How To Pick And Decorate Your Christmas Tree

My tree this year is extra sparkly and is adorned with red and gold ornaments. Photo by Author.

It’s that wonderful and magical time of the year again! It’s never too early to start decorating your home to make the Christmas holidays feel very special and festive.

Christmas trees are quite possibly the most popular and iconic way to decorate one’s home for the season. Here are a couple of things to consider when choosing the right tree for you and tips to decorate it.

Tips to choose your Christmas tree

First, find your dream tree and then have lots of fun adorning it!

  • Natural or artificial? That is the question. For me both: I opted for a potted natural tree for the garden and an artificial one for inside my home. The former is a small blue spruce (1–2 ft) and it will be very happy in its container for a few years. Eventually, it will be planted out in our garden. Just add a few lights and your outdoor space is ready to sparkle! To avoid the mess of the prematurely-falling-needle, we decided to go all out this year and invested in a beautiful artificial 7ft lightly flocked tree which we will be able to reuse for many years to come.
Example of various needles styles and colors. From top left with bottom right: Fir, Blue Spruce, Spruce, Pine species. Photos via Pixabay.

Top tip: When practical, my advice is to see the tree in real life (on display in a store for example) before buying one, it will be easier to gauge its size and decide whether you like it or not.

  • Location. Whether you are opting for a natural or artificial tree, considering where the tree will ‘live’ is important. Selecting a tree too large for an area will be impractical and can make your space feel smaller. If the tree is too small, it could feel underwhelming and not give you the showstopper effect which you may be after. Make sure to measure the height of the ceiling and consider how much floor space the tree will require to select the right format: traditional full trees, narrow, slim, flat-back, table topper. General consensus states that you should take 0.5ft off your ceiling height to allow for a tree topper. For standard 8ft ceilings, a 7–7.5ft tree is recommended.

Top tip: Place your tree near a power outlet to remove the need for unsightly extensions. If you have a fireplace and use it a lot, choosing a natural tree may not be the best option if you want to decorate early as it will dry out very quickly.

The newest addition to the garden: a baby blue spruce (1–2ft). I can enjoy it every day from the kitchen window. Still needs to be under-planted with white Christmas roses. Photo by Author.
  • Style. Which style do you prefer? Both natural and artificial trees come in different formats. For natural trees, there are plenty of varieties to pick from: Nordmann Fir, Norway Spruce, Blue Spruce and Serbian Serbian are commonly sold at this time of year. Consider its overall color and shape, needle structure and spacing between the branches. For an artificial tree, there are plenty of options too: the style of the needle (classic PVC needles, more realistic, pine, etc.), flocked or fully covered in artificial snow, pre-lit (comes with lights already installed on the tree), some are already decked with berries or pine cones.
Examples of shapes and structures of natural trees. Consider its height, fullness, symmetry and spacing between the branches when choosing a tree. Photos 1 and 5 via Pixabay. Photos 2, 3, 4 by Hinrich, Gmihail and Tiia Monto, license Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 3.0.

How To Decorate Your Christmas Tree

Once you have chosen your dream tree, only a few more decisions and you are ready to start!

  • Pick a theme: Traditional, Scandinavian, Rustic, Natural, Glam. Choosing a theme will help you keep your tree cohesive and narrow down your options.
Varying ornament shapes, textures and hue within your color palette will bring more interest to your tree. Photo by Author.
  • Choose your colors: I recommend deciding on two main colors and one additional accent tint. This will help unify your design and ensure that the final product looks pleasing and matches well with the rest of your Christmas decor. We are going for a traditional theme this year with red and gold, plus a discrete touch of white to bring light.
  • Assess and gather your supplies. If, like me, you like reusing your ornaments from year to year, have a look at your supplies (or wish-list from last year) before heading out. If you are doing a full upgrade of your tree, the retailer usually gives you recommendations relating to how many lights and ornaments the tree needs to shine. For our 7ft tree, guidelines are 100–120 ornaments and 700 lights. We increased heavily the light count to over 2,000 lights because I like my trees extra sparkly.

