Trees, baubles, lights, action! CATHERINE TURNBULL offers a guide to getting your Christmas tree looking its best for the festive season

WITH December just around the corner, the full juggernaut of Christmas preparations is heading our way.

Whether you like to put up your tree at the stroke of midnight on December 1 or wait until Christmas Eve, you will still want it to make an impact.

Furnish & Fettle, interior designers based at Wetherby and Harrogate, have shared this guide on dressing your Christmas tree – but first you need to make some decisions …

Decision 1 – real or artificial?

Both have benefits and pitfalls and there is the environmental question of the tree’s carbon footprint to consider. According to Dr John Kazer, at the Carbon Trust, you need to re-use an artificial tree ten times to keep its environmental impact lower than that of a real tree.

Artificial trees these days are so good they can look as though they are real, and there is no arguing with the cost saving and the convenience of using it year after year – and there’s no needle drops to consider. You can even get pre-lit trees now, which avoids the hassle of having to weave in the strings of lights.

On the other hand, there is just something so special about the look, texture and smell of a real tree. If you can’t decide, perhaps go for both.

Decision 2 – Where to put it?

As the Christmas tree forms the focus for our festive activities it is important to consider where to place it. On a practical note it will need to be near a plug socket if you plan on having it lit, and if you have decided on a real tree it’s a good idea to choose a location that is as cool as possible to prevent it from drying out too quickly.

Other practical considerations are whether it will it be in the way of daily activities, meaning baubles might get knocked off by clumsy family members, and don’t forget to think about those wagging tails or climbing felines.

Step 1 – Get your tree in shape

Make sure that your tree fits in the space. If you do need to trim a real tree, do it from the bottom to ensure it keeps its triangular shape and remove any rogue branches.

Real trees that have been transported home in a net, and artificial trees coming out of a box will need a good fluff up. Bending the branches into shape to ensure a nice full even shape before you get started is a crucial step in ensuring a good result, so don’t be tempted to skip this step.

Step 2 - Lighting

Start by checking your lights are working before you start to put them on the tree to avoid any frustration further down the line.

Starting at the top and working your way down, weave the lights around every major branch leaving approximately 10 -15cm between the loops.

Step 3 – Garlands, picks or even flowers

If you fancy adding texture to your tree you can use a garland, perhaps made from beads, ribbon or even paper, and it’s a good idea to do this before you start adding any of the more delicate decorations, so you don’t knock them off.

For a different look, consider using picks (a collection of leaves, berries or such-like bound together) or even artificial flowers.

Start from the top of the tree and work your way around ensuring you spread them out evenly.

Step 4 - Baubles

The bit that everyone wants to get involved in – but it’s best to have a bit of a plan if you want to have a sophisticated look, rather than a random mess.

Start by dividing your baubles into groups of either matching baubles or those that are similar. If you are buying new baubles it is a good idea to have plain ones as a base and then buy the more decorative types in multiples of three, as that will give your tree balance. It is also nice to try to have a variety of different shapes and sizes.

Many people have a collection of baubles that they have amassed over the years and that hold special memories, and that’s okay too. Just be mindful that if you want a polished look you might to need hang some baubles that detract from the overall style towards the back, or even consider having a separate tree. This is a particularly good strategy if you have lots of decorations made by children that need to be on display, but really don’t work on your main tree.

Select a group of plain or similar coloured baubles and start at the centre of the tree working outwards, using the largest closest to the centre to give the tree more depth. Try to spread them evenly before selecting another group of baubles and repeating the process.

Save your special baubles until last and ensure that they are hung safely to avoid any disasters.

Step 5 - Topper

Now for the final flourish. For a traditional look, choose a star or an angel, which has its roots in religion. If this isn’t working for you feel free to choose something else such as a snowflake or bird – just make sure you have chosen a topper that isn’t too heavy as it will have to sit on the flimsiest part of the tree.