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Professional Tips for Decorating Your Christmas Tree
By Randy Stephens of Interior Network, Inc.- Mountain Holiday Shopping and Recipe Guide, November 1999

What would Christmas be without the Christmas tree? So many of our holiday memories and celebrations are centered around the tree. Some of us decorate our trees the same way year after year, using favorite ornaments, while others like to change their trees more frequently and look for something new and exciting each year. Whether you just want to update your tree, or seek a new look altogether, Randy Stephens has some hints for everyone. Professional florists, Randy Stephens and Pam Null, both of Interior Network Inc., keep busy every year decorating Christmas trees and clients' homes for the holidays. Stephens has been volunteering his talents decorating trees for over 20 years at the Annual Christmas Tree Lane of Santa Claus, Inc. of San Bernardino. We recently asked him to share with us some of the tricks of the trade.

The first decision is whether to use a fresh or an artificial tree. Fresh is always nice because of the fragrance it brings into the house. If you do go with fresh, be sure to check the needles for freshness. Choose the type of tree that has room between the branches for ornaments to hang. These would include the Norfolk, Noble and Silver Tip. Artificial trees are a good option, now that manufacturers are making them more realistic looking. They can be used year after year, and can stay up for a longer period of time without danger of drying. Their branches are also strong enough to hold the heaviest of ornaments. Either way, be sure to buy the tallest tree you can afford, that will fit into your room floor to ceiling. That means a standard ceiling would take a 7 1/2 foot tree.

Put the lights on first. A 7 1/2 foot tree takes 400 to 500 mini lights or 100 lights per 1 1/2 foot of tree. Buy the end to end variety and remember that for safety reasons most strings of lights can only be strung three in a row. Plan your extension cords accordingly. The trick to putting on lights is that they need to be wrapped around the entire length of each branch from trunk to tip. This trick alone gives your tree an incredible glow and depth. Next, put on the ribbon. Purchase 10 yard bolts of three-inch wide ribbon. Wired ribbon is the best. Zigzag the ribbon diagonally around the tree. Weave the ribbon in and out, to again give depth to the tree. There will also be enough ribbon to make several large bows for the tree. Each bow, with streamers, requires five yards of ribbon. Narrower rib-bon can be purchased for the bows, but do not buy smaller than 1 3/4-inch. For ease of attachment, use green pipe cleaners to tie the bows. Also, add some texture and interest by weaving cording, bead garlands and "sinmay" throughout the tree. Ornaments should include a wide variety of shapes and sizes. For a 71/2 foot tree, buy three dozen large ornaments about 6 to 8 inches in size, teardrop shapes to eight inches long, 60 medium ornaments and 24 small. Place smaller ornaments near the top of the tree and work down to the bottom with the largest. Again, don't ignore the inside of the tree, place ornaments there too. Tie novelty items on the tips of the branches. Here creativity can be expressed with a glue gun by making floral sheath sprays incorporating grapes, leaves, ornaments, pine cones, figures, poinsettias, ribbon and more.

The color scheme can be traditional or contemporary. A traditional tree has multicolor ornaments, incorporating the Christmas colors of green and red. White lights are the preferred choice here because they do not detract from the colorful ornaments. A more contemporary tree takes its color scheme from the colors in the home or room. In this case, the choices are endless. Metallic colors of gold, and more recently silver and copper, are popular as accent colors for ribbons and ornaments. They are neutral and compliment any color scheme.

Stephens' final tip is, if you can't quite get your act together in time for this year's tree, "it's never too early to start planning for next year's tree. Shop the after-Christmas sales for bargains on ribbons and ornaments. If you do your shopping right, you won't have to buy new decorations for years!"


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