The heat is on for Swindon company Needlefresh, as the family firm works seven days a week delivering 650,000 Christmas trees to retailers around the UK.

Based at Foxhill, Needlefresh is the largest Christmas tree company in the UK, and probably the largest of its type in Europe.

Managing director Christopher Hood said: “We have a sign on the wall that says, ‘You can’t cancel Christmas’ because whatever goes wrong, we have to put it right.”

From mid-November until the end of the first week in December, it is action stations for the company, which uses 800 Eddie Stobart lorries to collect hundreds of thousands of trees to deliver to major retailers up and down the country.

For four weeks, the team at Needlefresh work flat out making sure everything goes to plan.

“We all get in at 7.30am and we work till 7pm – and somebody is in seven days a week,” Christopher explained. “It’s like fighting a battle once a year – and then clearing up, and after that it all starts again.”

The business was founded 20 years ago by a group of dedicated growers, passionate about delivering quality Christmas trees.

Run by Christopher and his wife Nancie, with a team of seven including son George, the company sells 95 per cent of UK grown trees, raised by growers in north Scotland, around Inverness and Elgin.

They take the orders and organise all the deliveries, to well known retailers like Waitrose and Tesco, as well as small independent garden centres, such as Whitehall near Chippenham, and Dobbies at Cirencester.

“If we get the job right, we never actually see the Christmas trees,” Christopher said.

The tree growing cycle lasts up to 12 years, from planting to harvesting. All the trees are grown from specially selected seeds, which are nurtured into seedlings in specialist nurseries, before being planted.

Growers use as few chemicals as possible, and strive to be sustainable, planting at least two trees for each one harvested.

The business supplies Nordman fir, Noble fir and Fraser fir, which do not drop so many needles, as well as more traditional trees such as Norway spruce and Serbian spruce.

The Nordman fir is by far the most popular, because it retains needles well and it has glossy green foliage. Its needles are soft and family-friendly, which make it a pleasure to decorate, and it has tiered branches that are good for displaying decorations.

You can even find out where your Christmas tree was grown, if you type in the number on its label into the Needlefresh website.

“When the trees are cut, you need to leave it to rest at the stump for two or three days,” Christopher said. “If you don’t do that, the tree will still try to grow, so you need to give it time to shut down.

“Then it is packed and comes out the other end as fresh as when it was cut. From the moment it’s picked up and put into a net, to when it is delivered, is never more than three days.”

The business has a special computer programme linked with the office of Eddie Stobart in Carlisle, and with the offices of all the growers to make sure the harvest, packing, transportation and delivery goes smoothly in these busy few weeks.

And there is no slacking once Christmas is over. In January, paperwork must be sorted out, and in February and March, the major retailers are already planning the next Christmas.

The business started out in mobile office in 1996.

“Nancie is the company secretary, and we’ve brought up a family doing this,” Christopher said. “Both our sons are involved in the business too.”

While George is employed at Foxhill, Charlie works as a grower in Scotland.

By Christmas day, the team is ready for a rest. Christopher and Nancie have Nordman fir Christmas trees in their home – one in the hall and one in the living room.

For more information, tree care tips and decorating ideas, visit the website