The holiday-decorating season is well under way.
And I consider it my journalistic duty to mark the merriment marathon by helping you with your decorating chores. That's why I dropped in on Gayle Hinman and Sandy Olson to gather some ideas while they were turning an Ohio home into a floral Christmas fantasy.
Hinman and Olson run a business called Artistry in Bloom, which does holiday decorating and floral arrangements. Much of their success depends less on technique than on talent and an artistic eye, but they did share some tips that the rest of us can use in our own homes.
Like this one from Hinman: "If you want to have fun doing the lights, hire somebody." OK, so she was getting a little sick of weaving miniature white lights into the garland that draped the banister of the Petrys' grand double staircase. Nevertheless, Hinman thinks the majestic look that comes from hundreds of little white lights is worth the effort.
I did notice one labor-saving element to her method -- she didn't wind the light strings around the garland, as I would have done, but merely wove them back and forth in zigzag fashion. Bending the branch tips held the lights in place. She used the same zigzag motion in adding ribbon to the garland where she could get away with it.
Hinman and Olson don't skimp when it comes to lights. They think Christmas trees look better when the lights are covering the length of the branches, not just wrapped around the outside. Their method is to weave the strings in and out of the tree, covering about every other branch. It's a labor-intensive process, so give yourself plenty of time or do as Hinman and Olson do and hire assistants.
Don't forget to cut the tags off the light strings, Hinman said. That helps the strings blend into the greenery.
One of Olson's ideas that I really liked was her tool belt, which she filled with items like scissors, wire cutters and wire so they're handy while she works.
Some of their other tips:
l Incorporate several types of wired ribbon into a single bow instead of using one color. As long as the colors and patterns go together, the result is more interesting and elegant. Olson just makes loops that she holds in one hand, wires the thing together and then fusses with it until it looks good.
l Dress up a plain evergreen garland with other types of artificial greenery. Hinman added clusters of ferns and ivy on the Petrys' newel post, at the halfway point of both railings, and at the top of the stairs.
l Tree ornaments, like lights, shouldn't go just on the outside of the tree. Hang some in openings within the tree.
l If you want to make your hard work last beyond the Christmas season, use elements with more of a winter look than a holiday look -- roses and magnolias instead of poinsettias, for example.