Branch Out: Tree-Trimming Secrets for Serious Christmas Champs

There's no wrong way to decorate a Christmas tree, but we're willing to share our secrets with those who'd like to emulate our style.

When you're ready to set your tree up, pick a low-traffic spot away from fireplaces and heaters, and then anchor the tree with nylon thread tied around the trunk and through screw hooks fastened to the wall.

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Place Tree Stand in a Watertight Planter

The effect is a more tailored look than a tree skirt; it also creates extra room for presents.
To pot your tree in a planter follow these steps:

1. Lay felt underneath the container to protect floors.

2. Stack bricks inside planter to raise tree if necessary.

3. Place the tree stand inside the planter, followed by the tree.

4. Pour pebbles into the stand for added stability.

5. Finish off with clump moss.

Prune the Tree

Norway and blue spruces are naturally symmetrical, but their branches have awkward growths that keep ornaments from hanging freely. Clean them up with a little judicious pruning. With the tree standing upright, study it from a distance to see which areas need pruning. Then, prune small growths that jut straight out from the top and bottom of the branches. The lighter sections depicted in our illustration are the ones you'd want to trim away.

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String the Lights

Lights should be added to your tree before other decorations. Our technique will play up the depth of the tree better than draping lights only around the perimeter, while also concealing the wires.

1. Starting at a bottom bough, string lights along the underside of each branch. When you get near the end, loop lights around the top of the branch.

2. Work back to the tree trunk, winding around branch and light strand. Continue around the tree. Reverse the procedure on upper branches (or those above eye level of an average adult), stringing lights first along the top, then back around bottom.

Organize Ornaments

Decide on a theme or palette and lay your ornaments out before you get started. Choose simple ornaments to create a backdrop for more ornate antiques, as well as homemade, sentimental favorites.

Hang Ornaments

Hang dominant ornaments first to establish a rhythm, and intersperse them with accents in complimentary hues. Suspend ornaments from tinned copper wire instead of manufacturer-provided hooks, which can slip off branches, causing breakage. To make your own hangers, thread a 5-inch piece of wire through the ornament loop; twist the wire around itself several times to secure. To hang, wrap the other end of the wire around the branch until the ornament is secure.

Evaluate Your Work

Take a step back while decorating to see which areas need filling. Hang ornaments inside the tree -- not just near its edges -- for added dimension, and don't neglect the back of the tree.

Keep Fragile Ornaments Safe

Hang antique and fragile ornaments near the top of the tree, where they will be less likely to get knocked off by pets and passersby.

Emphasize the Vertical Shape of the Tree

Hang long, dangling ornaments -- for example, icicles and teardrops. Suspend icicles at branch ends so that they look as they do in nature.

Photograph Your Tree

Turn the lights off (or down if you are using a dimmer switch) when photographing, because excessive glare will make the tree look flat.

Pack Ornaments Properly for Future Holidays

When taking down ornaments at the end of the holiday season, organize them by color in boxes. Keep them in a cool, dry location, such as on the top shelf of a spare closet.

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