Christmas Decorating

Tree Decorating Tips from the Pros


Fresh Trees

If you prefer a fresh tree, remember the “early bird gets the worm”. Scotch Pine is the most common Christmas tree because the needles barely fall off even when dry. Douglas Fir has widely spaced branches that make it great for larger ornaments. Fraser Fir is lovely and has dense branching that makes decorating so easy. Spruce has an unpleasant odor when the needles are crushed. If the needles do not spring back when you rub them, move on!

Keep the tree outdoors protected from wind until you are ready to bring it inside to decorate. Allow a couple of days for the boughs to drop before decorating. A fresh trunk cut is required when you bring the tree indoors to keep the tree hydrated. Make a fresh cut across the base of the trunk about a quarter of an inch up from the original cut.   

Before you install, be sure to put the tree removal bag underneath the tree. Hide it with your tree skirt.  It makes clean-up ten times easier!

Keeping it Fresh

Place the tree in a stand that holds at least a gallon of water. To prevent trees from drying, place them far from radiators, fireplaces, furnace ducts, televisions and direct sunlight. Keep your tree fresh by watering it daily. Add a bit of ginger ale to the water. The sugar in the soda helps the tree’s needles stay soft and supple.  

Tree Height

Allow enough space for the tree stand and two feet between the top of the tree and your ceiling.  

Trees look shorter and smaller on a lot or farm. Measure the height and width of your room before you go tree shopping.   

Faux Trees?

You cannot beat faux in terms of decorating ease. What you lose in scent… you pick up in simple storage, assembly ease and lighting.  

Decorate in Sequence

Kate's Garden holiday decorating

Step One: Let There Be Light

If you want to decorate for lushness and drama, use one strand of 100 lights for every vertical foot. For extra POW, use 200 lights. Never ever use less than 50 lights per foot.

Visually divide the tree into four pie slices or triangles bottom to top for easy removal using a small zigzag method as you go. Start at the top of the tree and wrap the string around a branch, working from the trunk to the tip and back to the trunk, move to the next branch.  









Step Two: Ribbon or Garland

Choose wired ribbon that matches the colour scheme of your décor. It usually takes five rolls of ribbon for full garlanding or three rolls of large deco mesh ribbon.    

There are several techniques for using ribbons:

Kate's Garden Holiday decorating

French Bows: Make generously proportioned bows from wired ribbon that have at least five loops. You will need 36 for a seven to eight foot tree.  








Kate's Garden holiday decorating






Downward Spiral: This is a full twist of ribbon or mesh garland from the top of the tree swirled around the tree right to the bottom.   

Kate's Garden Holiday Decorating











The River: Use wide organza ribbon or deco mesh to create a “river” effect that starts from the top of the tree and pools to the ground. We usually put in three rivers!












Step Three: Ornaments

Kate's Garden holiday decorating

You need a minimum of 20 ornaments for every foot of tree in three different sizes: oversize, medium and tippers.   

Pick a single colour or a maximum of two colours to create a cohesive, colour-coordinated look to the tree.   

Vary the sizes and shapes. Changing the size, scale and shape of the ornaments adds depth to the tree. Mix balls and teardrops interspersed with your sentimental favourites too.  

If you are decorating a tree that is viewed from all sides, divide the total number of each size of ornament by four. Using the same pie-shape approach as you used for lighting the tree, disperse each group through one of the one-quarter pie shapes. Place them evenly from the top to the bottom of the tree.   

Most trees are viewed from three sides. Don’t waste ornaments on the very back of the tree if it is facing a wall. Instead, divide each collection of ornaments by three… using three pie-shapes for your division.      

Oversize balls are best placed deep within the branches of the tree. They add colour to light up the darker pockets of the tree. Start with your largest ornaments and layer them evenly throughout. Then use up the medium sized ornaments mid-branch. Complete with the smallest ornaments on the tips of the branches to “drip” from the ends. Cluster ornaments together for even greater impact. Odd numbers or ornaments work best when you are clustering.

