Operation festive: Inside our real Xmas tree industry
There is a scurry of commotion as the tree-laden B-double truck pulls up to the warehouse.
Any one of the 650 sold out pine trees on board could be about to go to the home of Chris Hemsworth - or to a regular family down the road - but they all get the star treatment.
Individually wrapped in netting to protect their needles on the trip up from Victoria, the trees are carried straight off the truck and popped down to be measured, watered and trimmed.
Part of a growing industry, the live Christmas tree business is booming with some vendors, like Mark Cameron from Gold Coast Christmas Trees, reporting up to a 25 per cent increase in demand. last year alone.
It takes about four hours for Mr Cameron, 57, and his 14 employees to offload, manicure and ensure the freshly cut trees are in perfect condition, ready to be delivered to excited families or collected from the Gold Coast Christmas Trees outlet at 7 Taree St, Burleigh Heads.
First, the pinus radiata trees - grown specifically for Christmas - have about 1cm of their trunk shaved off before the plant is placed into a bucket of water and hosed down.
They are placed in their appropriate size categories, from young one metre trees in pots up to 2.4m tall pines.
With about 97 per cent of orders made online throughout the year, Mr Cameron said he had ordered more than 2000 trees, up from 1650 last year.
The 2019 total was a record 25 per cent increase in sales over 2018.
The North American Pinus radiata, also known as Monterey pines, is the species of choice among Australian Christmas tree farmers, as the pines tolerate the climate well.
Despite all farms releasing extra plants this year to cater for a growing demand for real Christmas trees, the most popular 2.4m tall ones had still sold out by mid-November, a sentiment echoed by tree farmers and vendors around southeast Queensland.
Before many of the perennial plants hit warehouses or head into loungerooms, they start out on massive farms, such as the Kingaroy-based Chrissy Trees 4 U one owned by Debbie and Chris Bunker, just a few hours' drive from Brisbane in the South Burnett region.
Mrs Bunker, 50, said they welcomed hundreds of visitors to their 12,000-tree farm, at 328 Reedy Creek Rd, Kingaroy, over two weekends in November.
Each visitor wandered around the section of the farm that had trees old enough for this year - ones about four or five years old - and hand selected their preferred tree in a process called pre-tagging.
Mrs Bunker said they had doubled production this year, with 2000 potted trees and about 1500 cut pines ready for this year.
"We have 12,000 trees at different stages on the property," she said.
"People can order online and can come out and pick their own tree.
"We have also grown another 2000 in pots, so people can buy trees of up to 1m or 2m in pots.
"We sell a lot of these ones to places like Big W."
Mrs Bunker said the buyers then return this month to pick up the freshly cut tree, or they can have it delivered to a central collection point close to their home.
Anyone who has not pre-ordered can stop by the farm from now through to Christmas to choose any remaining cut trees.
About three hours south of Kingaroy, Katrina and Brad Fraser from the Granite Belt Christmas Farm had already sold 100 freshly cut trees, out of the 2500 available this year - 500 more than last year - within an hour of starting their annual harvest on December 1.
Mrs Fraser, 34, said while pre-ordered trees would be delivered in coming weeks, visitors to the 15,000 tree farm from now through to December 23 could select trees on a first come, first served basis, in toned down scenes reminiscent of the famous National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation movie.
"We usually always have a harvest weekend, like a festival, for our first weekend, but with COVID we opened earlier this year to spread people out more, as we can have thousands over the one weekend usually," she said.
Although the Granite Belt Tree Farm, at 321 Aerodrome Rd, Applethorpe, is open year-round to visitors, Mrs Fraser said families loved choosing their own tree closer to the festive season.
"Coming to the farm is very much a family tradition for many," she said.
"It's so magical so running through row and rows of trees."
Armed with chainsaws, Mr Fraser, 36, and Kyle Brown, 39, slice down the trees once a buyer has selected one, pop it onto a quad bike with a trailer and head to the shed.
There the tree is placed into a netting machine to ensure it is bundled up for the families to take home.
In a process that takes a combined total of four months, Mr Fraser prunes the trees four times a year to ensure they keep the triangular shape associated with Christmas trees.
Both Chrissy Trees 4 U and the Granite Belt Christmas Farm also have picnic areas and Christmas shops on-site.
Animal feeding and a visit from Santa Claus will also be part of a family fun day at the Granite Belt Christmas Farm on December 12.
INCREASED DEMAND FOR REAL CHRISTMAS TREES
For those who cannot get out to a tree farm, there are still options closer to the city.
On the Sunshine Coast, Amber Denny from Merry Christmas Trees said their first shipment of pinus radiate trees also arrived from Victoria this week.
Ms Denny, 44, said about 1000 trees had been ordered this season, but like other vendors, their most popular, pre-ordered sized 2.4m trees had already sold out.
Merry Christmas Trees co-owner, Viktor Molhanec, said there had been a "huge spike" in online sales this year with about 80 per cent of their stock sold upfront.
Mr Molhanec, 42, who has operated the business with partner Jordanna Rosenbrock since 2009, said the seasonal shop was unique in that it was a pop-up Christmas tree shop.
"It's a pop up shop in terms of it just pops up somewhere on the Sunny Coast," he said.
"We find a shed for short term lease and sell the trees from there.
"We generally open on the last weekend in November and are open until Christmas Eve or until we sell out."
This year, the trees are available from Unit 3, 15 Page St, Kunda Park, in Buderim.
"It's very popular this year I think in part because lots of people are staying home for Christmas … and want to make it extra special because of the type of year it has been," she said.
Mr Cameron, from Gold Coast Christmas Trees, agreed with the sentiments.
"I've had people say this is the first time in 14 years I've been in Australia for Christmas because I can't go off skiing in Japan or Europe."
"They want the real tree. They have a great smell, everyone mentions how good the smell is and a number of people say the reason they get a real tree is because it smells so beautiful."
Gold Coast Christmas Trees
7 Taree St, Burleigh Heads.
Trees start at $95 and go up to $850 for fully decorated, 2.4m versions, under the company's gold service program.
Chrissy Trees 4 U
328 Reedy Creek Rd, Kingaroy.
Prices from $60-$180.
Granite Belt Christmas Trees
Prices from $30-$200.
Merry Christmas Trees
Unit 3, 15 Page St, Kunda Park, Buderim.
Prices from $99-$200.
Originally published as Operation festive: Inside QLD's real Xmas tree industry