Celebrating Christmas with a tree, wreaths, and special plants can
make the season more enjoyable and meaningful for the whole family.
Here are some ways to be sure that your decorating goes smoothly and
quickly and the results are safe and long lasting.
Picking a Christmas
Decide where you will put your tree for maximum enjoyment
and minimum traffic or furniture moving. In a window it can
also be seen from outside. Be sure to put it well away from
heat ducts and in another room away from a fireplace you'll
be using. Then measure the height of the ceiling and plan to
get a tree one to two feet shorter to leave room for the
stand and the top ornament. Also check your lease or with
someone in authority for any rules of size or entry if you
are putting a tree in an apartment, school, or office.
If possible, shop for
your tree in the daytime so you can best see the shape and condition
of your choices. Take some rope or stretch-hooks if you plan to put
a large tree in the trunk or on top of a small car.
When cutting your own, plan to go early enough to get a good
selection or postpone it until the next weekend if snow or mud get
too deep for driving close to the trees. Be sure the tree farm will
furnish saws or take your own.
When buying a live but pre-cut tree, hold each away from the others
to study the shape. The branches tied up for shipping will fall even
more when you get it home. Shake it or drop the trunk firmly to the
ground to see how many needles fall. Some are to be expected, but a
great many are a warning that the tree is already dry. Run your
fingers over a branch and see if the tip is resilient enough to bend
into a U if it is not frozen.
Ask the seller to make a fresh cut at the base of the trunk
to open the water ducts that have healed over. Or make your
own when you get home, removing at least an inch from the
bottom to where the wood is creamy-white, not brown or
yellow. This cut should be not quite flat so there will be
water room underneath when it is in the stand.
Ask if the trees or your greenery have been treated with an
anti-transpirant or anti-dessicant spray. If not, you can spray your
own either in the field or outdoors at home. Sprays like Wiltpruf,
Forevergreen, or special Christmas brands are available at garden
stores and work by enveloping the branches and needles in an
invisible plastic film that does not hurt the plant but slows down
the water loss. Any leftover spray can be used in many ways in the
yard and garden according to label directions.
Put the tree in a deep bucket of warm water, at least one gallon and
as much as three, when you get it home and stand it in a cool place
away from wind and sun until you are ready to bring it indoors.
Once a fresh-cut tree gets into a heated house, the sap will release
with a wonderful fragrance. Spread newspapers and flat plastic
garbage bags first, then spread the tree skirt after decorating.
Both before and after decorating, you need to check the water level
in the tree stand daily. A tree can drink from a quart to a gallon
of water every day. Some people add aspirin, sugar, bleach and such
to the water both to feed the tree and kill bacteria, but it has not
been proven that these are any more effective than just plenty of
WATER. When a live tree stops drinking, it is time to take it down.
The Christmas Tree
Any stand for a live tree must hold water, and the more the better.
Bolts hold the trunk in place and the ring on them must be large
enough for the trunk of the tree you select. Too small a stand will
make the tree top- heavy. If there is any doubt of steadiness, wire
the tree near the top to nearby curtain rods or other immovable
Wash the tree stand before each use with bleach water to remove any
germs or bacteria.
The Christmas Tree
This is a fairly new item that you position around the tree base
before decorating and spread to cover the carpet area to catch any
falling needles. Then, after the holiday when the decorations are
removed, the bag goes up around the tree for clean and efficient
Balled Trees for
Some people landscape their yards with trees from special
Christmases, each child's first, their first in that house, etc.
This is a wonderful way to celebrate, but it has some drawbacks that
make it impractical for some people.
1. Such trees are
relatively expensive and taking them indoors and then out
again is not good for them.
2. The ball of roots takes up a great deal of space, and
only smaller trees can stand transplanting, so you can't
have a huge one.
3. The tree should be indoors for a minimum amount of time,
a week at the very most.
4. The colder the weather and the warmer the house, the more
risk to the life of the tree.
If you still want a replantable tree, here are some life
insurance policies to follow:
- Dig a very large
saucer-shaped hole before the ground freezes and pile topsoil
beside the hole or bring it into the garage in a wheelbarrow.
Check for good drainage.
- MARK THE HOLE so
no one falls in and breaks a leg.
