|My personal tree last year (in a construction zone) Photo #1|
|courtesy google images Photo #2|
|courtesy google images Photo #3|
I had natural Christmas Trees always up until the year 2000-something. I loved the smell of the trees, and I had hardwood floors so I didn't mind the needles. My real reason for getting an artificial tree originally was that I didn't have much space for a tree with a wide base (like in photo #2) because I have a 7 foot long piano and a large Macaw cage in my living room. My artificial tree is the one in photo #1, and I love the skinny profile. My attempts to buy natural trees in this shape got me trees that were just as fat as any others once the branches came down to their resting place. Those required that I re-decorate them several times as the shape changed.
There are many artificial trees that look exactly like natural trees. The biggest give away is that the shape is usually more perfect than you will ever find in a natural tree, and you won't have sagging branches on Christmas morning. All during my natural tree days, I removed the tree on December 26th because they took up too much space and they looked tired. Now I reluctantly take the tree down after January 1st.
Artificial trees are available in many shapes, sizes and tree species. They come pre-lit, and you should select one with lights that continue to work when one bulb fails. You can also add more lights if you so choose. They should last about a lifetime, and so they are more economical than natural trees over the long-term. Because they do last so long I suggest that price should NOT be the deciding factor when you select an artificial tree. Buy exactly the one that you want.
They are more sturdy, more straight, hold more ornaments, and they will hold heavier ornaments. (The ornaments that I bought this week weigh a ton!) Their appearance does not change after they are decorated, and ornaments won't fall off. They are less of a fire hazard than natural trees, there is no water to damage hardwood floors or carpet. In the end, I absolutely LOVE my artificial tree.
BEFORE YOU DECORATE YOUR TREE
With a natural tree, be sure to have the end freshly cut and place the tree in the stand with a water supply OUTDOORS as soon as you get it home. Add sugar to the water supply, to feed the tree (same as cut flower preservative), and hose the tree down thoroughly. This will hydrate it, get dust and spiders off of it, and help to move the branches down to where they will eventually be. Trim the lower branches to allow about 24" or more of clearance from the floor for gifts. This will become less and less space underneath as the branches continue to sag. Leave the tree outdoors until dry, so that the water doesn't damage items in your home. Be sure to have the tree in an area where it won't be damaged by hot sun or freeze.
You want to make sure that all of your light strands work before applying them to the tree. Plug those lights in and keep them lit when you put them on the tree, and all through the decorating process. Use 100 lights or more per foot of tree height. Follow the package directions about how many strands can be strung together, which varies. Lights that can be strung together in longer strands cost more. If you want some blinking lights, apply them separately after the ones that stay lit, getting even coverage on the entire tree and avoiding a look where the top blinks at one rate and the bottom blinks at another. This is best accomplished by applying the light strands in an up and down pattern, rather than spirals around the tree (which works best for lights that stay lit). Keep all electrical cords near the center of the tree as much as possible so that they won't be visible when the tree is decorated. Trim off any branches that ruin the shape of the tree after the lights are on, and the branches have all been pushed down and separated, and wiped dry if needed.
With a pre-lit artificial tree, all of the above steps are optional to be done only if needed. Power the lights as soon as the tree is assembled, and be sure that all lights are working. Keep the tree lit all through the fluffing and decorating process. Unlike a natural tree, artificial trees are fairly easy to move a short distance, so place the tree far enough from the wall so that you can move around it easily. You can slide it to the final position after it is decorated. Use an extension cord if necessary.
Every time you take an artificial tree out of the package you will need to fluff and adjust each branch. This step is VITAL to creating a display that looks like a natural tree. You can buy a large plastic bag for Christmas trees to store your artificial tree and keep dust off of it if you don't want to store it in the original box between seasons. I store my tree in the original plastic wrappings and box, and fully fluff it each year. If the needles look flat, run your hand from the tips to the base to fluff them up. My tree does not require this step, but different varieties sometimes need it.
The branches will look flat, and be squished together. Adjust each section of branch arranged in groups of three or five sprigs by arranging the center sprig up and out, and then up and sideways (one to the left, one to the right) on the others. Start at the bottom of the tree and work your way up, moving in a spiral all the way around the tree. This process takes several hours. Overall, it takes less time than lighting a natural tree properly, so be patient and do it well. My tree has hinged branches, so I also make sure that they are fully pushed down as I finish fluffing each branch. I examine every light bulb at this stage and replace any that aren't working. Some varieties of artificial trees benefit from having the very ends of the branch tips curled, and others look best when the branch tips are left straight. Fluff the branches in the style that is correct for the variety of tree that you have.
Be sure to stand back at the end of each phase and make sure that you like the result. Make adjustments as necessary. If you are running out of patience or feeling tired after getting the basics of a properly lighted and shaped tree, wait until the next day to begin decorating it.
ITEMS YOU WILL NEED TO DECORATE THE TREE
Before you begin putting decorations on the tree, there are some design decisions to be made. Do you want glitter garlands? Do you want bead garlands? Do you want flowers or pine cones or ribbons or feathers? What is your color scheme? Is there a theme? What style of tree do you want, and will it look good in the room? What items do you already own that you want to use? It is a good idea to actually look through your Xmas supplies to remind yourself and check the condition of items you plan to use.
Most people have a collection of decorations already. Perhaps they look tired, often they are a collection of many colors and styles, often people just don't have enough of everything to end-up with a great result. If you have collected sentimental items, you might need to EDIT which ones you will use, rather than using every one every year. Do you know what is "in style" in Christmas trees this year?
|courtesy of google images|
Rule of thumb: It is difficult to have "too much" on a Christmas tree. Anything that you decide to buy, buy about double what seems reasonable. If you select an ornament that you like, buy 12 to 24 of them. If you buy ornaments in multi-packs, get three or four packages of a single design. If you buy garlands, estimate 10 to 20 feet of garland per foot of tree height. Almost without exception, really great Christmas Tree Displays are intended to sell you LOTS of decorations. Designer Christmas Trees haven't skimped on the quantity of decorations. Silver and gold and crystal and pearl decorations tend to stay "in style" longer than other finishes, so if you are concerned about the cost, these will serve you for many years to come.