The pictures that show Christmas is just around the corner: Pine tree is airlifted from forest as gardeners harvest thousands of red poinsettias

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  • 100 trees airlifted by helicopter from forest as location too remote to access
  • 12,000 poinsettias changed colour to magnificent red and ready to be sold

By Larisa Brown

PUBLISHED: 09:37 EST, 12 November 2012 | UPDATED: 11:52 EST, 12 November 2012

A beautiful sea of flaming red poinsettias and Christmas trees heading to family homes show the festive season is already under way.

In one part of the country, over 100 trees have been airlifted by helicopter from a forest as the location was deemed too remote to be accessed by tractor or crane.

Meanwhile in another, 12,000 of the popular festive plants have changed colour to their magnificent red and are ready to go on sale in a sign Christmas is just around the corner.

Christmas is on its way! 12,000 poinsettias, grown near Richmond, North Yorkshire, are having their final checks before they hit the shelves

Christmas is on its way! 12,000 poinsettias, grown near Richmond, North Yorkshire, are having their final checks before they hit the shelves

The festive plant has been growing under a constant temperature of 20C since June in huge greenhouses

The festive plant has been growing under a constant temperature of 20C since June in huge greenhouses

Paul Marshall, head gardener at Ravensworth Nursery in Richmond, North Yorkshire, has lovingly tended to the plants since the summer.

They have been kept in huge greenhouses at the constant temperature of 20C.

Poinsettias are traditionally given as gifts or used in displays at Christmas due to their vivid red and green foliage and the nursery is one of only a handful which now grow the plants due to the soaring cost of heating.

Mr Marshall said: 'The poinsettias arrived in June and they were just green plugs. We’ve had to keep them at a steady 20 degrees Celsius so they can grow.

'We’re one of only two or three nurseries that grow them now because of heating costs.

'We have a wood boiler for the heating which is carbon neutral so we’ve kept the greenhouse warm with that. They all changed at the same time so they look beautiful.

The flowers will be shipped out to supermarkets and garden centres across the country this week for the Christmas sales

'As soon as autumn starts and the nights grow longer they change to red automatically.

'Once they leave the nursery all the hard work is done, but to make them last over Christmas you shouldn’t water them too much, they like to be quite dry and warm.'

In Kielder forest in Northumberland, forestry chiefs went to huge efforts to move Christmas conifers by drafting in a helicopter.

The Sikta Spruce trees will be sent out to city and town centres nationwide and will soon be resting in living rooms across the UK.

Frances Armstrong, marketing manager for Elveden Farms, who organised last week's airlift, said: 'Normally, we take them out by tractor but we can't this year because the trees are in a different part of the forest which is difficult to access.

Forestry chiefs drafted in a helicopter to airlift Christmas conifers from a dense forest

Forestry chiefs drafted in a helicopter to airlift Christmas conifers from a dense forest

The Sikta Spruce trees, will be sent out to cities and town centres across the UK

The Sikta Spruce trees, will be sent out to cities and town centres across the UK

'From an environmental point of view, people might question the use of a helicopter but it allows us to harvest the same amount of trees in a day that would normally take two weeks to remove by tractor.

'We only needed the helicopter for two days whereas the process would normally take two weeks.

'The trees are usually sized between 28ft and 48ft but we have one this year which is 55ft.

'We have trees heading to St Paul's Cathedral in London as well as locations in Edinburgh and Glasgow. In total, we are sending trees to around 1000 towns across the country.

'We last had to use a helicopter at our site in Scotland about 10 years ago and we haven't used one since.'

Elveden Estate, who manage forests at sites in England and Scotland on behalf of the Forestry Commission, harvest around 10,000 Christmas trees each year, half of which are used for festive displays across the UK.

The rest are smaller, domestic trees for display in homes.

Weighing up to 2.2 tonnes, the harvested trees are all pre-selected, tagged by the customer and delivered to destinations across the country.

In January, once Christmas is over the trees will be recycled and used as either wood fuel or chipped for use as weed mulch, reducing the need for herbicides.

But despite the festive feel, swathes of the country can expect rain - rather than snow - for the rest of this week.

Over 100 trees were removed by chopper from Kielder forest in Thetford, Northumberland, as the location is too remote to be accessed by tractor or crane

Scotland has experienced up to four inches of rain in just over 36 hours, sparking flood warnings.

The Met Office issued a severe weather alert in western Scotland including Glasgow from 9am today to midnight tomorrow for 'heavy and persistent rain' and the threat of “disruption and localised flooding.'

Government forecasters predicted today would see 20-40mm of rain for most of Argyll and Lochaber, with 50mm on higher ground, with tomorrow  bringing another 15-25mm of rain in western and south-western Scotland, with 40-50mm on higher ground.

The Met Office said the soaking is being caused by the same low pressure system which dumped a record 14 inches’ November snow on New York state last week, with 60mph gales cutting power to 270,000 properties still recovering from Hurricane Sandy.

A tractor helps with the process of moving the heavy trees so they can reach people's homes in time for Christmas

A tractor helps with the process of moving the heavy trees so they can reach people's homes in time for Christmas

The low pressure swung across the Atlantic over the weekend. Weathermen said Northern Ireland will be soaked but northern England will see only drizzle, with the south cloudy and mainly dry at 12-13C highs.

Met Office forecaster Charlie Powell said: 'Quite a lot of rain will fall locally in western Scotland and people should take extra care.

'Falling on saturated ground, the public should be aware this rain could lead to localised disruption and flooding.'

Tonight it will be largely cloudy across the UK with outbreaks of rain and drizzle for the first part of the night.

However, the rain will become confined to the western fringes of England and Wales as well as north-west Scotland as the night progresses with a few heavy bursts possible.

Clear spells will develop in north-eastern areas towards dawn, as well as across the far south of England. A few patches of localised mist and fog will thicken elsewhere, towards the morning.

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