trees would take up far too much space.

Would you ever display an artificial tree?

(Laughing) I’d never let an artificial tree in my house in a million years. I’ve always had a Nordmann fir, even when I was a boy growing up in Denmark. I’m sure if I came home with anything else, my family would throw it out of the house.

Words: Martyn Cox
Images: Roddy Mackay