Christmas tree decorating

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Oh Christmas Tree! Oh Christmas Tree! Why do I have trouble decorating thee?

Tips on decorating your tree

OK, a twist on the lyrics, but I've always been curious as to how the professional designers get their to look so polished, so perfect, so different from mine. So I sought out a pro, who decorates some of the fanciest trees for major malls in the Valley and found some key tips that can take your tree from ordinary to extraordinary.

And, here was my rule. I didn't want it to be about the expense. I wanted true technique whether I was using ornaments from Neimans or Target - it shouldn't matter. I wanted the secrets. And that's what I got.

The Christmas Tree Lights

Here's the first thing I learned. The order goes like this - lights, garland, and ornaments. And within ornaments it's filler ornaments, then specialty ornaments.

This strategy works regardless of the type; color scheme or value of your dcor and the result is immediately more professional. Now, that's what I was looking for.

The lights are the first layer, after you have the tree of course. If you have an artificial tree, many new ones come prelit - BONUS! You lucky folks can skip this step. Quite honestly, I hate this step. I hate lighting a tree. And to be perfectly honest, the pros technique makes it no easier, only better.

If you use a live tree or have one that is not prelit, this is what I've learned.

First, plan 100 lights per 1 foot of tree. That means a 6-foot tree should have at least 600 lights. If you want brighter go for 150 lights per foot. If you want a Clark Griswold Christmas ala Chevy Chase go up from there!

Take an extension cord and run the outlet part about 1 foot up the trunk of the tree to prevent it from getting into any water if it's a live tree. Take your strand of lights and wind them around one of your hands for ease in handling. Then starting at the base of the tree begin by wrapping around the trunk then around each major branch all the way to the end and back to the trunk. This is key in giving your tree lighting effect real depth. This is an essential into a "kicked up" tree. Continue up the tree, trying to keep consistent and going from trunk to tip - tip to trunk. It takes time, but the rewards are great. It can help to do this with the lights lit if you wish.

The Christmas Tree Garland

I have to admit, I'm not a real fan of traditional garland. But most people are. So that's the next step. The advice here is to again keep depth in mind. Don't just drape it on the outer edges of the tree. Layer and tuck closer to the trunk and then out towards the edges again. An option to garland that I love are sprigs of leaves or sparkly branches that are wired to the edges of the tree. You only need about a dozen to achieve a great effect.

The Christmas Ornaments

This piece is key and the difference is truly just technique not expensive ornaments

Grouping - that's the secret. First they say to start with what are called filler ornaments. These are your basic globes in whatever color that fill up the tree. Any color, any quality but group them and work close to the trunk and out to the edges of the branches. We, amateurs often just put one ornament on the end of a branch all over the tree. Here's the difference. Group 2 - 3 ornaments, different sizes together and place them close to the trunk over the entire tree. Then take some individuals out to the edge of the branches. Group them and create depth to the tree. This makes such a huge difference you won't believe it.

Now's the time to add your specialty ornaments. Those collected through the years - the one of a kind, the one's that hold memories, the one's made by our kids and grandkids. Add them to the tree, one at a time between the filler ornaments. Distribute them evenly and you have a tree with depth and memories galore.

That's it! No additional money. Just a difference in technique can kick your Christmas tree up a notch. Give it a shot and get ready to accept the compliments and most of all enjoy the lights and joy of your beautiful Christmas Tree - THE symbol of the Christmas season and it's all yours with a professional touch.

Live and Learn.