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Rockin’ around Wairarapa Christmas tree farms

Paul Mallinson beside his wife’s favourite Christmas tree type, a Norway spruce. PHOTO/GIANINA SCHWANECKE

GIANINA SCHWANECKE
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It wouldn’t be Christmas without a tinselled Christmas tree to gather round.

For the past 15 years, Greytown couple Paul and Monica Mallinson have helped spread Christmas cheer through their business Classic Christmas Trees.

And in Gladstone Claire and James Bell are in their second year in the business.

The Mallinsons originally contemplated emu farming or growing olive trees on their 2.5ha plot but settled on Christmas tree farming after returning from several years in Monica’s home state in Alberta, Canada.

Paul said he was impressed by how prevalent the industry was over in the United States and Canada and realised Wairarapa’s sandy and loamy soils would be well suited.

“I was struck that everything here stays green, even through the winter,” he said.

They now have more than 5500 trees, including different pine, fir, spruce, cedar and cyprus species.

Monica said it was a bit of an adjustment getting used to a Kiwiana Christmas, where people are more likely to be found round the barbecue in shorts than nestled by a fire under the Christmas tree.

“We’ve got a green Christmas versus a white Christmas.”

Choosing a real Christmas tree helped recreate the Northern Christmases she grew up with.

“If you get a real Christmas tree you get the aromas,” she said. “People might still think it’s fake and want to touch it – it’s also the feel of it.”

Picking a tree from the Mallinsons was a Christmas tradition for many families.

“The same faces keep coming back,” Paul said. “Those memories will be with them for years.”

Each year they sell more than 700 trees during the Christmas period, and they get the odd customer through the year for weddings and mid-winter Christmas parties.

“We recently had an unusual request from a man to propose on the property because he and his girlfriend both loved the Christmas holidays,” Monica said.

British-born Claire Bell and her husband James have lived in Gladstone for the past 11 years.

A family of “Christmas nutters”, last year they decided to open Bell’s Boutique Christmas Trees.

They have about 2000 trees planted on their 1ha property.

Most are the kiwi classic and fragrant pine, but species also include Norway spruces, Douglas firs, white firs, blue spruces and ornate Oriental spruces.

“We have found it’s that last weekend that’s busiest but even had people coming last minute on Christmas Eve last year,” Claire said.

Running the Christmas tree farm was a dream come true for the family, she said.

“It’s quite lovely having them here. It’s a real feature of the house.”

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