- Be sure the
species of tree you buy will grow in your climate. Ask a
- Keep the tree in a
cool but not freezing place away from sun and wind until a few
days before Christmas.
- Keep the root ball
damp but not soggy. Put it in a plastic bag or tub. Handle
carefully so it won't crack and die.
- Decorate sparsely
with small lights that give off no heat and decorations that
won't weigh down the branches.
- Remove the tree
first to a colder, sheltered area to minimize the shock. Then
plant it as soon as you can. People have kept them in a garage
until spring, but this is risky. Set the tree in the hole so
that it is slightly higher than surrounding soil. Remove any
ties or straps, pull back the burlap so it is below the soil
line, and cover with the original top soil. Water as needed but
do not flood. Mulch heavily around the tree to keep the soil
from freezing and thawing.
Where winds are
gusty, you may want to stake the tree for the first growing
Artificial Trees Top
If you want an artificial tree you can pack away and use
every year, there are some fine ones on the market that look
quite real. Measure before you buy. Keep the box and
If you want a flocked tree, it is best done by experts. If you
do it at home, do it outdoors and ALWAYS WEAR A MASK. Flocking
does NOT prolong the life of the tree nor change its need for
water. The glue in the flocking could make it look fresher
Make Decorating EasyTop
Make a party
out of the tree trimming for the whole family, class, or
office and enjoy. When buying lights, be sure the
voltages are the same and bulbs can be exchanged. Keep
at least one original box with all this information.
Position tree and stand. Then plug in and check the
wiring and the lights. Push each bulb gently until it is
secure, never twist. Replace burned out bulbs to prevent
strain on the rest. Never connect more than 50 large
bulbs, 300 miniature ones. NEVER LEAVE A SOCKET OPEN AND
Then decorate the
tree from the top down, starting with the lights and top, then
the other ornaments, lastly the garlands and icicles. Use larger
and heavier trims near the bottom, but above the lower tier of
branches. Put the skirt on last.
Put the plug or switch for lights where you can reach it easily.
Also leave room between presents to get in to water. Never leave
the lights on when you go away or go to bed. Why take a chance?
Water daily and take the tree down before it is too dry to be
safe. When putting lights around windows or outdoors, use clips
and fasteners designed for such use. Don't risk puncturing wires
with staples or thumb tacks.
Real Christmas trees
are a crop, not a devastation of our forests. You can even cut
one from your own evergreen tops and then train another limb as
a leader. Many cities will grind trees and give you an equal
quantity of mulch. It makes a fine light mulch for bulbs or
perennials. Or use your own shredder, but shred it all. Don't
burn your tree in the fireplace; they burn and spark too
Still Trying to Pick a Christmas Tree? Consider This:
green, silver beneath
fresh long time, natural casting of 3 yr. needles
Full, good needle retention, branches less stiff
Most fragrant, 2 white lines on underside of needles
Vivid green- blueish green
Fullness depends on shearing
Dark green- light blue tipped
Poorer needle retention
Poinsettias make an
ideal gift. Select plants with green foliage all the way down to
the soil line. Choose a plant with small green buttons at the
center of the flowers. Those with little yellow flowers are
Poinsettias don't like drafts and resent hot air as much as
cold. Get them on your last stop before going home so they won't
sit in the car too long. If outdoor temperatures are freezing,
wrapping is essential.
Put them where there is enough natural light to read fine print
and cast a strong shadow for at least six hours a day.
Water plants thoroughly--until the water seeps through the drain
hole. If your plant is wrapped in foil, make a hole in that so
it doesn't hold water. Always put a saucer underneath to protect
your furniture and empty any water left after 20 minutes. Check
plants daily and water only when the soil feels dry.
Poinsettias can stay in the house until April and will remain
beautiful for that long a time.
Because they are without nutrients during the entire marketing
process, it is a good idea to feed new plants within several
days with any houseplant food. Repeat this about once a month.
Your plant will gradually shed its leaves in a heated house.
Either pull up the wrapping paper or insert evergreen branches
into the soil if stems look too naked.
The Poinsettia Is
You may read or hear that the poinsettia is poison. It isn't.
Research at Ohio State University determined that the poinsettia is
not harmful to either people or animals. No one has ever suffered
poisoning from any part of the plant.
