Getting the department store look even if you're on a dollar store budget: )
I learned all this from a dear friend of the family that had his own florist shop for a number of years. Christmas trees for public places was his specialty & he hired me to go along & help (and learn) one year. The next year he sent me out on my own lights & invoice in hand
I. The tree itself:
If you prefer artificial trees this step is a tad easier as they are manufactured to be perfectly straight, and now there are ones with lights built right in, saving lots of time. Find the size that suits you home (or dig it out of the attic) & assemble: ) easy.
If you prefer real trees there are a number of steps to shopping & setting up. First, have the tree salesman untie it completely
, give it a good shake to see if there are any gaping holes or flat spots, broken branches, etc. If you know it will be going up against a wall or in a corner these issues aren't as major. Feel it to see if there's moisture in the needles still, they should be plump & flexible. Needles will fall off a tree still planted, just make sure each branch isn't going half bald with a good shake.
Have your tree salesman cut 1/2 an inch off the bottom of the trunk, this removes the 'scab' so that the tree will draw water better. Do not delay getting your tree home & into water once this cut has been made.
You will also need to clear branches from the bottom 5- 8 inches to accommodate the tree stand.
When you get home, immediately put your tree in water, a bucket on the porch is fine. Warm water & if you choose to spend the extra dollar some tree preservative as well. Hose down your tree as well if you are in an area where there isn't freezing temperatures & snow already, spiders & ticks are not welcome houseguests! Go inside & get your stand ready while the tree dries & gets a nice drink. Now is a good time to check that all your lights are functioning, replace bad bulbs & fuses, etc.
When ready, bring in the tree & place it. Weight down your stand if necessary, fill the reservoir & put the tree skirt on now. Time to decorate!
Tree decorating falls into three phases, lights, ornaments & garlands. That is also the order that is best suited for a well decorated tree.
1. Lights: Again, if you have a pre-lit artificial, that's done for you, skip to the next section.
The rough guideline for how much lighting you need on your tree is this 100 lights per foot of tree. Make sure when purchasing your lights that you get strings that the lights are fairly close together. Many designed for outdoor use are spread 8-12 inches apart, where indoor varieties are 3-5 inches apart. Closer is better on the tree inside.
Safety folks say don't string more than three strings together, I agree. There are great extension cords with spread out outlets perfect for running up your tree's trunk, a twisty tie keeps this in place nicely.
Start at the top and work your way down.Don't go in straight lines
, do tight zig zags and / or loops. Roughly one foot circles are good for all but the very tip top of the tree.Go in & out
. As you make you zig zags or loops, push portions of the light string deep into the tree, then the next portion out to the edges again. Think of a Slinky pulled open & then placed on your tree.
If you use the 1000 lights per foot guideline it'll seem too much when you start at the top, that first string will probably cover the top 3-4 feet of tree. But as you get further down the depth of the tree will take up all the rest of the lights.
No matter your taste or style some basic guidelines work to give good balance & flow to the whole tree.
Have ornaments in a couple different sizes, all the same size everywhere is too repetitive.
Ornaments fall into three categories: base, secondary & feature.
Your 'base' will be something you have a lot of
, that will give shine & sparkle to the tree without taking away from your 'feature' ornaments. Figure out what your 'base' ornaments are. I'm a traditionalist so for me this is plain gold balls in several sizes.
Your 'secondary' are things you probably have less of, are often different colors or fancier than your base. I have red & silver stars, red balls with fancy gold glitter & bells.
Your 'feature' ornaments are the one of a kind & special keepsakes.
Start with the largest size of your base ornaments, put them all on the tree spreading them as evenly as possible. This is difficult when you have small children helping. Again, don't keep them on the surface of the tree, reach in and hang some midway down branches and then closer to the trunk. Fill in gaps, and if you are in a corner or against a wall don't ignore the back
. The back doesn't need as much, but it will fill in the appearance from the other angles the tree is viewed from. Don't do one side of the tree & then move around
, start anywhere & place opposite, then in the middle, etc, just filling in spaces. Go up & down just as randomly. Step back every five or so & walk around and look at it. once your big base ornaments are placed it will simply be a task of 'filling holes'.
Move to your medium sized base ornaments and repeat. Move to smaller base ornaments if you have multiple sizes.
Next, put your 'secondary' ornaments on the tree, following the same system as the base.
Last put your 'feature' ornaments on the tree, placing them carefully for best viewing.
Last but not least, and entirely optional.
Garland varies in size and weight considerably, from strung beads to wide ribbons so how it hangs or drapes is partly dictated by the garland itself.
Basically you can chose top down or round & round. Neither is better it's mostly a judgement call depending on the size & variety or ornaments, the tree size itself and the size of the garland. Beads & string popcorn tend to be round & round types, ribbon looks good either way. Unlike lights & ornaments, garland tends to look best mostly on the outermost edges of the tree.
4. Ohh & Ahh
Plug in the lights, have a cup of cocoa & enjoy your beautiful tree!
I hope you enjoyed this and everyone have a great holiday!