Friday, November 30, 2012

How to Decorate a Tree : Step by Step

 STEP BY STEP - A Photographic journey of tree decoration!

   As this is posted, it is the eve of December, so it’s time to set up the tree!   But how? We will try to help. 

    Normally we decorate with a combination of ribbon, picks, ornaments, and garland. For each category there are big ones, small ones, and some as big as your head.  If you need help choosing between these options, please refer to our previous blog posts about designing a tree. This week we are only covering basic decorating techniques.

“In what order should I attack (a.k.a. “decorate”) my tree?”
  1. Ribbon
  2. Large Picks
  3. Large Ornaments
  4. Small Ornaments
  5. Small Picks
  6. Garland 
             -“I did that but my tree looks funny, can I go back and change the order?”
                       - Sure! Do whatever you like! It’s all about lookin’ good!

"How do I specifically place the ribbon, ornaments, picks, and garland on the tree?"
  1. Ribbon.   
A.      Start from the top and work your way down in spirals. If you’re only viewing your tree from one angle, don’t worry about spiraling around the entire tree. You can just work back and forth along the viewed angle.
B.      When the branches on your tree are close together, tuck the ribbon towards the center of the tree. When there is a “hole” in the tree (when you can through to the trunk), bring your ribbon forward and smooth it out so that you can see the entire width of the ribbon.  Don’t be afraid to manhandle your ribbon and twist it as you see fit.
C.  Sometimes you can use two ribbons, as Joey did below.  With the second ribbon you can see more easily how to poof it out and bring it forward.

      2.   THE “Z”   
           Ornaments and picks are generally put onto the tree in a triangular or “z” pattern. You probably already do this.  Just try to keep ornaments equidistant apart.  For help, follow my silly drawings from the photo below.  

I drew in “Z’s” or triangles.  Work with whichever makes more sense for you. When you put your initial large picks and ornaments on the tree, keep your “Z” going on.  The size of the Z (distance between items) is completely up to you. 

     3. Notes on Large Picks 
     You’ll see on this tree that we kept the majority of the large picks close to the top.  Larger florals are    particularly useful for filling in gaps, making a slim tree appear fuller, and for occasionally moonlighting as a tree topper.  Your picks will have more of an impact at the top. Although we only used two or three at the top, it makes a statement.  

     4. As you add more ornaments and picks, keep your “Z” in mind, but you'll end up focusing more on filling blank areas of the tree.  

    5. Small picks and clips, like butterflies are birds, are a garnish.  Because they clip to the tips of branches, instead of purely filling holes, stick to a rough “Z” pattern. 

    6. Garland. 
        If you’ve seen our time lapse video concerning this decoration start to finish, you know that this tree didn’t get a garland.  Garland has a hidden complexity, so it will be covered in a separate post.  Sorry!

For those who missed it : here's a link to our time lapse video! (Featuring our this Jim Morrison tree's decoration from start to finish)   Tequila Time Lapse

Garden Pastimes at home : The "Z" is key! Otherwise, if we have an idea in mind we through all rules through the window and do whatever we want.

Friday, November 23, 2012

How to Design a Christmas Tree

Week Two: Hints and Frequently Asked Questions

“How do you come up with the ideas for your trees?”
We generally imagine some themes, pick our color palettes, and go for it. Themes or palettes give you some
discipline for your design and keeps the tree from looking cluttered.

Get your inspiration from anywhere! Choose favorite colors to make it simple. This year we have a “Jim Morrison” tree, along with “Doris Day.” Do customers recognize who is Jim and who is Doris? No… but if we just threw the two sets of decorations onto trees they’d notice that the store looks like a load of you-know-what.

As you work, keep editing, but don't be afraid! What you pictured in your head might not happen in real life, so go ahead and ditch that ribbon or garland if it rubs you the wrong way.  On the other hand, if those huge teal ornaments don't make any sense "logically" with your palette of silver and gold but you can't help but love them, keep them!   Trust that instinct.

“Do I need ribbon and picks and ornaments and garland? What’s the point of each of them?”

You might not need them all, but it's difficult to use only one.

