Make your Christmas Tree hunt a cheery one - Omaha.com
Published Saturday, December 1, 2012 at 1:00 am / Updated at 1:50 pm
Make your Christmas Tree hunt a cheery one
DECORATING YOUR TREE
The Christmas tree is the focal point of many homes during the holiday season, so if yours is looking less than lush, here are some tips from the pros for sprucing up its appearance.

LOCATION, LOCATION, LOCATION

Whether your Christmas tree is real or artificial, placing it in the right spot can go a long way toward giving it a bountiful look. Avoid placing a thin-looking tree in front of a window or light-colored wall, which will highlight its patchy areas. Real trees should be kept away from heat sources and radiators, which can drain them of moisture and fullness.

Fluffing with Flourish

Spend time fluffing your tree for a more voluminous look, says Jami Warner, executive director of the American Christmas Tree Association, a California-based trade group.
She advises starting at the bottom of an artificial tree and working your way up, carefully adjusting each section as you go. To get the best coverage, tips that are closest to the center pole should be angled vertically and out to the sides to resemble a peacock's fanned tail. Consider researching the natural bend of branches and tips that your tree should imitate.

“Modeling your tree after a photo of that style will help you ideally shape your tree,” Warner says. Her organization's website, www.Christmastreeassociation.org, has pictures to help guide in fluffing.

Nourishment

Real trees should be well-nourished to keep them looking full. Some green thumbs swear by a teaspoon of brown sugar or flat ginger ale, but Warner says fresh tap water daily is all you need.

Dazzle With Light
So you've placed your tree in a cozy spot, arranged its base and branches just so, and now it's time to make it shine. Sabrina Soto, Target's home style expert and an HGTV designer, says one of the easiest ways to give a tree life is through lighting. She recommends allotting at least 100 bulbs for every foot of height.

“A full, brightly lit, decorated tree gives a feeling of abundance that puts everyone in a happy holiday mood,” Soto says.

A lighted garland can go far in filling empty space on a thin tree, she says, and creates an even warmer glow.

Add any extra lighting before you decorate with ornaments so you're not getting them tangled up. Also, while lighting makes your tree sparkle, it also can highlight bare areas and show where ornaments or other items may be needed to create an ample appearance.

Trimming the Tree

If you're looking to create bulk or a new look, Soto says hot ornament trends this holiday season include unconventional colors such as pinks, purples and blues. Jewel tones and bright citrus hues are also popular, as are gilded and mercury ornaments that really “jazz up” a tree.

Also popular are nature themes, and upcycled or recycled items.

Karen Edenfield, a designer with Jo-Ann Fabric and Craft Stores, suggests using feathers, pine cones or artificial pine stems for natural-looking filler, or floral stems and bushes for bulk, texture and color. Berry stems can be placed deep in the tree to mask gaps and give a glimpse of color. Reused and recycled items could include old sheet music, jewelry and gift wrapping or bows.

Other trendy themes include wine and grapes; seashore; and cupcakes and other sweets. Themes can be a great fix for sparse-looking trees: “People won't focus as much on the tree as they will on the overall look,” Edenfield says.

Ribbons are another simple way to fill out a scraggly tree, and they can be found in an array of patterns. If placed horizontally, they should go on after lights and before ornaments. Or use a large, multi-bow ribbon at the top of the tree with ribbon streamers hanging down for a finishing touch.

And decorations aren't just for the tips of the branches. Remember to place lights, ornaments, garlands, picks, stems and other decorations deep and outward to give more dimension.

“A full-looking tree signifies abundance, family and warmth of the holiday season,” Warner says.

Preparing for Next Year

Carefully packing and storing your artificial tree can ensure that its needles don't flatten out and will make decorating next season a little easier.

Edenfield recommends a cool, dry storage area. Heat can shorten the life of the needles.

Ideally, she says, store the tree so it doesn't have to be crammed back into its small box.
If your artificial tree won't make another holiday appearance at your house, don't just throw it in the trash. Consider donating or recycling it, or reuse its branches as filler for an even more ample tree next Christmas.

Done properly, the quest for a Christmas tree can be a bonding experience, an afternoon of outdoor family fun where you make precious holiday memories for rosy-cheeked children.

Done wrong, you end up with pine needles in your ears, the kids are wind-burned and crying, and, if you're not careful with that saw, you'll be asking Santa for a new thumb.

Here are some things to consider in your search for holiday magic.

Tools needed: Tape measure, twine, gloves, saw, leaf blower. Santa hat is optional.

Size, shape and location: Know where the tree is going — and not near a heat source or in a high-traffic area. Get a tape measure and determine how much room is available — and take the tape measure with you to the lot.

“On any tree grown commercially, the goal is a full, shapely tree,” said Lynn Mammel of Santa's Woods near Blair. “The 5- to 6-foot-tall range is pretty common” among customers.

The size most people seem to want at Omaha's Indian Creek Nursery is in the 6- to 8-foot range. Even shoppers minding their budgets are attracted to the larger trees, said owner Scott Farrington.

“It's a matter of space — you have to have the right space for it — but it's also a matter of tradition.”

There's no shortage of places to find cut trees: Nurseries, farmer's markets, supermarket parking lots and fundraisers for groups such as Boy Scouts troops are all places to find a tree.

Or drive out of the city and cut your own at tree farms. A list of tree farms can be found at the Nebraska Department of Agriculture website and at www.pickyourownchristmastree.org.

Pick a winner: Full, thick trees look great on the lot. It's not until you try to decorate it that you realize there's no room for ornaments. So choose a tree that has gaps that you can fill in with decorations. As for the type of tree, family tradition and personal preference often guide that choice.

Nebraskans tend to think of a Scotch pine as a “typical Christmas tree,” Mammel said. But others sell well, too. At Santa's Woods, the selection includes Canaan, Concolor and Douglas firs and Scotch, White and Eastern White pines.

At Indian Creek, the 3-to-1 bestseller over all other varieties is the Fraser fir, because it stays fresh so long, Farrington said.

The Douglas fir is next most popular because it is unsheared and has a natural appearance. Like the Fraser fir, the Douglas has short, relatively soft needles.

However, there is a more important consideration than the tree's variety.

“Type doesn't matter as much as condition,” Mammel said.

Availability: There will be plenty of locally grown trees this year despite the drought, said Dennis Adams of the Nebraska Forest Service. He estimated that 25,000 Nebraska-grown trees will be available. Growers have said the summer's hot, dry conditions won't affect supplies for several yeears, if then.

Freshness test: Look for natural green, not the green dye that often gets sprayed on before shipment. Run a limb or two through your hand to see if needles stay attached. Pick the tree up a few inches and drop it, letting the stump hit the ground. Watch for a shower of dead needles.

Final prep: Before taking it in the house, cut one-half to an inch off the end of the trunk to let the tree absorb water, 1 to 2 gallons of water a day. If you have a leaf blower, use it to dislodge loose needles, insects or anything else that may be lurking.

The National Christmas Tree Association's website, realchristmastrees.org, has more information.

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