By Kim Reader

These stunning snaps reveal a sea of festive red made up of thousands and thousands of blooming poinsettias.

The gorgeous flame red flowers, which are officially the nation’s favourite Christmas bloom, are being harvested at Bordon Hill nurseries in Stratford Upon Avon.

Pete Goddard/Mercury Press

Growing the perfect poinsettias is a technical and labour-intensive process which starts in June as tiny cuttings are brought in from Mexico where the plant originates.

Once the cuttings have grown to full size in August, they are plunged into darkness for 14 hours a day for seven to eight weeks so the leaves turn from green to their signature shade of scarlet.

After months of hard work, the 50,000 square foot glass house is transformed into a vibrant blanket of festive red and the plants are ready to hit the shelves at shops like Marks & Spencer.

Bordon Hill’s Christmas blooms, which are M&S’s ‘largest and most beautiful’ poinsettias are always a favourite with shoppers and the retailer will sell around 7,000 a year.

Julia Bradley, senior product developer of flowers and plants for M&S, said: “Bordon Hill grow our largest and most beautiful poinsettias. They sell for £10.

“They start off as cuttings and then it’s actually the leaves that turn red and become the flowers. To turn them into their iconic festive red, the plants need a short day.

Pete Goddard/Mercury Press

“Bordon Hill have to cover the roof of the glass house for 14 hours a day to plunge the plants into darkness.

“During the seven to eight weeks it takes for them to turn red, you see a lots of colour variations. You can get beautiful white and pink flowers. We sell the other colours in September.

“Poinsettias are very temperamental plants. They don’t like being too wet or too dry, they hate draft or changes in temperature.

“So we work closely with the growers to make sure we pick the best and strongest plants for our customers so they take home a plant that is going to last. The quality has been really, really good this year.

“We have a longstanding relationship with Bordon Hill. We’ve worked with them for 30 years.

“As much as we can, we want to support British growers and they are one of the best poinsettia growers in the UK.

“They know exactly what standard of plant we are looking for. And we’re already working with them now ready for next year’s harvest.”

Pete Goddard/Mercury Press

As well as their large gift-wrapped poinsettias from Bordon Hill, M&S sell glitter-dusted flowers, poinsettia baskets and smaller plants.

In total, the high street store will sell around 625,000 plants this year, holding a 26 per cent share of the poinsettia market.

Julia believes the popularity of the flowers is down to their iconic Christmassy colouring and festive history.

Julia said: “Poinsettias are a classic Christmas plant. That big flash of festive red they bring into any home is just so typical of the season.

“They don’t just make homes feel festive, all our stores feel so festive at this time of year with all the poinsettias on sale brightening up the food halls.

“They are a brilliant way of bringing the outdoors inside for Christmas.

Pete Goddard/Mercury Press

“The plants are native to Mexico where you can see rows of huge poinsettia trees which is amazing. They have a long history of being associated with Christmas and they’re recognised as a festive flower all around the world.

“The story goes that a little girl took a poinsettia to church as an offering on Christmas Eve and they’ve been a Christmas tradition ever since.”