Big thank you from

Jenny Monroe speaks Brian Donaldson

Brian DonaldsonBrian Donaldson, 44, owns Greenmount Christmas tree farm located at 185 Comber Road, outside Lisburn. The local man is married to Dawn and has four children.

Having pursued a successful career as a tree surgeon he decided to start up a Christmas tree farm on his property in 1989.

Brian will have his hopes for the whole year pinned on the first three weeks in December as this is when he does all his trade. Despite the chilly conditions he is working from dawn till dusk to ensure his stock is in prime condition.

In December I am usually awake at 5.30am. I have some breakfast and then I go out into the fields and begin cutting trees and restocking.

It's hard to replenish the yard with trees during the day with so many people about so I like to do as much as possible early on.

The trees are selected for cutting first of all and then my team and I start to cut them down and load them into cages.

The trees are brought into the yard and sorted into sizes and varieties. Then they are placed in special pens. Doing this makes it a lot easier for the customer when they are deciding on what type and size of tree they want.

I supply various sizes to cater for the different needs of the customers. The four main varieties are Noble Fir. Norway Spruce, Lodgepole Pine and the Scots Pine.

The most popular tree is still the traditional Norway Spruce which accounts for a large proportion of sales but the Noble Fir is increasingly popular too. The Lodgepole Pine has a magnificent smell. I'm ready for the Christmas rush. My first customers have already arrived. People normally start coming to buy the trees during the last week in November and it's then really busy during the first weeks of December.

However, trees also go out before that as buildings such as pubs and restaurants start to get ready for the festive season.

Throughout the day people come into the yard so most of my time is taken up with selling. It does get very busy at times. It we run out of trees myself and another person will have to go into the fields and bring more up.

December is always busy so I don't have a set time for a break or lunch, in fact I tend to eat on the go.

Throughout the day I answer customers queries. help them select trees and give advice on how to keep them fresh. I always advise my customers to make sure their tree is well watered and not placed bedside a radiator.

Once a tree has been selected it will be netted and loaded into the customers vehicle and payment taken.

The yard is child friendly and we have ducks, geese and doves so I have to make sure the animals are looked after and provide a safe environment for them and my customers.

I also sell wreaths so in between selling trees I help put together the wreaths which are made from scratch. I gather the raw materials such as moss, twigs, cones and wood slithers if I am making the woodland themed wreaths and then decorate them accordingly.

The holly wreaths we sell are popular too.

Once the wreaths are made they are displayed in the barn where customers can also purchase special Christmas tree stands.

The farm is open from 9am to 9pm Monday to Friday. On Saturdays it opens from 9.00am to 6.00pm and on Sundays from 10.00am to 5.00pm so I am kept busy.

As well as dealing with the customers at the yard I also take orders over the phone from people. Very often interior designers and other organisations ring me to order trees for outlets such as shopping centres, pubs, hotels and other big establishments such as Hillsborough Castle.

When the farm closes I have some dinner and then get back to work - preparing bulk orders which I haven't had a chance to finish, and maybe replenishing the stock.

By the end of each day I am wrecked and after a chat with my wife and children I head to bed.

Ulster Star