Standard trays, which hardly say "gift", were the offered alternative but the lack of a lid makes handling difficult and posting out impossible. Apparently print runs are too large to get a new supply.
Trays of apples have proved very acceptable gifts when dropped in at the accountant, solicitor, doctor’s surgery, to a few of my bosses and members of the family. The value is not great but the price high enough to be an acceptable present. In offices it is a gift that can be shared. Is there not a case here for the Farm Shop Association or a grower cooperative to secure a bulk order to be split among growers and retailers?
Each tray could carry the Red Tractor and Union Jack British-grown emblems and be saleable not just for Christmas but pretty well from September to May. The top could have a see-through cellophane window to show several named cultivars in rows beneath.
Apples and pears presented in this way could also be attractive lines for garden centres. Indeed, some years ago PBI Garden Chemicals sent customers large boxes of Comice pears that proved most welcome.
Huge single apples and citrus in decorative boxes are given by the Japanese at dinner parties, much as we would take chocolates or a bottle of wine. The rather nice part of the Japanese custom is cutting up and sharing the fruit at the end of the meal. Growing large fruits for the Japanese market is a niche trade for their home and New Zealand growers.
Last month, with the help of the Bunkers at Alton Garden Centre, we decorated a 5ft Nordman Fir with brightly coloured apples. This sustainable means of decorating a tree proved very eye-catching and children loved it — keeping their fingers from scrumping the fruit proved quite a challenge.
Is it not time we did some vertical thinking and found ways to help promote home-grown produce, extending the "horticulture is good for your health" message?
Peter Seabrook is a gardening writer and broadcaster