Mark Anderson, owner, Anderson’s Seed and Garden

This is such a fun time of year at Anderson’s Seed and Garden. For the holiday season we always decorate the store to its fullest. It is some of the most fulfilling work that we do since everyone loves the displays. I often have guests stop and ask, “How do you do it? Every year I come in the store just to see all the beautiful trees, and I’m never disappointed. Each year just seems even better than the last!”

It takes a lot of time, effort and planning to create the winter wonderland inside Anderson’s, but the basics of tree decorating stay the same year after year. While we have new materials, ideas, and sometimes even new color pallets to work with, we use a lot of the same techniques from year to year. Let me share some of those decorating “secrets” with you.

The size of your tree has a lot to do with how you decorate it. Make sure your tree doesn’t overwhelm the room it is in. Make space for the tree, but try to make it look like it was always there in the first place. Add some “permanent” features to it, like a colorful tree skirt, or a big decorative basket, anything you can think of to help it feel and look as if it was made for that space. Also, plan on using 100-125 lights, 15-20 ornaments, and one nine-foot garland per foot of tree height. That means a nine-foot tree needs at least 900 lights, 140 ornaments, and nine garlands to cover it completely. Don’t overload your tree, but also, don’t cut corners when it comes to using the right volume of décor.

Lights really do make the magic of a Christmas tree sparkle and pop. While incandescent lights are the benchmark for color (especially warm clear), LEDs have really improved over the last few years and many of our customers can’t tell the difference between our “warm clear” LEDs and our incandescent (except they never burn out or need to be replaced!), and the wires are a fraction of the size! Also, don’t just wrap the lights around the outside of the tree, the lights need to go all the way into the trunk for the best depth and most even distribution of light throughout the whole tree. This will contribute to the right amount of balance in both the lights and the ornaments, otherwise the tree will look lopsided. Try to use the same number and type of ornaments on all sides of the tree to avoid an unbalanced look.

When choosing a color, pick your favorite holiday color and then you can either use monochromatic colors (different shades of the same color) to highlight your chosen favorite, or complimentary colors to make it stand out. For example, red, white, and green complement each other nicely for a jovial, whimsical look while soft browns, blues, and greys give a more cool, chic feel. A lot depends on the style you want to portray. We try to stay ahead of the seasonal styles, but sometimes trends pop up out of nowhere. We could never have anticipated the Barbie movie craze last year when ordering; we’ll never have enough pink for the season this year.

Keep in mind that scale affects trees both small and large — the larger the tree, the larger ornaments you need to maintain balance. Play with different sizes of ornaments, from small to medium to large and see what works. We like to incorporate some large, colorful ornaments deep inside the tree to add depth. Try to avoid using a lot of very little ornaments on big trees, or too many very large ornaments on small trees. Big trees need big ornaments. Keep in mind that a 12-foot tree takes almost double the number of ornaments as a nine-foot tree.

It never hurts to have a focal point or emphasis on a tree, somewhere for the eye to rest from all the light and color. Usually, a large tree topper or a unique feature that catches your eye will do the trick. A natural rhythm can also be created with strategic placement of the ornaments or garlands to create a path or direction for the eye to follow. Also, vary the texture with different elements and finishes: glossy, glittered, metallic, natural, opaque, rough, and smooth — they can all co-exist and complement each other on the same tree.

Proper and creative use of all the basic elements of tree design (size, space, light, color, scale, emphasis, balance, rhythm, space, and texture) will help you create a memorable and lasting impression to enjoy for many holiday seasons. Once you find what you like, you can stick with it for years, or change it up every year according to your mood. Some of our most creative decorators have a base of the colors that they prefer, and every year add a different twist to create variety. For example, a peppermint base of red and white looks great one year with a touch of green and a few elves, and the next year, it might be electric blue with snowflakes and icicles for a frosty winter look. It’s whatever you can imagine, and that’s what makes decorating so much fun.