Turning your home into a “Winter Wonderland” this holiday season is simple. This project will help you choose natural holiday décor, as well as show you how to use indoor and outdoor lighting that will dress up your home for the holidays.
Decorate with Natural Decor
Using seasonal holiday decorations made of natural materials can add a fun and festive atmosphere to your indoors and outdoors, not to mention their Earth- and budget-friendliness.
Collect materials with which to make your decorations year-round—collect spruce and other evergreen clippings when you trim your outside foliage. When you’re outside on a walk, look for dried flowers and other vegetation like nuts, berries and pinecones. The change in seasons will provide a plethora of textures and colors. The more you think ahead, the better stockpile you’ll have to make Christmas decorations.
Try some of these tips on how to decorate with good cheer the natural way.
Step 1: Make Your Own Wreath
Design your own custom wreath. Gather trimmings from your yard or from your new Christmas tree. Cedar, pine and fir provide great materials for wreath greenery. The tips of these boughs work best. Collect a couple of handfuls of holly or similar berries with leaves for added effect.
Create a frame for the wreath using a standard wire coat hanger; bend it into a circle—you can use its hook to hang the wreath when it’s completed. Bunch a handful of trimmings together with all the stems at one end and attach them to the coat hanger frame with floral wire. The floral wire should be wrapped around the frame as you go along connecting the bundle of clippings to the frame. Wrap the wire around the bundles a second time and be sure it is pulled tight and that each successive bundle covers the clippings' stems. When all bundles have been attached, twist the wire around the last bundle and knot it onto the frame. Trim excess wire with wire cutters.
Use floral wire or a glue gun to attach the holly bundles or some pinecones to the frame the same way.
Step 2: Make Natural Garland
Make your own garland. Garland is great for decorating stairs, banisters, and mantels and anywhere else you think it looks appropriate and attractive. Like wreaths, evergreen branches are perfect for making garland. If you don’t have enough from clippings to work with, you can also find them at garden centers (you will need branches that are about 12" long).
Trim or shake off dead or loose needles. Place one branch on top of another and be sure that there is no gap between sections of needles. Use floral wire to fasten the two branches together by wrapping the wire around them three or four times. Continue to do this with your other branches—fasten each section together by wrapping them with the wire and tying the wire off tightly.
Attach some holly or pinecones using a hot glue gun. Make sure that you press these additions down firmly and hold them for a couple of minutes until the glue sets.
Step 3: Go Beyond the Poinsettia
The Holiday Cacti or Cyclamen are great alternatives to the traditional poinsettia. These plants offer colorful holiday blooms; plus you can enjoy them year-round.
The Holiday Cactus, also known as the Thanksgiving Cactus (Schlumbergera truncata) or the Christmas Cactus (Schlumbergera), can be bought during the holiday season already in bloom. It should sit in indirect sunlight in regular indoor temperatures. Keep the soil moist and fertilize weekly.
To get last year’s cactus to bloom, leave it at night at temperatures around 55 degrees while the plant is beginning to flower. If you can’t store them at that temperature, don’t worry. The cactus will flower with 12 to 13 hours of darkness each night. One trick is to lay black plastic over the plant when the lights are on.
Cyclamen (available in white, red and deep pink) generally lay dormant during summer months and bloom indoors during winter.
Great job! Your home is now bedecked with holiday charm inside and out.
Hang Outdoor Christmas Lights
You’ll find a variety of bright and merry holiday lights for outdoor decoration at your local True Value hardware store. There are string icicle lights for roof edges, net lights for bushes, colored floodlights and rope lights for railings, porches, trees and around doors and windows.
Here are the basics on how to decorate your house with Christmas lights.
Step 1: Plan Your Lighting
Make a dimensioned sketch of the area of the house you’ll be lighting. With the house sketch and list of available supplies at hand, devise a plan for lights and write up a shopping list.