Holly berries, all parts of the Jerusalem cherry, poinsettia leaves,
and mistletoe berries can cause vomiting, diarrhea, or abdominal
pain if babies eat them, so be advised. But do not panic.
Plant Your Poinsettias Outdoors
You can plant your poinsettia outdoors in spring after all danger of
frost is past. If it has not been hardened, set the pot out for a
few hours, lengthening the time each day for about a week until the
plant adjusts to outdoor sun and temperatures. Plant in full sun
either with the pot sunken into the soil for easier return indoors
or directly in the ground.
In the Sunbelt, poinsettias will become large, beautiful shrubs that
bloom for months, but if you get an unexpected freeze, COVER.
Where winters are cold, bring plants indoors before frost in the
fall, again making the change gradual to minimize shock. Put them
where no night lights shine, for they will form buds only in
response to long hours of darkness. Any improved, well-drained soil
will do. After color shows, household lights will not matter.
Try a Christmas
Cactus for a ChangeTop
The Christmas cactus is another favorite that is even easier to
grow. These come in a wide range of colors. The satiny flowers are
often bi-colored with a combination of white and a pastel.
Christmas cacti are very hardy plants that will survive all sorts of
abuse. But there may be some bud drop as the plants adjust to a new
place. If this persists, check for too much or too little water or
You can also put this plant outdoors in the sun after it finishes
blooming and frost is past. They need six weeks of short day
treatment, starting in late September for Christmas bloom. After
that it doesn't matter. Bring them into the light for their big
Azaleas Are Always
Azaleas are available for Christmas even though their main season
comes closer to spring. Florist azaleas are raised in greenhouses
and are very potbound when they bloom, so the soil tends to dry
rapidly. Check them daily and water them generously. Then water
again after 15 minutes. But like poinsettias, they should not stand
in water for very long.
Azaleas will take a
little less light, about four hours a day of bright sunlight. A
northern window is fine. Southern or eastern ones should have sheer
curtains to filter some of the sunrays.
Cyclamen Are Lovely
Cyclamen is not adapted to home temperatures or humidity. So enjoy
the exquisite orchid-like flowers as long as they last and don't
feel guilty when they die. Water from the bottom because this has a
large, concave corm that may hold water from the top and rot. Keep
it in the coolest, brightest place you have.
Blooming mums are available in many colors all year round and will
last longer with less care than most flowering plants. Choose blooms
with petals open at the outside but still closed in the center. Care
for them much like the poinsettia, giving at least four hours of
filtered light but not direct sunlight. This one will move easily
from room to room as the occasion demands. After they bloom, cut the
dead flowers off along with half to one third of the foliage. If
several plants are crowded in a pot, separate them in the spring to
sunny spots outdoors.
Other possibilities: Amaryllis, dwarf Alberta spruce, decorated
mini-trees, hyacinths, and paperwhites should come with
instructions. Read these before you buy and ask questions if you are
not clear about care.
Make and Hang a
Because evergreen foliage dries out so quickly in a heated house and
is so flammable at best, use real foliage well away from lighted
candles and some of the excellent artificial foliage near the
fireplace. Also, treat the real foliage with an anti-transpirant
spray as described for Christmas trees. Keep stems in water where
possible; use otherwise with care. Fresh evergreens give that
wonderful, piney fragrance to every room in the house.
Light the Advent
The Advent wreath with three purple candles and one pink one for the
four Sundays before Christmas makes a good family preparation for
Christmas day. It is best made with artificial evergreens or real
ones in water since it must stay both fresh and safe so long. Light
one candle the first week, then two, and so forth. Use this as a
centerpiece or hang it above the table so it won't interfere with
the food but is still on the spot. Light the candles during dinner
and offer special prayers and praise during December.
Door Decorations Set the MoodTop
The wreath or swag on your door that says "Welcome, friends," and
"Isn't it a lovely season," is fast becoming a year round
decoration. And you can use the same one, with minor changes, for
any season. You don't have to have many materials or great skills to
make your entrance interesting.
Although early winter is not the time for drastic pruning, your yard
can yield a rich array of material: various evergreens from a light
trim, seed pods left in the flower or vegetable garden, berries from
the trees and shrubs. If you don't have a yard, you can buy bundles
of greens wherever Christmas trees are sold or even trim enough from
the bottom of your tree to make a fine swag. Check your local
florist, your friend's garden, or the ditches along country roads
for further decoration.
