Home & Garden

Christmas tree alternatives

Photography by Dan Callis Image by: Photography by Dan Callis Author: Canadian Living

Home & Garden

Christmas tree alternatives

A new twist on a tree
Every home thrives on decorations -- especially the ones you make yourself to complement a colour scheme or enhance the mood of a room. And the decorations can be as amazingly simple as Celia Cox's gilded lemon tree. Owner of Pavilion Flowers in Halifax, Celia created a sophisticated little conversation piece when she covered a chicken-wire cone with lemon leaves sprayed with gold paint. Although we give instructions for one size, Celia says the trees can be made in various sizes. A small tree makes a unique table-top decoration; larger trees add an elegant touch flanking the door of a covered entranceway.

Gilded lemon-leaf tree
Finished tree is approx 86 cm (34 in) tall. (See larger image.)

You need:
Approx 30 lemon-leaf branches, each having smaller branches with 4 or 5 leaves apiece (bay leaves may be substituted); available at floral supply stores
Florist's wire
Piece of chicken wire, 115 x 77 cm (45 x 30-1/4 in)
Clay flowerpot, 20.5 cm (8 in) in diameter
1/2-in dowel, 81 cm (32 in) long
Five 3/4-in nails
2 pieces straightened coat-hanger wire, each 51 cm (20 in) long
Needle-nosed pliers
Wire cutters
Drill with 1/8-in drill bit
Hammer
Gold spray paint (available at craft stores)
Plaster of paris
Carpenter's glue
Glue gun
Tissue paper
Newspaper
Plastic containers for mixing glue and plaster
Plastic sheet
Gardening gloves
Styrofoam ball, 3 to 4 in in diameter
White mini lights, optional

To make:
Note: To protect hands, wear gardening gloves when handling wire. To protect work surface, cover with plastic sheet.

1. Drill hole right through dowel 2.5 cm (1 in) from top edge, then a second hole 53.5 cm (21 in) from top edge. At right angle to second hole, drill a third hole right through dowel 54.5 cm (21-1/2 in) down from top edge. Hammer nails partway into dowel around bottom, to grip plaster.

2. Line bottom two-thirds of pot with loosely crumpled newspaper approx 2 cm (3/4 in) thick. Mix plaster according to manufacturer's instructions and fill lined pot up to edge of newspaper. Centre and push nailed dowel end into mixture. (Note: Plaster sets rapidly, so work quickly.) Allow to set overnight.

Page 1 of 2 -- Complete your gilded Christmas tree with our instructions, plus learn how to make a balloon tree for the holidays on page 2

3. Cut chicken wire as shown in diagram. Fold up 10 cm (4 in) along curved edge to "hem." Roll up chicken wire to form a cone, overlapping side edges 10 cm. Fasten by bending cut edges through holes in overlapped piece.

4. Place cone on dowel so dowel extends 2 cm through tip. Push piece of florist's wire through top hole in dowel and securely wire to cone tip. To make bottom of cone rigid, push a piece of coat-hanger wire through each remaining hole in dowel, bending ends flush with chicken wire. Secure bent ends to cone with florist's wire. Push Styrofoam ball 2.5 cm down over dowel top to make hole; remove then apply glue and replace on dowel top.

5. Tear tissue into pieces approx 1.5 cm (5/8 in) square. In plastic container, thin glue with equal amount of water. Dip each piece of tissue into thinned glue then apply to Styrofoam ball, building up a layer of papier-mâché over entire surface. Let dry. Spray gold.

6. Remove leaves from branches and wrap florist's wire around leaf ends to make bunches of approx 5 leaves each. With florist's wire and working in rows from bottom to top of cone, attach leaf bunches. If necessary, glue individual leaves under ball to cover wire completely at tip. Spray leaves lightly with gold to achieve a variegated green/gold effect. If desired, string with mini lights, tucking wires underneath leaves.

Balloon tree
Pure fun is the only way to describe this Christmas tree by Jacqueline Scott of Edmonton. Can't you just imagine the children's surprise on Christmas morning? Large green balloons form the tree, which is decorated with party hats, noisemakers and small coloured balloons for the balls. Party streamers and crepe paper become garlands, and a treetop star was made by Scott's son who is in kindergarten. We think this is a fabulous idea for an evergreen-free Christmas, for a children's holiday party or for those who spend their Christmases in places where trees are hard to come by.

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