We have decorated more than a few Christmas trees around here over the past 20 years. Here are some tips from our professionals that will help you create the perfect tree for your setting.
Choosing a Tree
Consider the space you have and the people and pets in your home or the visitors you will welcome to your business or office. Artificial trees are a good value. When properly stored and cared for, they will bring beauty to your setting for many years. However, a live tree may be a good choice for your circumstances – better still if it is one that can be planted after the season.
Artificial trees come in a wide variety of shapes, sizes, and styles. Traditional, full styles have been joined by “skinny” trees with a narrower profile, excellent for entryways, smaller spaces, and apartments. Every height from table top to 9′ tall and up can be found. You can also select from among green, white, silver, tinsel, flocked, feather, fiber optic, and pre-lit options and more.
Choosing Light Sets and Cords
Choose the color or colors that coordinate best with your tree and decorations. Select green cords to use on green trees, whether flocked or not. Use white cords on white trees.
If you have an artificial tree and know how many branch tips it has, multiply the number of branch tips by .60 (60%). For example, a tree with 1,500 tips would require 1,500 x .60 = 900 miniature lights. Adjust the percentage up or down for a more heavily- or lightly-lit tree. If you don’t know the number of branch tips, a general rule to follow is 100 bulbs per foot of tree height.
To eliminate some cords, select a multi-plug extension cord to secure to the center trunk of the tree. Use a multi-outlet power strip to make it easy to turn lights on and off at one switch, and to protect against power surges. A power strip will also help extend the life of your lights, especially those on pre-lit trees.
Check each light set before using. If a set doesn’t light, begin at the plug end and make sure that each socket has a tight-fitting bulb. Save all extra bulbs. Replace burned-out bulbs immediately to prevent strain on the remaining ones. Follow the instructions included with your light sets to determine how many sets may be safely plugged together. Use only one kind of light set throughout your tree; do not plug together different brands of light sets or sets with different numbers of bulbs. For example: do not plug a 35-light set to a 50-light set.
Lighting the Tree
Like every other step in trimming your tree, applying lights will be much easier if you follow a plan.
First, secure an extension cord to the middle of the tree trunk. Next, plug the extension cord into a power strip. Begin attaching light sets at the bottom of your tree and work upward. If your tree has hinged branches, it is easiest to tie up the branches above the layer you are lighting. After you finish a layer, untie and let down the next layer. After you have attached lights to one bare branch, move to the next branch. As you move through the tree, use consistent spacing between lights. Work the lights out from the trunk of the tree to the branch tips and back in toward the trunk for complete coverage.
If you finish a section of the tree and have lights left on a strand, pull the strand back to the trunk of that section and wrap the excess lights around the tree trunk. After you have completed lighting your tree, fluff the branches by arranging the tips to achieve the desired shape.
Decorative or novelty light sets are considered lighted ornaments and should be added after regular lighting is completed. Plan on five 10-light sets of decorative lights for an average seven-foot tree. Use a separate extension cord for novelty lights.
Adding Colored Balls and Garlands
Basic glass balls are the mainstay of any tree and help establish color and shine. To begin, fill the interior of your tree with dominant-colored balls to create a sense of depth and fill empty spaces. Smaller, lighter-colored balls should be placed toward the outer edges of the tree branches for shine and sparkle. When choosing a garland style, don’t be afraid to use a combination of looks. Choose garlands that complement your ornament theme and colors. From ribbons, popcorn, pine cones and florals to basic beads, there are dozens of ways to add distinctive touches to your tree.
Don’t limit yourself to using a single strand or type of garland. Try twisting several strands and types together to create a fuller, more interesting look on your tree. For a more formal look, hang similar ornaments, bows, artificial fruit or flowers at the peak of each swag of garland.
To swag (drape) garland, begin at the back of the tree along the bottom. Twist or hook the garland to a branch tip, then swag the garland gracefully from branch tip to branch tip. Use 12″ to 20″ swags, depending on the width of the tree. Let the swag fall freely and naturally. Continue around the tree. On the back side of the tree, either cut off a length or secure the garland or swag end as you continue up to the next layer of branches. The swags should become smaller as you move up the tree. The more uniform the swag, the more formal the look. To double-swag, start your swag with two strands, and allow one strand to hang lower than the other while coming together again at the next swag point.
A Christmas tree will look its best with a unified theme. If your ornament collection doesn’t already have a theme, it is easy to establish one.
Repetition is one key to developing a theme. This can be as simple as decorating with ornaments either of the same colors, shapes or textures. Adding garlands, swags, cascades or bows of ribbon in one color or pattern is another way to create a theme. In general, select one motif for your theme and start collecting: folk art, religious, juvenile, natural, romance, Santa, etc.
Lighted or animated ornaments that plug into a bulb socket should be placed early in the process since they require a position within reach of the light cord. Only use four (4) per 50 sets of lights to avoid undue strain on the strand’s current and prevent premature burnout of lights.
Establish balance for your tree by putting the most dominant group or largest number of similar ornaments on first. Each size, shape, texture and color should be distributed over the entire tree. Hang larger or more dominant ornaments in lower branches for overall balance. Also, place these ornaments first to take advantage of larger openings.
Your ornaments will look better if they hang suspended rather than touching branches. Also try clustering several ornaments for dramatic effect: combine different colors, sizes, or shapes together on one ornament hook or tie them together with ribbon. Place the clusters symmetrically throughout the tree. Bend or move branches as needed to accommodate your choices.
The most important ornament is your treetop decoration. Stars, angels or special lighted treetops are all very popular. You may also use a giant bow, a floral grouping or a cluster of ornaments as a treetop.
Finish your tree by covering the base with a tree skirt and surrounding liberally with presents. Now, enjoy your visual feast!
|Tree Height||# Bulbs||Garland Length||# Decorations|
|4 Ft||200-400||10 Ft||35-50|
|6 Ft||400-600||24 Ft||50-75|
|7 Ft||500-700||40 Ft||75-100|
|7.5 Ft||500-750||75 Ft||125-175|
|8 Ft||600-800||90 Ft||175-225|
|10 Ft||800-1000||100 Ft||200-300|