For many, the smell of pine evokes childhood memories of Christmas, and it’s a big part of why more Queensland families are choosing a real tree over the plastic alternative this year.  

For southern Queensland farmers Brad and Katrina Fraser, Christmas Day can’t come soon enough after a “crazy and hectic” year.

It’ll be the first break the Christmas tree farmers from Stanthorpe, in Queensland Granite Belt, will get after unprecedented demand over the past few weeks.

“I think everyone’s just really out to have a grand Christmas, so they’re really looking for just spending time with the family and just really making that special.”

Ms Fraser said hundreds of trees had been sold in just under three weeks to families in Brisbane, Toowoomba and on the Gold and Sunshine coasts.

Christmas trees cut down and piled up

Growers have sold out of Christmas trees in 2021. (ABC Southern Qld: David Chen)

“If you’re putting an artificial tree out … there’s nothing really much to remember about that.

“Whereas coming and doing the drive to the farm and then going and picking your special tree … that in itself is a pretty big gift for a child.”

Sales double

Retailers in Bundaberg said real Christmas trees had also flown off the shelves this year, with suppliers unable to meet the demand.

“We were quite surprised, we doubled the amount we sold last year,” said Bundaberg produce shop owner Kate Rehbein.

A woman wearing a floral dress stands in front of a Christmas tree.

Bundaberg produce shop owner Kate Rehbein says the sale of Christmas trees has doubled in 2021.(ABC Wide Bay: Johanna Marie)

“We’re already planning for next year to put a bigger order in for more trees.”

At $95 for a standard 7ft tree, they don’t come cheap, but that clearly hasn’t deterred people.

For Bundaberg local Larine Statham-Blair, bringing home a real Christmas tree was a special tradition.

Three children and their mother sit in front of a Christmas tree

Bundaberg resident Larine Statham-Blair is one of the hundreds of Queenslanders who have bought a real Christmas tree this year.(ABC Wide Bay: Johanna Marie)

“When I was a kid, my parents used to get real trees, and the smell of the pine just reminds me of Christmas,” she said.

As Mrs Statham-Blair explains, that like a bouquet of flowers, the pine trees require watering and can last into the new year.

Niche industry

The Christmas tree industry in Queensland is small, with just three farms in the state compared to Victoria where the growing conditions are better suited for the plants.

The past few years have been tough for the Frasers due to a drought on the Granite Belt, but the trees this year have been the greenest ever due to recent rain.

“They’re looking better as a tree, they’re a bit easier for me to work with, it’s just a different world.”

A woman smiling, wearing a Christmas hat

Granite Belt Christmas tree farm owner Katrina Fraser says the smell of the trees has been a major drawcard for families.(ABC Southern Qld: David Chen)

Ms Fraser said it was rewarding to now see their hard work paying off.

“To get to saleable size … it takes five years for us to harvest our first crop,” Ms Fraser said.

“It takes lots of work, the trees have to be pruned four to five times a year, that’s all done by hand.

Get in early next year

Ms Fraser said it was too late this year for families thinking of getting a real Christmas tree.

But for those hoping to get one next year, she said November was the perfect time to begin planning.

“We do suggest getting in in the first two weeks [of November] and you are guaranteed a tree,” she said.

“Don’t leave it a week or two out [from Christmas] just to avoid that disappointment.”

‘It’s the smell of Christmas’: Pine scent fills homes as demand for real trees grows
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