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By Beth Monroe, Public Relations and Marketing Director, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden

Holiday Tree 2012 Don Williamson low res

Last year’s Holiday Tree (2012) at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden. Photo by Don Williamson.

I feel Scrooge-like admitting it, but decorating a tree is not my favorite thing to do. There, I’ve said it. I love the holidays, but the thought of unwrapping all those ornaments and perfectly placing them on a tree is kind of overwhelming.

Although it may seem a little early to be thinking about such things, I know plenty of people who  trim their trees at Thanksgiving. So I thought sharing some tips I learned from our talented horticulture staff at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden might be timely. Here’s how the pros do it!

A close up of this year's holiday tree, dripping in honey-like glass and decorations of birds, bees and flora.

A close up of this year’s holiday tree, dripping in honey-like glass and decorations of birds, bees and flora.

Each year as part of Dominion GardenFest of Lights, the Garden has a magnificent 20-foot-tall holiday tree in the North Wing of the Conservatory. The planning and decorating of this tree is the work of Horticulturist/Dominion GardenFest of Lights team leader Shannon Smith and Children’s Garden Horticulturist Heather Veneziano. Heather in turn works with a group of four to six Garden staff and volunteers to decorate the tree over a three-day period.

The theme for this year’s Dominion GardenFest of Lights is “A Natural Love Affair” and I am in love with this year’s tree! It reflects the theme and is dripping with honey-like glass and ornaments of birds, bees and the flora of the seasons.

While your tree may not be 20-foot tall like the Garden’s, Shannon and Heather have some great advice. I’ve compiled their suggestions into a “Top 5 Tree-Trimming Tips” list. Maybe it will inspire me to overcome my tree-trimming trepidation and I’m hoping you may find it useful, too!

  1. Lay out everything ahead of time. Divide the tree into four quadrants and place ornaments in a staging area (such as a table) for the corresponding quadrants.
  2. Have at least two people decorating. Heather says she calls one person the “shover” because he or she is “shoving” ornaments into a space; the other person is the “spotter” because he or she can stand back for an overview.
  3. Use smaller items at eye level to draw attention (but if you have small children, you may want to put these smaller items out of “touching range.”)  Heather brings in her small daughter after the tree is decorated and they play “I Spy.” This way, Heather can get an idea of what others, especially children, are seeing.
  4. The goal is to have a rhythm and a balance of forms, colors and textures. For instance, Shannon suggests rotating different forms throughout the tree: round, weeping or trailing, sphere, tear drop, spikey or fluffy.
  5. Think about above and below. “You could hang snow-laden branches above to create a woodland scene,” Shannon says, “or put a display of antique toys below.”

We hope you will come see us for this year’s Dominion GardenFest of Lights, Nov. 29 – Jan. 13 (closed Dec. 24 & 25). If you take a photo of friends and/or family in front of the holiday tree, please share it with the Garden through Facebook (Facebook.com/lewisginter);  Twitter (@lewisginter) or Instagram (@lewisginter). Just tag your photos #GardenFest  – and we’ll be able to feature them on our social media channels. Learn more about the many ways you can connect with the Garden through social media.

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