HE MAY not have the long white beard and red suit, but Andrew Ingram certainly must have a touch of Christmas in his soul.

For a third year, the Oxfordshire Christmas tree-grower has won a national competition to supply the Christmas tree for No. 10 Downing Street.

Mr Ingram, 67, owns Tree Barn, a Christmas tree nursery at the aptly named Christmas Common, near Watlington.

The festive farm has twice before won the British Christmas Tree Growers’ Association competition – in 2011 and 2013.

This year Mr Ingram and his team saw off competition from more than 100 other Christmas tree growers to supply the Prime Minister’s pine.

He said he was delighted to have won the competition for a third time, but also paid tribute to his manager Gary Walford, who selected the tree for the contest.

He said: “I’m also enormously pleased for Gary.

“He’s the hands-on person and deserves the praise.”

The father-of-two went on: “It’s all about shape and lustre. It’s got to be perfect A-shape and it’s got to be either a nice, deep green, or, as in our case, blue.

“Everybody in the trade knows what a really good tree is, and we have got that tree.”

The tree that won Tree Barn the contest was a 10-year-old cork bark fir called Abies Lasiocarpa, a species originally from Arizona.

Mr Ingram added: “It’s got to have a perfect shape, you don’t want anything that’s anaemic. It needs to be a full tree, you don’t want anything spindly or with too few branches – it’s got to be dense.”

The competition held in Kent on Tuesday, October 20, was specifically for trees between five and eight feet tall, and growers from around the UK judged each other’s trees.

The tree that won the competition will not be the one that goes outside No. 10 – that will be more like 20ft high.

Mr Ingram will now visit Downing Street in the first week of December, when the tree he has chosen will be positioned at the steps of No. 10.

The contest, now in its 17th year, sees contenders from 18 to 80 come together to show off their trees and be judged by fellow members.

Each farmer will have spent about 10 years nurturing their tree to full competition height.

Each is judged for foliage, colour, shape and marketability.

Tree Barn is currently growing about 120,000 Christmas trees in several different plantations.