Step 2: Provide Safe Power
Power your lights safely and responsibly. Buy a 16-gauge extension cord with an in-line circuit breaker and multi-outlet plug, if you’re stringing many lights. You may need additional standard 16-gauge cords. “Landscape” cords are colored green to make them less visible in the grass and shrubs. Wrap all connections with electrical tape and/or cover them with a plastic bag taped to the cords to seal the ends.
If you have an outdoor outlet that has covers that snap over the unused receptacles, replace the cover with a larger "in-use" type, which will protect the receptacle from the weather when it is in use. Also make sure that the receptacle is a GFCI (ground-fault circuit interrupter) type.
Step 3: String Lights on Your House
Use string lights, regular or icicle-style, to outline the architectural lines of your house. Slip universal-style clips under sidewall siding or the shingles at gable roof edges and snap the wires or lamps into the clips. Use gutter clips or S-hooks to hang strings of lights to the front edge of gutters.
Step 4: Place Lights on Trees and Shrubs
Cover your trees and shrubs with holiday lights. Rather than trying to twist and wrap wires around the branches, use reusable clips and/or various sizes of plastic cable ties.
Light mats, which are web-like arrangements of evenly spaced lights, work well over manicured shrubs such as yews. Center the mat at the top front edge so any open or overlapped areas will be in the back of the shrub.
Only use lights designated specifically for outdoor use.
When hanging lights, stay clear of power lines.
If connecting to an inside power source, keep the window or door open slightly so the cord does not get crushed.
How to Choose the Perfect Christmas Tree
Step 1: Decide What Kind of Tree You Want
Think about what kind of tree you want. There are a lot of tree options out there—it can be daunting. But if you don’t want an artificial tree, spruce and evergreen trees are the way to go. The differences are mainly in the color and length of the needles.
Here are some examples of the most common trees that are out there, at both Christmas tree lots and at tree farms:
Douglas Fir – These are the most common trees available. They are usually the most inexpensive as well. Their needles are short, soft and bluish-green. These trees are also infamous for losing their needles quickly. They need plenty of water to avoid shedding.
Scotch Pine – Another common tree type, they are usually more expensive than the Douglas Fir, but they also retain their needles better and last longer. Needles are dark green.
Blue Spruce – These trees have stiff needles that are a silvery green color. Watered adequately, these trees can last for a month and still look great.
Step 2: Take Measurements
Take the time to measure the dimensions of your room and the tree. A little forethought will help avoid any problems once you have your tree. Use a measuring tape to check the height, bearing in mind the dimensions of your tree stand. It’s a good idea to leave at least 6" from the ceiling to the top of your tree. Don’t forget to ensure that the room is wide enough for the size of tree you want, if you’re going to place the tree in a corner or alcove. Write these measurements down.
Take your tape measure with you when you go to purchase the tree to be sure that the tree is going to fit.
Step 3: Decide Where You Will Get Your Tree
The first step in choosing your holiday tree is deciding if you will buy a pre-cut one from a tree lot or if you will cut one down yourself. If you are cutting your own, there are many tree farms that will allow you to choose a tree and cut it down yourself. If you’ll be cutting your own, be sure you leave the house with a handsaw, some twine, a blanket (for when you strap the tree to your vehicle) and some gloves to protect your hands.
If you are buying a pre-cut tree, make sure it is freshly cut. Touch the needles and branches to see if a significant amount comes off in your hand. Lightly bang the base of the tree on the ground; if many needles fall off, the tree is not fresh. And test the limbs to see if you think they are sturdy enough to hold the weight of ornaments. Also, if the tree is fresh, you should be able to smell the tree’s fragrance easily. As when cutting down a tree yourself, bring twine and a blanket for strapping the tree to the top of your car, if you don’t have a truck or similar vehicle with the room to stow the tree for the trip to your house.
Step 4: Place Your Tree Properly
When you get your new tree home, be sure to put it into a bucket of water as you prepare to erect it. Don’t place the tree in high-traffic areas where it could get knocked over by children or pets or where your family could trip over tree light electrical cords. Trees are usually best placed in a corner or in front of a window for optimum effect.
Never place your Christmas tree near a heat source, such as a radiator or fireplace, as this can present a fire hazard