Meet Jim.
He has ribbon, ornaments and picks,
but garland was too much!
1.  Ribbon. Ribbon helps fill initial holes between branches and creates a constant throughout the tree. It also makes [lateral] lines, which picks and ornaments don’t do. If you don’t like ribbon, try some garland.

2.  Ornaments. If you design a tree without any ornaments, it will either look really awful or really awesome. You’ll have to trust yourself on that one.

3.  Picks. Picks help fill out a tree, especially if you have a thinner tree or one without many tips. You can also use multiple picks at the top of the tree if you don’t have a topper. You might not need picks, but they add texture and shapes that ornaments can’t give you.

4.  Garland. Garland can be that perfect finishing touch, or it can turn your classy tree into a cluttered mess. If you already have a noticeable amount of ribbon, or if you have many picks that stick out farther than the tips of the tree, you probably won’t need garland. If you only have a bunch of ornaments and a little bit of ribbon, a simple drape of garland will work well.

“Can I use tinsel?! Does anyone use that anymore?!”
 Sure! Go for it!

As we said in the previous article – If you don’t know what is aesthetically good looking on a tree, just focus on creating balance of design elements, especially shape, color, texture, and size. Also, don't forget to add some that twinkle and light.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

How to Decorate a Christmas Tree: Week 1

Week 1: Redesigning The Family Tree

We have been getting many questions on “how to decorate a Christmas tree,” and now we want to answer them! However, we can’t settle on “rules” to decorating.  Whenever we make one, we break it. Here, we’ll just keep it simple with generalizations. If you’d like help with specifics for your tree, just drop by the store to chat or comment here on our blog.

This article starts with Step 1: Initial Concept and Design: The Family Tree. (Sounds fancy, right?)  Next week we will outline some helpful hints on jumpstarting the creative process and designing your own cohesive tree from scratch!  

The Family Tree (Seemingly without theme) 
You, like most families, might not have presupposed “themed trees;” you might hang the ornaments passed down in your family or the ornaments your kids made in 1st grade.  Maybe you top the tree with a star made from tin foil, and you string popcorn garland. Still, there are ways to create a cohesive look from a preexisting collection of ornaments. 

Where to start: Preparation! Grab a mix of your ornaments and decorate a small area of your tree.  (It’s easiest to do on your tree, but if you use a live tree or don’t want to get into storage yet, just lay your collection along a green sheet or towel. Don’t forget that your tree is green! That sounds dumb, but it’s important.)

What are you looking for once the ornaments are on the tree?  You’re trying to find what you like. Generally, in themed trees and family trees, you want to have a well balanced mixture of design elements – notably color, shape, size, and texture.  (Also consider light; Christmas should twinkle.)  

Example #1:  You have a guhzillion big red round ornaments, along with a hoard of big pink round ornaments. The combo creates two problems: too much "big/round" and the colors could clash.  I’d recommend adding smaller ornaments in a different shape and color such as small silver finials (drop-like ornaments). They will add balance and heal your tree from the chickenpox outbreak. As for color, many pinks and reds clash. Try either taking out the pinks, or adding a different color to distract your eye from the pink and red.

Continuity: Family trees often need to work on continuity or flow to achieve balance.  Because each ornament generally stands alone, (ex. - “Baby’s 1st Christmas”), the tree can appear disjointed or messy.  Fix this most easily with a garland, picks, or an odd-numbered set of plain ornaments. Figure out what colors or shapes could mesh easily with your current ornaments. 

Example #2:  Your ornaments are mostly red and green, but a few have some gold or silver.  Drape thin silver or gold tinsel garland evenly across your tree, or grab gold ornaments from the dollar store and space them equally . 
Example #3: Or, maybe you’re an outdoorsy family! Your tree is decked with animals, skis, and soccer balls! Simply finish out your tree with small natural picks like twigs, pine, or feathers. 

So, dig through the dust and bring out the boxes! Remember that the ornaments you have already look good; that's why you like them. Making them look good together can be tricky without a bit of balance.  If you'd like tips on where to place ornaments or how to drape garland, keep checking back!  Each Friday evening we'll bring out a new article.

Garden Pastimes at home : We rarely have themed trees! Although each of our personal styles shine in our trees at home, we enjoy our family's sentimental or quirky ornaments. 