Top tip: Pick garlands with LED lights and an integrated timer so you don’t have to keep turning on and off the lights.

Christmas decorations close up. I love to mix natural and faux elements. Photo by Author.
  • Vary the hue, shape, texture and size of your ornaments within your color palette to bring more interest. Get assorted baubles and ribbons, and don’t forget a bit of glitter! Remember to choose a tree skirt or collar. You can also make decorations yourself: pretty much anything can be turned into an ornament with a dash of hot glue and a lovely ribbon.
Varying ornament sizes and finishes within your color palette will bring more interest to your tree. Photo by Author.

Once all the shopping (and crafting) is complete, it’s finally time for the main event to begin! Get a Harry Potter movie playing and a cup of hot chocolate at the ready.

10 steps to perfection:

1. Prepare the area. Clean the area and remove furniture as appropriate. Unbox your tree and place it. Leave at least a 3-inch gap from any walls to avoid damaging your paint.

2. Shape your tree. For natural trees, you can prune lower hanging branches or anything damaged if needed. For an artificial tree, it is worth spending a bit of time ‘fluffing’ all the twigs. Spreading out all the branches and making sure there are no holes will it give a fuller look.

Unboxing our new artificial Christmas tree. This is a 7ft lightly flocked tree (showed post-fluffing). Photo by Author.

3. Position your tree skirt or collar. This is usually a good addition to hide the base of your tree and create an area to gather the gifts. I picked a weaved tree collar in a natural color to give the illusion of a tree trunk.

4. Add your strings of lights. Unless your tree comes pre-lit, stringing the light garlands should be the first addition to the tree. This process can be quite long but will be well worth it! String the lights branch by branch, starting from the bottom of the tree work your way to the top. Remember to have the lights on during this step to make sure you like the placement of the lights and spread them uniformly.

Step 4 adding the lights is successfully completed! I used 2,500 LED warm white lights for this tree (count about 1h to install the garlands). Photo by Author.

5. Time for the tree topper and garlands. Adding the tree topper and garlands comes next. If you don’t like garlands, you can use wired ribbon (the wire makes it hold its shape). Wide ribbons will make your tree look more full. Personally, I prefer my tree without garlands.

6. Place your biggest and favorite ornaments first. This reserves prime tree real estate for your showstoppers and most loved ornaments. Start with the sides from which the tree will be seen most often. Make sure the ornaments hang freely from the branches.

A sneak peek of the finished product. Ornaments are spread out uniformly and my two colors (gold and red) are evenly distributed all over the tree. Photo by Author.

7. Spread your main accent colors. If you are doing a principal hue, place it first to avoid clustering all ornaments of the same color in one area of the tree. I usually group my ornaments by style and spread them out on the tree to ensure uniformity.

8. Add your fillers. Decorations such as faux flowers or foliage, berries, picks, sprays and pine cones are great to add too. Make sure to place some ornaments inside the tree to give it more depth.

9. Step back and have a last look. Use smaller ornaments or additional fillers and ribbons to fill any remaining gaps.

Place wrapped gifts around the base of your tree for a finished look (yes, I will be potting up these Amaryllis very soon!!). Photo by Author.

10. Time for the finishing touches. Use spare wrapping paper to wrap empty cardboard boxes and place under the tree. Try to match your wrappers with your theme for a special touch. Hang Christmas art and stockings if you have any to complete the area. Add seasonal potted plants around your tree such as a Poinsettia to create a gorgeous display.

You should now have a beautifully decorated tree (note to self: add a ribbon to finish my tree topper). Photo by Author.
A close up of our Traditional Christmas tree in red and gold, with a touch of white. Photo by Author.

What is your favorite Christmas tree theme? Do you have other tips to decorate your tree? Leave a comment below!

Follow along my garden journey! ❤️ Instagram: @johannabobbio ❤️Youtube: Johanna Bobbio

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Johanna Bobbio

Johanna Bobbio

Follow along my garden journey! ❤️ Instagram: @johannabobbio ❤️Youtube: Johanna Bobbio

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