Celebrating the Seasons

Decorating a Holiday Tree to the Nines

If you dream of displaying a designer Christmas tree this year, read on. There is a method to the madness of decorating a tree. It all comes down to having the right ingredients, the necessary amounts, and the right recipe. Dressing your tree to perfection isn't brain surgery — but it helps to have a cheat sheet.

STEP 1: Start with lights

How much is enough?

3 foot tree 100 lights
4 foot tree 200 lights
5 foot tree 300 lights
6 foot tree 500 lights
7 foot tree 700 lights
9 foot tree 1,000 lights
10 foot tree 1,200 lights
12 foot tree 1,400 lights
15 foot tree 1,800 lights

Short trees: Hang lights vertically for a fuller look.

Tall, thin trees: Hang lights horizontally.

Tall, full trees: Hang lights according to the contour of the branches.

  • Select light sets that have the shortest space between bulbs.
  • Test lights before you hang them — replace any damaged or burned-out lights.
  • Attach a multi-socket extension cord around the trunk, arranging it so the socket hangs down the back of the tree to the outlet.
  • Start stringing lights at the top of the tree. Work out from the trunk and wrap lights around each branch.
  • Do not connect more than three sets of lights together.

STEP 2: Add the garland

Your garland sets the theme so choose carefully. Whether it is raffia, popcorn and cranberries, or fancy ribbon it is the necessary thread that weaves the whole look together.

How much? This depends on two important factors: the size of the tree, and how you plan to hang the garland. Generally you can't go wrong with this formula: 9 feet of garland per foot of tree. I always buy more "just in case" but also to use around the house to continue the theme.

Mixing it up: Instead of using only one type of garland try mixing two or three together. Just be sure they compliment each other and vary in size. A good approach is one wide, one narrow, and one mid-sized or whimsical. You can also add texture by using beaded or feathery garlands.

How to hang: Use floral wire or ribbons to secure the garland to the branches of the tree. If you use more than one garland, hang it so the widest garland sags more deeply than the thinner one. You may double or triple the garlands according to your style. For a traditional, graceful look, softly swag the garland. The smaller the tree, the shallower the swag.

Vertical garland: Garlands can be attached to the top of your tree (behind the tree topper), and then looped down vertically. Be sure to add some twists and turns, wiring to branches if necessary, in order to add interest and graceful curves. This technique is especially suited to ribbon.

STEP 3: Finish with the ornaments

Having the right quantity of ornaments is key. Plan on 20 solid color balls for every 2 feet of tree. Collectors of one-of-a-kind ornaments should use 10 for every 2 feet of tree.

Start with solid balls and place them evenly around the tree. Avoid placing them all on the tip of branches, mix up the placement. Create depth and interest by placing some ornaments deep into the tree, some half way along the branches, and some near the tips. Intersperse your special ornaments among the balls. Place the very special ones front and center.

Where's the pickle?

Hiding a small green pickle in the Christmas tree is said to be a German tradition and is supposed to bring good luck. Whether this legend is true or not, it's pure fun to watch kids on Christmas morning search for the tiny green gherkin. The first child to find the pickle is presented with a special gift left by St. Nicholas. It's a fun tradition sure to bring enjoyment to young and old alike.

School Garden Grants, Fun Activities, Lessons and more at - www.kidsgardening.org

NGA offers the largest and most respected array of gardening content for consumers and educators. Learn more about NGA »