Kate's Garden holiday decorating

Marvelous Mantels

Tips to Style a Marvelous Mantel


The Mantel is the true focal point of any room and never more so than during the festive season. It is a prime location so it is important to go for high impact when styling your mantel. Set the stage for a visual feast with these design tips. No mantel? No worries! Use these tips to dress up a sideboard, or a long shelf. 

Start creating your Marvelous Mantel by taking everything off your current mantelpiece. Think of it as an empty canvas begging to be filled. Giving yourself a clean slate will allow you to consider all the creative possibilities. 

The colour palette, theme or style you establish must complement and strongly reinforce the décor of the room.  

 Seven Musts for Mantels

 ·       Before you begin, make certain that you have the seven ingredients for a Marvelous Mantel: the right backdrop, evergreen garlands, lights, visual anchors, a strong focal point and fillers to embellish along the greens…and the tools to make it all work.   

·       Backdrop: What is the backdrop to your mantelpiece? Is it a mirror, artwork, wrought iron, an oversized clock or a television? Is it time to change it up? It might be fun to change it up this year at least temporarily. You may even need to change it because your backdrop does not match your Christmas colour theme. When in doubt, choose a mirror as a mirror above the mantel that reflects the room and adds impact to the decorations. Ensure that what is being reflected is eye pleasing. If your mantel backdrop is hung, it should be three to four inches above the mantel. Artwork should be approximately two thirds the width of the mantel to be in good proportion.  


·       Mantel Greens: Evergreen garlands are a hallmark of the festive season. The age-old question: fresh or faux greenery? At Kate’s Garden, we opt for faux greenery with twigs of fresh for scent. Safety is a factor if you want to light your mantel greens so go for faux. Faux cedar greens give the most natural look. Trailing greens suggest opulence.

·       Lighting: Candles and lights add the glow of the festive season to your mantel. In addition to creating sheer mood it adds to the sparkle and lush look of a marvelous mantel. Choose strands of battery-operated lights to add the necessary twinkle along the greens without having to worry about an extension cord hanging down. The flicker of candlelight on a cold winter light adds to the romance of the holidays. Since you can never leave burning candles unattended, battery-operated candles offer a safe alternative.   Light the way to wintertime memories.

·       Anchors: These important elements anchor the greens and visually anchor the mantel at either end. Think candles in hurricanes, branches in vases, interesting stone finials, lanterns, architectural objects, cypress topiaries… 

·       Focal Point: Most often located in the middle of the mantel, this object, bow or arrangement should be the most visually interesting element on the mantel. The focal point provides the biggest pop and should be high impact.

·       Fillers: Fillers are the embellishments used along the mantel greens to visually connect between the anchors and the focal point; gorgeous French wired ribbon, floral picks, a collection of votive candles, etcetera. Mantels are a great place to showcase collections or objets d’art as long as you edit mercilessly. Just be sure not to line them up in single rows as it appears static. Once you have determined the mood and theme don’t try and put everything on the mantel.  Leave some visual space and do not allow it to appear cluttered. Use odd numbers to create more interesting displays.

·       Tools: With 3M Hooks, a sharp pair of scissors, 26 gauge floral wire and a trusty pair of wire cutters, any mantel can become marvelous!

Basic Design Principles for Marvelous Mantels

 ·       Size and Scale: Bigger and bolder items tend to work better as small items tend to get lost on most mantels.  

·       Symmetry or not?: Will you place your visual anchors so that they match on either side or will you give a new twist to this tradition and place them off-centre?

·       Colours and Style to Complement the Room: Choose a colour palette that does not fight with the décor of the room. Keep your colour palette restrained so that you provide eye candy instead of visual noise.  

·       Pleasing Flow: Tall items give an arrangement movement. Using a variety of heights and sizes make the mantel display more dynamic.   Mix the heights of the mantel accessories and ornaments building from the back to the front. Taller in back, shorter in front.  

·       Vary Textures: Interesting textures encourage longer viewing…stone, glass and nubby pods. Different textures and patterns draw the eye.


Neat Tips!

·       Take a picture of your successfully finished mantelpiece so you will remember what to do next year. 

·       If the fireplace is not used, use a multi-tiered candle stand in the hearth.

Want to see more? Watch Kate's presentation on decorating mantels filmed at the Seasons Christmas Show.