Louise Burks and her team at The Gardens Group start to think about Christmas just as most people are packing away the tinsel. A year in advance, in January each year, Louise plans and designs the next year's displays and then she starts the magical part - the massive Christmas list of baubles, sparkling crystals, candles and trees and all the tiny little extras that children especially love. After 20 years of 'creating' Christmas, Louise and Mike Burks' still manage to pull the unexpected out of the sparkly top hat.
"The Christmas and home living team begins by visiting various trade shows during January and February, travelling between Harrogate, Birmingham and Germany, picking up ideas and thinking about themes and for Castle, Brimsmore and Poundbury Gardens," explains Louise.
"Sometimes we are immediately struck by a theme or a colour and a member of the team will mention something they think would work, like the Diagon Alley inspired themes in this year's displays. We'll then spend time researching decorations and finding the right props to make the displays come alive or we'll find five or six baubles or decorations from the shows and think of a theme which links them all. Every year we use more than 50 suppliers, some are very small businesses and we find little gems such as olive wood nativities made in Bethlehem or beautiful baubles hand painted in Kashmir" said Louise.
Visitors to the displays this year can travel through 1970's themed rooms, Peter Pan's bedroom and end up in front of the judges of Strictly Come Dancing. Building starts at Poundbury, then Brimsmore and finally Castle Gardens and the team has just seven days to build each display "By mid-October all the displays are open and hundreds of people come each day, many coming back year after year and with children and grandchildren, we always think of children and what will be magical for them," added Louise.
"People travel miles to see our displays so we make sure they're different each year, with traditional Christmas scenes and red and gold, holly swags and wreathes always playing a central role and fun, quirky bits positioned in-between. It's a great time of year as it gathers the whole team together, there's so much to be done, everyone gets involved pricing baubles, hanging fairy lights and building sets, it's a whole team effort. Fingers crossed for an award this year," finished Louise.