A step-by-step guide to Christmas prepOf all the holidays, none is more steeped in tradition than Christmas. So, it’s not surprising to hear from local florists and Christmas tree vendors that the Red River Valley seems to favor tradition over trends.
GRAND FORKS, N.D. -- Of all the holidays, none is more steeped in tradition than Christmas. So, it’s not surprising to hear from local florists and Christmas tree vendors that the Red River Valley seems to favor tradition over trends.
What are local customers looking for when they’re picking trees, wreaths, ornaments, garland, ribbons and vases to deck their halls?
“All things red,” said florist Jan Heitman of All Seasons Garden Center, a family business in Grand Forks founded by Georgia and Dieter Heitmann that sells Christmas trees and all manner of holiday decor.
Red may be a perennial favorite, but green and white also are traditional. (This year, moss green is trending.) One part of All Seasons is dedicated to all white ornaments, sprays and flocked trees. Other trees have themes including candy cane and large red ornaments that look like vintage trucks.
Other popular colors are silver, gold and maroon. The more modern Mardi Gras inspired colors such as hot pink, aqua blue, lime green and purple are seen less often in this area.
Florists and others who sell Christmas trees and decorations point out that there are dozens of options.
“You are limited only by your imagination,” said Darlene Shea of Shea’s Nursery of Grand Forks, a family-owned garden and landscaping center.
Whether you buy a tree from a vendor in your supermarket parking lot or in a place where the trees are hung inside, it’s good to follow some basic guidelines.
First, be sure you know much space you have and the height of your ceiling, said Scott Kiel, a landscape designer at All Seasons.
Many Grand Forks tree shoppers favor the Frazier fir, probably because it smells so good, but the Scotch pine and white pine are big sellers, too.
• Once you chose a tree and get it home, give the trunk a fresh cut and get it into water within about an hour. (Some businesses will cut the trunk for you.)
• Release the tree from its bindings and let it set in your house for a day before you decorate it, keeping it well watered.
• You can expect your tree to “drink” 16 to 24 ounces of water a day for the first week. Also, it’s a good idea to buy and add a preservative to the tree’s water.
• Position your tree away from large windows and from heat registers to help keep it from drying out.
Some people like flocked trees. Flocking, which looks like a cover of snow on the branches, is a spray made from recycled paper and glue, and it will preserve a tree. Most flocking is white, but some businesses will take special orders to flock your tree in any color you want. You do not water a flocked tree, as the flocking acts a preservative, but do keep it away from windows and heat sources as you would any real tree
Artificial trees, because they come in so many sizes and styles, afford the most flexibility. Many come with their own lights, some are flocked or are silver, gold, pink or lavender. Others are just the right height to set on a table or a shelf.
To make sure your artificial tree keeps its shape, be careful how you store it. Rather than trying to stuff your tree back into its original box, many tree vendors recommend you put away your artificial tree standing up, covered in plastic or draped in a cloth, or stored inside a standing tube.
Ribbon and baubles
Nurseries and other businesses that sell trees often decorate a few of their showroom trees according to a theme. But at home, having a themed tree may come second to displaying cherished ornaments. People love ornaments that recall their family’s heritage, history and memories.
Still, even those who want to display their traditional ornaments on their tree, fireplace mantle or dining room table can build on the look, adding ribbons for texture and sparkling branches and ornaments that pull everything together, Jan Heitmann said.
Heitmann often gives her Christmas trees a “crown” at the top, creating a focal point and drama, using everything from organic looking branches of dogwood, birch and willow, to sparkly branches, berries and feathers.
Lights and safety
For Christmas decorating, think safety first, Darlene Shea said. Be careful with candles. Today, battery-operated candles (which come in all sizes) are a popular option. If you have an actual fire in your fireplace, be careful when decorating the mantle. Keep combustible materials (such as garland) away from flames. If you have a real tree, keep it watered.
Also, poinsettias are not poisonous, said Darlene Shea and Georgia Heitmann. They may be harmful if ingested in large quantities, so position poinsettias away from your pets.
Other safety tips: Be sure to use outdoor rated lights and cords when decorating outdoors and be careful not to overload your circuits indoors or out. Battery-operated electric lights are now available.
Consider putting your lights on a timer, so they’ll be on as soon as it gets dark, and you won’t have to remember to shut them off at bedtime.
As you hang ornaments on a tree, consider their weight and don’t hang them all on one side. You don’t want your tree to tip because it’s lop-sided.
Other decorating tips
Here are some random suggestions from Darlene Shea and Shea’s Nursery employees.
• When building a centerpiece, use floral foam to anchor your materials. There’s “wet” foam for arrangements that need to be watered, and “dry” foam for arrangements with artificial greens and decorations. It’s helpful to begin by placing your tallest elements. If you’re making a dining table centerpiece or tablescape, be sure its low enough that it won’t stop people from visiting or seeing each other across the table.
• Mixing different kinds of real or artificial greenery, such as short needled and long needled pines and eucalyptus, will give an interesting look. Greens spread on a table can be a beautiful place to set a glass bowl, candlesticks or other vessel
• Holly, mistletoe, carnations, ferns and leatherleaf, candles and bright ornaments, apples and oranges, cinnamon sticks and cloves are attractive in arrangements. For instance, you can make a centerpiece by filling a rose bowl with water and cranberries with a floating candle on top.
• To add some fragrance to your Christmas, stud oranges with fragrant cloves. Put out a bowl with mixed nuts and a nutcracker for a traditional (and potentially edible) centerpiece. Use a ribbon to tie cinnamon sticks to a wreath for the fragrance and the traditional look.
For more information, go to www.sheasnursery.com, or call (701) 772-3489.
Jan Heitmann’s motto and guide for decorating? “Minimize hassle, maximize enjoyment.”
To that end, All Seasons is offering classes on Christmas decorating. All begin at 9 a.m. on Saturdays. There are three classes left. Contact All Seasons to sign up and for information on fees: (701) 746-7777; www.allseasonsgardencenter.com.
Remaining classes: Dec. 1, Learn how to embellish and care for your poinsettias, amaryllis and paperwhites. Assemble a paperwhite cube; Dec. 8, Build a fairy garden for your friends and family. It’s a fun project for kids, too; and Dec. 15, Design a festive centerpiece for your holiday party.
Copyright 2012, Grand Forks Herald.