Christmas Decorating Expert Helen Watson Gives You Advice On Decorating Your Christmas Tree

We asked Christmas decorating expert, Helen Watson from family run Ferndale Garden Centre for her tips for decorating a Christmas Tree.

As Helen works on Christmas all year round creating the garden centre’s amazing displays, we knew she would keep us up to date with 2015’s latest trends.

This is what Helen told us:

When does Christmas officially start for you?

Amazingly it starts during the previous Christmas selling period. That’s when we start taking notes of successes, failures (there aren’t many), customer requests, ideas and trends. For the first time last December we went to our main supplier to order for this Christmas. Yes before Christmas. It’s

a great time to go as the current ranges, success and not as successful product is fresh in our minds. Plus as our main supplier is on the Dutch German border we can see how they celebrate Christmas too.

Which goes on the tree first – the decorations or the lights?

Always the lights! If you can fasten the lights on first you can create an even and satisfactory look. It’s always a good idea to give depth to the tree by pulling the wires backwards down the branches as well as on the outside of the tree. This gives the tree a 3d effect. Then you can add the decorations and again put some of them inside the tree,  so you can still see them but again giving the tree depth.

Is there a rule of thumb for the number of lights that go on to the tree.

Our rule is: you can never have enough lights on a tree! Christmas lights are sold in set of 100s, so that a set with 500 on sounds a lot but on a 6’ tree 500 looks amazing and not over full. We have trees that are already lit when you buy them and customers are amazed when there are 500 lights on them. They love them too. With the introduction of ‘cluster’ lights a few years ago you can swathe your tree with garland like sets – 4m lengths might have 1500 ‘bulbs’ on them. It sounds expensive but the price of larger sets has dropped dramatically and because the modern ‘lights’ are LED (light emitting diodes), you never need to replace the bulbs and they use only 10% of the power of traditional lights. Oh and another plus – you can also use these lights outside as well.

Does the tree look better with one colour of lights or does multicolour look better?

It’s all personal choice. If you colour theme your tree then white is perfect as you can use white with any colour theme. However you will have to choose between cool white or warm white. Warm white looks like the traditional white lights of old.

Modern or traditional – which do you prefer?

Its’ hard to say what’s modern or traditional now. A great amount of care is taken by some people to create ‘their look’ and for others it’s more about a family nostalgic look. Our early buyers tend to be planned and themed (and are very organised) people. Most of our customers have favourite pieces that have family memories associated with them. For them their new decorations are added to the special pieces. My tree is full of memories.

Are there any trends we should be looking out for in Christmas 2015?

Old Gold is going to be a trend this year in the UK. The traditional colours of Gold, Silver, and Red will always be the most popular but the smart companies twist these to be on trend. That’s how Old Gold will feature this year.  For an update for the red traditional colour, the introduction of red tartan into some of the lines will give it a new look, and a touch of fur (fake of course), will be dotted into wooden ranges.  Christmas for most people is about tradition, family, and nostalgia to varying degrees. This means that very new and perhaps outrageous themes are only popular with a few trend setters and sometimes suit businesses. If you are one of these you need to choose and buy at the beginning of the display season as the numbers of these lines is usually quite low.

We source from UK and continental designers. The best UK designers and suppliers know how far to push the innovative colours and we have learnt not to get too carried away with some of the continental colour themes. These are often quite specific to certain regions. For example Scandinavia loves red and white. The only way for us to use the red and white is blend it with natural wood decorations.  Some years very bright ‘acid’ colours are featured but for the average ‘Brit’ that’s a bit too Un-Christmas.

If so how do these new trends differ from last year?

As trends tend to change gradually changes rather than sudden ones retailers and consumers can mix the changes into their existing ranges. (see previous above HW)

What would be your top tips for decorating a Christmas tree?

If you have lots of pieces that you favour but want to theme as well, look at your decorations and pick your colour theme and leave out the decorations that don’t fit the theme. It works. We’ve mentioned putting the lights on first then add your decorations. Tinsel is personal too. Over the last few years it’s made a comeback, probably because it’s a cheap filler. Perhaps it’s a recession thing too. Christmas nostalgia rules during hard times.

Fake or real – Which do you prefer?

Both. Some years it’s real some years it’s artificial (we like to call them artificial rather than fake). Funnily enough the latest artificial trees look more real that the real ones. It’s quite incredible. One trend from the past few years (even in a recession) is homes with multiple trees. A family one in the lounge, a smaller narrower one in the hall and small bright trees in children’s bedrooms are popular. Artificial trees are easy to use and don’t make a mess so often we see more of these.

Key tips for making your Christmas tree look its best?

Real trees are like a woody ‘bunch of flowers’. They need water even the needle holding trees. Ideally buy your tree a week before you decorate it, standing it outside in a bucket of water after cutting an inch from the trunk to unblock the tubes that allow the tree to drink. When you take your tree inside use a stand that holds water and top it up daily. This keeps the tree fresh throughout the time in your home.

Artificial trees are easier but they benefit from 24 hours upright in your home before decorating. This allows the heat of your home to soften the needles and let then fall naturally before decorating. We’ve know people that use a hair dryer in their tree to speed the operation up.
While decorating keep standing back to check the decorating is  balanced and there aren’t any gaps. If your tree is in your window make sure you decorate the portion seen from outside too.

What says Christmas for you?

Christmas, once I can have mine, is all about my family, my friends, my home and sharing. We make time to be with family and love the sharing on Christmas day as en-mass we open our presents. It’s an important time for me to catch up with friends and share time together. The run up to Christmas is so hectic with the initial set up, display and then selling that I become a Christmas hermit, and don’t see many people until we can start our Christmas at home. It’s worth it though to know all our efforts help others have a festive Christmas.

Christmas 2016 – Have you already started preparing?

Once we have this year’s product in our hands in August and September it starts to trigger what we might do next year but every decision made before visiting the suppliers Christmas showrooms could be completely abandoned when we see the new displays  for the first time. This was the case last December (2014) when we saw ‘2015’ for the first time. We are pretty much like our customers, when we see the displays and products our jaws can drop in awe too. Then our imaginations start to develop ideas. This led to a complete rethink and massive layout changed for this year. It’s pretty much a 12 month a year project.

Have you already decided on a theme for your Christmas decorations this year?   Get in touch and share it with us – we’d love to know your plans.

1 Comment

  1. Laraine Turner
    November 9, 2016 / 9:07 pm

    I visited Ferndale today and I have never seen such beautiful Christmas decorations.What a wonderful display. I didn’t want toleave the garden centre. I bought lots of lovely gifts including a Christmas tree and I’m going back next week to meet my friend.
    I’ve already e-mailed her to tell her she is in for a treat.

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