Christmas is on the mind of the Courtneys’ long before December comes around the corner.
Maintaining their Christmas Tree Farm in Puriri is a full-time job, and the months leading up to the holiday season are spent pruning and spraying and decorating.
But the effort is manifested in the pines – standing proud like sentinels along the aisles – and in the decoration barn, which bursts with baubles, lights, and bells.
The Christmas Tree Farm was developed by Keith and Lynne Courtney in 1995. They have since passed their knowledge on to Clark and Miriam Courtney who have seen the farm go from strength to strength throughout the years.
“This farm is very unique,” Clark said. “I think we’re one of the only Christmas tree farms and decoration barns in NZ, and we try to make it for everyone.
“People don’t always need to come and buy a tree or decorations; they can come have a picnic on the lawn or walk through the trees.
“It’s for people who just love Christmas,” he said.
White tags are scattered around the 11-acre farm from people laying claim to a tree. There are about 3,000 of them: Douglas Fir, NZ Pine, Japanese Cedar, and Norwegian Spruce.
Tall, short, fat, skinny, the farm has it all.
“[Choosing a tree] is just a personal preference. Over the years we’ve seen people take three hours to pick out a tree, and then go back to the first one they saw,” Clark said.
“Everyone apologises for taking their time, but I quite enjoy seeing them come out and wander through the trees.”
The pines take at least three-and-a-half years to grow to size, and range from 5ft to 10ft.
It’s as if they have each gone through a giant pencil sharpener to create the aesthetically-pleasing pyramid shape, but instead, they are hand-cultured and individually trimmed by Clark himself.
The family also has an old barn on the Puriri property which has been converted into a Christmas decoration shop. Next door, children can write and send letters off to Santa.
The shop has been in existence for around 20 years, but has grown by leaps and bounds since its inception.
“We’ve got old photos of our decoration barn … but it wasn’t a decoration barn back then,” Clark recalled.
“We had one little stand of decorations just on the front lawn, and we’ve got people that still remember those days, coming to look at the stand at the front of the house.
“Now we have people standing in the doorway of the barn aghast and filled with wonder, and that’s what we work for. We work for that moment.”
Clark and Miriam have three children aged 16, 14, and 10 who also “live and breathe” Christmas trees.
It’s all hands on deck now that the farm is open daily until Christmas Eve.
“This is a locally-grown family business, and I think this year, more than anything, people are very aware of supporting local businesses,” Miriam said.
Courtneys’ Christmas Tree Farm is located at 40 Puriri Valley Road, off State Highway 26, with the turn-off well signposted.
The farm is open to the public every day from 9am to 6pm, Monday to Friday, and 9am to 7pm Saturday and Sunday, until Christmas Eve when it will close at lunchtime.
All information about the trees, opening hours and online shopping is available at: www.christmastree.co.nz
By KELLEY TANTAU
PHOTO: Clark and Miriam Courtney took over the running of the family-owned farm from Clark’s parents around eight years ago.