Transform Your Tree

Seven tips to take your tree to the next level  

It’s the most wonderful time of the year and that means for many of us the classic Christmas tree will take center stage in our homes. How do you know how many lights you’ll need to create the perfect glow? Or, what’s truly the best way to hang ornaments so they add just the right sparkle and spirit? We tapped into the decorating knowledge of Jim Gainan, president of Gainan’s Flowers, to find out what it takes to give your tree the perfect holiday flair.


What’s a Christmas tree without its share of sparkle? If you have a high-quality, pre-lit permanent tree, don’t hesitate to add a few extra strings of lights. Gainan suggests stringing lights up and down the center of the tree, tucking the light strands inside near the trunk as you go, and whatever you do, don’t skimp. “A well-lit tree makes everything look better,” he says.

If you love the look of a natural tree, there are some general guidelines. To get that perfect glow, a rule of thumb is 100 lights per foot of tree. Gainan says to start at the center and work the lights out to the outer portions of each branch. Rather than looping the lights around the tree, try zig-zagging them across in sections from the bottom to the top, keeping an eye out for dark, unlit spots as you go. You’ll need to tuck the portion of the light strand where the two cords connect into the center of the tree, making sure the plugs are out of sight.

If you haven’t made the switch to LED lights, Gainan says, “it’s worth the investment, and a thousand lights will go a long way.” These modern Christmas lights are energy-efficient, practically indestructible, tangle-free, and come with features like flicker, sparkle and twinkle settings.


When it comes to ornaments, more is more. The trend these days is to pack a tree with ornaments on both the inside portions of the branch and out. Gainan says to use a lightweight floral wire to securely hang ornaments. Begin with inside branches and work your way to the outer limbs.

“Hang the ornaments right under the limb so they’re not laying on the limb below,” Gainan says.

And, if you deck out the tree and still have a few keepsake ornaments left? Try making them a focal point in your home.

“Find a defoliated aspen branch and hang all your kids’ ornaments on that,” Gainan says. “Why not show them off?”


The holiday trend known as color blocking is fresh on the scene and it’s one where color is king. The idea is to cluster ornaments of the same color in sections on the tree.

“Rather than spread the color out across the tree, make a big statement with one color,” Gainan says.

If you’re thinking of color blocking, it’s best to organize your ornaments ahead of time. Vary the size and shape of the colorful clusters and allow them to wrap around the tree in places. 

If you’re drawn to the latest trendy colors, changing the baubles (that’s a designer’s term for balls) is an easy way to make an impact. Use shatterproof baubles for the bottom third of the tree where curious kids and Labrador tails are bound to come in contact with ornaments.


Another decorating idea for creating visual interest is to add large elements that break up the profile of the tree. Perhaps it’s a large snowflake or a star that juts out from the inside of the tree. Or, it could be a few oversized decorations handily placed to draw the eye upward.

“And don’t forget the tree topper can add a bold statement as well,” Gainan says.

Gainan suggests bringing in natural branches (for a frosty look, paint them white and dust them with glitter) or perhaps tuck in some natural juniper or cedar branches to fill out the tree and create an eclectic, imperfect profile. Did you know permanent trees are sturdy enough to hold your Christmas village? Gainan says just be sure to wire them in securely.

“Use whatever you’ve got, just think outside the box,” Gainan says. 


We all love the smell of a fresh tree. If you are using a permanent variety, don’t forget the scent. Nothing says Christmas like the smell of a fresh cut pine. Diffusing essential oils like Frasier Fir near the tree will deliver a little extra holiday magic.


Enjoy this time of year. Nothing spoils the season more than a marathon decorating session that leaves you exhausted. Gainan says he likes to set up his tree and arrange the branches one night, light it and start decorating the next night, and maybe finish the following night. If you’re not in a hurry, it’s easier to take a step back and enjoy the process,

If decorating seems overwhelming, why not have friends over to help — and offer to help them in return. With some festive snacks and drinks, it will feel more like a party and offer an opportunity to connect with friends before the holiday season becomes too crazy.

Gainan sees people every year who want to transform the look of their tree. However, it’s not often practical, or affordable, to do it all at once. Instead, he encourages them to add part of a new collection each year over several years.

“Each year take a look at trends and add baubles to change the colors,” he says, “and use just the ornaments that work for that year.”


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