Haskins, Ferndown boasts ?3,000 tree.

Families hoping to out-do their neighbours with decorations this Christmas have been admiring a three metre high illuminated apple tree with a ?2,999 price tag. Lit by more than 2,600 LED bulbs, the tree is by far the largest and most expensive festive decoration ever put on sale at the Ferndown branch of?Haskins Garden Centre.

However, despite the cost, which will likely see most customers opting for a traditional fir tree next month, the centre?s unusual centrepiece has already attracted interest from potential purchasers.

The company?s retail operations manager Dean Ridley said: ?It was the largest fibre optic decoration we could find, and the most expensive, and makes a fantastic focal point for our Christmas department. As an apple tree it is fitting for a garden centre.

?It has already been wowing the crowds and is a hit with children, but we have had some people interested in buying it too.

?No one has quite committed to buying one yet though.?

Mr Ridley said Christmas was big business for garden centres these days. ?With the demise of Woolworths particularly there aren?t many places to pick up really nice decorations, and garden centres have taken on that mantle,? he said.

?Despite a bad start to the year for most garden centres due to the cold weather through Spring, we expect that our Christmas department will be a boost to our turnover.?

The store has offered free delivery for the purchaser of the weather-proof illuminated tree. Apple trees are widely associated with the festive season in Dorset and the West Country, thanks to the old folk tradition of wassailing ? wishing good health to the trees ? usually on Twelfth Night in January.

The centre is holding a Christmas evening with Father Christmas and storytelling from 4.30pm to 7.30pm on Thursday, December 5.

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