Swags Are EasyTop
A door swag is the easiest of the two to make. You need some florist
wire, strong enough to hold the whole but flexible enough to wind
around easily. Try about # 24. This comes in short lengths or in
spools called paddle wire, is quite inexpensive, coated with green
plastic so it's nearly invisible and rust resistant, and good to
keep on hand.
A mixture of several kinds of evergreens makes a more interesting
wreath or swag and less of a dent in your shrubbery. For a swag,
just gather the branches into an oblong, asymmetrical diamond shape.
Hold them near the top with most of the branches hanging down. Turn
a few short ones upright to cover the stems of the others and tie
them together firmly with wire. Leave enough to make a loop on the
back for hanging.
Ribbons, Bows, and DecorationsTop
You will probably
also want a bow of some kind and florists have a wonderful
array of weatherproof ribbon from plaids and velvets to the
traditional wide red plastic. The florist will make the bow
if you wish. To make your own buy at least three yards. A
simple bow with hanging streamers is artistic or you can add
more loops and fluff them out.
Once you have the basic outline, it takes only a few moments
to add the decorations. Tighten the center of the bow with
wire and fasten it to the joining of the evergreens. A
circle of wire wound around near the base of a cone will
work its way in as you tighten it; then insert the ends into
the swag in the desired position. Or
you can gather several
cones or pods with wires of the desired length, attach them together
and add this end to the base of the swag.
It may be more
practical to hang your decoration beside the door than to add weight
to what must swing in the wind every time someone comes or goes. A
single nail is sufficient and winding the wire tightly around it is
the best way to keep the swag or wreath from blowing away.
Wreaths Are Welcome
Top of Page
For a wreath you need some kind of a frame. Florist and craft shops
sell a wide variety of styrofoam, straw, and wire frames. You can
bend a heavy coat hanger into shape or twist a length of chicken
wire into a tube and then form the tube into a circle. Into some of
the wire frames you can place damp sphagnum moss to keep stems extra
fresh or even plant a ring of growing succulents for a wreath or
centerpiece. A ribbon wound around a straw or grapevine frame is
often enough for a simple wreath with just a bow and a few sprigs of
dried flowers, fruits, or pods for the focal point.
To cover a frame for a traditional wreath, begin adding small
bunches of evergreens or dried or fresh herbs and continue to wind
the wire around the frame, adding a new bunch every few inches. Turn
these to the sides or top as needed for a full and rounded effect.
You will be amazed at the beauty of the different textures and
colors in a mixed wreath.
Garlands are made much the same as a wreath except that instead of a
circle frame, you attach the small bunches of evergreen to a length
of sturdy rope. Do this in a cool garage, then leave the garland out
in the cold until you are ready to hang it indoors. Add ribbon,
bows, cones, berries, or other decorations from the hanging points
or throughout the length.
Figure roughly on 6 yards of garland for a doorway, 3 yards above
most fireplaces or for lampost or mailbox, 7 yards to surround a
picture window. Always measure to be sure.
These also must be checked for safety of wiring and lights every
year. Also, do not overextend your reach, your energy, or your
budget. Go shopping after Christmas for bargains or get a little
more every year if you wish. Put the decorations up early when you
can pick good weather and then light them when the time comes. Put
figurines in spots best protected from wind. Make your outdoor
decorations visible from inside for double enjoyment.
Some neighborhoods celebrate Christmas Eve with luminaries along the
streets and drives. These are easily and cheaply made with paper
lunch bags, a bag of sand or kitty litter to anchor them, and a
votive candle in the bottom of each bag. USE ONLY OUTDOORS. These
will burn for several hours, sometimes all Christmas Eve, and go out
on their own. But do not use in high wind or near flammable material
like evergreens or dry grasses.
The Most Important
Whatever decorating you do, do it with JOY. It is not what you do
but how you do it that makes all the difference.
- Pick the location
·Decorations ·Extra bulbs
- Plants for home
- ·Wrapped if
- Plant food
- Gift cards
- Evergreen boughs
- Wire for wreaths
- Candles for Advent
- Bows and ribbons
- Bags, sand, and
Some facts may vary by region. Please check
with your local lawn and garden dealer if concerned about