How to Decorate a Tree: Tips from an Expert Designer at Memorial’s Festival of Trees

Festival of Trees How To VideoHave you ever looked through a display of trees, exquisitely decorated for the holidays, and wondered exactly how it’s done? In the video below, Amanda Johnson, event manager for Memorial’s Festival of Trees speaks with Samra Aslam, long-time design coordinator for Jeffery Alans, which offers a unique mix of home and seasonal décor in Springfield.

Watch as Samra turns a tree into a stunning display, starting with how to create a bow topper, tips to effectively add ornaments throughout and ways to use ribbon as the finishing touch. 

Here are some of Samra’s top tree decorating tips:

  • Take it from the top. Unlike when shaping a tree, you should start from the top when decorating a tree.
  • Make your own bow topper. You can start with a single layer of ribbon, or use three different layers of ribbon. Be sure to twist the ribbon after looping to always get the good side facing out. Remember to loop, then twist. Toppers are usually six or eight loops.
  • Be unconventional. If bows aren’t your style, then think outside the bow. Tree toppers don’t always have to be stars, angels or giant bows.
  • Break the plane. You can go beyond the shape of your tree with items like branches and stems to make your tree feel larger and allow it to make more of an impact. These stems are generally on wires and can be spread to fill the space.
  • Use a variety of textures. You can include bows, glittery branches and stems, or even feathers in addition to more traditional ornaments.
  • Work from the inside out. Instead of placing all your ornaments on the tips of your tree, work from the inside out. Having larger ornaments close to the tree’s base adds depth and fullness, filling any unwanted holes.
  • Ditch the strings. Replacing the strings of your ornaments with wire hangers will give you more control of your ornaments and you can choose how far down they hang from the branch.
  • It’s all about layering. Add your garland and any of your florals. Save your smallest pieces for last and put them on the tips of the tree so they don’t get lost.
  • Decorate with purpose. Have a method behind where you place your ornaments. Decorate with ornaments of different colors, textures and sizes evenly throughout the tree. Use balance by placing larger ornaments toward the bottom and the inside of the tree.
  • The last thing. Ribbon makes a great alternative to traditional garland. Cut several 24- to 36-inch long pieces, starting at the top and make two loose loops, putting them into the branches. This adds movement and more color to your tree.

One of central Illinois’ largest displays of decorated trees and wreaths is at Memorial’s Festival of Trees, Saturday, Nov. 23 – Sunday, Dec. 1. There you’ll get a chance to see Jeffery Alan’s showcase.

More information, including a calendar of events and hours is available online at