Your Christmas tree is your canvas, so it’s important to select a good one — gorgeous ornaments can do only so much for a scraggly tree.
Some people prefer the look and smell of a real tree, while others like the reliability of an artificial one. Whatever you choose, get a well-shaped tree.
If you’re getting a real tree, try to see it out of its netting before purchasing. With both cut and artificial trees, look for full, evenly spaced branches and a symmetrical shape that tapers toward the top. The more branch tips the better.
For real trees, you’ll need a tree stand with a deep-water reservoir, which you should fill only after the tree is in place. Make sure your stand is large enough for the size of tree.
Make a fresh cut at the base of the tree just before bringing it inside. Keep checking the water level in the stand regularly and top it up when needed.
Pick a color scheme: There is nothing wrong with an eclectic Christmas tree decorated with childhood ornaments but sticking to one colour scheme will make your tree look cohesive and complete.
Keep in mind that you might want to choose something that doesn’t clash with the room. If looking for something different or starting from scratch, maybe try something like blue and lime or orange, copper and browns.
For a truly minimalist winter look, use only white and silver decorations.
Pick a theme: Some people select a specific theme for their Christmas trees, such as angels, nutcrackers or snowflakes. A theme can make it stand out against other trees.
No theme is wrong and should reflect your personality. If you’re not much of a theme person, don’t worry about it — “Christmas” is enough theme for most trees.
The first thing to put on the tree is the lights. They go first so that you don’t see wires all over the other decorations.
Consider your colour scheme and theme to decide what type of lights are best for you: clear or coloured. Of course, if you have a green tree, green wired lights are best … and for a white tree – white wired lights.
When it comes to how many lights to put on the tree, the basic rule is at least 100 lights per foot of tree. String the lights from bottom to top, pushing them partway into the branches to hide the cord.
Make sure the prong end of the string of lights is at the bottom. Once the lights are on, you have the worst part of the job done.
The next thing to add is any garlands or ribbons so that they will not get caught in an ornament hook and make that ornament fall. What you choose to use will depend on your personal taste whether it is wired ribbon, berry garlands, or bell garlands or decorative cording.
If using ribbon, make sure that it is large enough to see from a distance, but not so large that it is hard to handle.
Putting on the topper before the ornaments might seem crazy but think of it this way: you don’t want to be yelling “Timber!” on a tree loaded with precious glass ornaments if something goes wrong.
What kind of topper you choose depends on the theme and look of your tree – whether it is a traditional star or angel or using floral or berry picks or a bow.
When placing ornaments on the tree, I like to start with some larger items in between the branches toward the centre of the tree. This gives more of a sense of depth.
These items could be something like medium-sized grapevine balls, larger (non-breakable) ornaments, or even stuffed animals. Then you can start placing on the other baubles.
Make sure you have a variety of shapes (balls, teardrops etc.) as well as textures – some matte finish and some shiny or glittery finishes.
For that more cohesive look you may want to consider using the same colour but different hues and tones. Remember to place some a few inches back into the tree, to give it a little depth.
For the smaller ornaments, make a grouping of them so that they will have the same impact as the larger ornaments– e.g. group together several smaller birds.
Consider the bottom of the tree. If you have pets or small children, you might want to avoid placing anything too precious where it can be pulled down easily.
Place solid heavy-looking ornaments near the bottom and deep inside a tree and your lacy and lighter ornaments further out to give balance.
Have a Merry Christmas and enjoy time with family and friends.
Joanne Young is a Niagara-on-the-Lake garden expert and coach. See her website at joanneyoung.ca.