Mark Anderson, owner, Anderson’s Seed and Garden

Each year, as we decorate the store for the holiday season, we always have guests stop and ask, “How do you do it? Every year, I come into the store just to see all the beautiful trees, and I’m never disappointed. Each year seems better than the last!” It takes a lot of time, effort and planning to create the winter wonderland inside Anderson’s Seed and Garden, but the basics of tree decorating stay the same year after year. While we have new materials, ideas and sometimes even new color palates to work with, we use a lot of the same techniques. I’m going to 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. You can add some “permanent” features like a colorful tree skirt, a big decorative basket, or anything you can think of to make it look as if it was made for that space. Also, plan on using 100 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.

Lights really do make a Christmas tree sparkle and pop. Don’t just wrap them 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 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, then you can either use monochromatic colors (different shades of the same color) to highlight your chosen favorite, or complementary 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.

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. Also, 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.

It never hurts to have a focal point or emphasis on a tree. It becomes a place 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 . . . or at least until you want to design a new one!