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Nightmare before Christmas for garden centre staff

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Aberfeldy Nurseries makes the best of a bad bunch of Christmas trees that suffered some damage upon delivery to the island. Pictured is Steph Brown, who finds a gem in the unfortunate delivery (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

A popular garden centre is scrambling to appease shoppers after its first shipment of Christmas trees arrived damaged.

Aberfeldy Nurseries in Paget took in a shipment of more than 500 trees to sell over the weekend — but staff got a shock when they opened the container

“The container arrived from New Jersey last Thursday. When we opened it on Saturday for the customs inspection, steam came out,” said Julie Greaves, the general manager of the garden centre. “It was like a sauna inside.”

Aberfeldy had requested a lined container to preserve the Fraser firs.

Instead, many of the trees in its delivery arrived in a state of heat shock. Staff had to organise hundreds of refunds or secure customers a free tree from the next shipment.

Local suppliers of Christmas trees, which for Aberfeldy start at $145, always take a gamble that shipments of the festive favourites come in on time and in good condition.

Aberfeldy Nurseries makes the best of bad bunch of Christmas trees that suffered some damage while being delivered to the island (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

Ms Greaves said: “There’s a very large element of risk. You take it in good faith that you’ll get a good supply, that everything goes well with shipping.”

She was able to review a video of the Bermuda-bound container getting loaded on to the ship.

However, even though they found some “lovely trees”, many were “just brown” on arrival.

“The trees are not dead but when they go into heat shock, they’re just brown,” Ms Greaves said.

“Hot air rises, so the trees that were on the bottom did better, but a lot of people had pre-ordered and some were really upset.

“We are doing our best to replace the trees but obviously there are some quite upset people.”

The imported trees run a gauntlet of threats: there were anxieties last year that global supply problems would leave the island short — although enough trees arrived in the end. Few were available for the 2021 season.

Aberfeldy Nurseries makes the best of a bad bunch of Christmas trees that suffered some damage upon delivery to the island. Pictured is Trent Smith (Photograph by Blaire Simmons)

The trees have to be checked for infestation and on rare occasions entire shipments have been seized because they harboured pests.

Other Christmas favourites have been known to run out, such as the poinsettia plants that were almost wiped out in 2014 by the back-to-back hurricanes Fay and Gonzalo.

Two more containers of trees are on their way to Aberfeldy, Ms Greaves said.

“The container this weekend will be packed with snow and will be lined. We have another coming the following weekend.”

With so many singed trees in the first delivery, two members of staff at the garden centre have been busy calling customers to come up with alternate arrangements.

“It’s really disappointing for us, but we’re trying to do the best we can,” Ms Greaves said.

However, Poinsettia stocks are in good supply this year and have sold well.

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Published November 28, 2023 at 7:59 am (Updated November 28, 2023 at 7:29 am)

Nightmare before Christmas for garden centre staff

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