Thursday, November 1, 2012

How to Decorate a Christmas Tree - video!


We've been having a bit of fun lately, and the Christmas shop is open!  

We often receive questions about how to decorate a christmas tree.  So, soon we'll be blogging about our approach to decorating, complete with step by step instructions and general design theories.

But first!  Have some fun with our first Garden Pastimes video.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

A Backyard Oasis...

Water in the garden...
It's presence is as natural and undisputed as that of sunlight and fresh air - it's there at your leaky hose bib, in ephemeral footprints by the pool, in the birdbath, in the very air around us (thank you, Maryland humidity!) And as the mercury rises water becomes our refuge and ally - it's brightly reflective surface dances with light in defiance of the sun's heat, and the sound of its bouncing drops making their way to some cool basin is often enough to whet if not our bodies than our minds. And what better way to gain admittance to this solace than by adding a water feature to your garden? Today I'll run you through the basics of selecting and caring for your own backyard oasis - it's easier than you may think!

Dreamy water features...
Just add water! There are fountains, and there are FOUNTAINS (like, big/scary/wonderful/ expensive/amazing/sometimes-pain-in-the-butt water features...) What works best for most gardeners and homeowners who want a bit of splash are freestanding water fountains, which belong firmly in the former category. These types of water features are generally more affordable, easy to install and maintain, and are portable.  Setting one up is literally as simple as adding water and plugging it in. No additional plumbing is required because the pump, which is hidden within the fountain, recirculates water from it's basin. That's one of the greatest features of the portable fountain - you can place it anywhere you like.
Free standing fountains from Campania International
Many of our customers seek fountains for the relaxing sound of water near an outdoor seating area, which can also help to mask unwanted noises from the street or neighbors. Others simply want an elegant focal point for the garden which will entice those who wander it's paths. It is important to have a general idea of location when setting out to select a fountain for this very reason; if sound is important, certain designs will lend themselves better to your purpose, and it is important to either hear it in person or speak with someone knowledgeable about the fountain design - trust me you do NOT want the "toilet bowl effect"!
Can you imagine having something like this in your garden?! Magical...
If you are searching for a fountain as a unifying garden element or focal point, size then becomes the dominating variable. Often the size of the fountain is decided by the intimacy of the area, the surrounding architectural features, and the existing plantings. A low fountain can serve to bring your eye downward and direct focus to surrounding plantings, meanwhile adding a sense of height to the area via open air space above the feature - this type of fountain is most effective in an intimate or secluded area of the garden (my opinion anyways - if the space is right for it a low basin fountain can work anywhere!) A taller fountain is effective when it will be viewed from a bit of a distance - the added height will bring the feature closer to eye level, lending stature and providing focus. I could go on and on about things like verticality, dimension, formality... but I think that would not only be pointless but more confusing all at once. For the most part, the best person to decide what will fit in the setting of their home is - you guessed it - the homeowner! But for those who are not quite sure or are afraid of making the wrong decision, my best advice is to chat with other people - bounce your ideas off others, bring photos and pick's a great way to make a decision you feel confident about.
Fountains and features both whimsical and classic
After the fun part of choosing which fountain to bring home, the next set of questions I get are all about care; both summer and winter will require some maintenance, but not much. The biggest responsibility you will have in the summer is to keep your fountain full; the water will evaporate and splash out over time and the pump should never be allowed to run dry - it will overheat and DIE...egads! Other than that, your fountain may need a little scrub-a-dub once in a while to control algae (you can also add a cap-full of bleach or an algaecide such as this one from Lowes) and perhaps a periodic skim to remove debris from nearby trees. When it starts to get chilly out you'll want to put your fountain to bed for the winter - leaving water in any kind of basin can spell trouble (i-c-e!) The absolute easiest way to winterize a fountain is with a fountain cover - they protect the entire unit from wintry conditions and save you the trouble of disassembling in order to remove the pump. For smaller fountains removing the pump and the plug which retains water in the basin is not such a big deal, so many people opt for this winterizing routine. If the fountain is small enough, sometimes it is easiest to bring the entire unit indoors to a garage or hook it up for hibernation in a sun room.

Just gorgeous...loose formality and the focal point of the stunning fountain really tie the disparate textures and elements together here

And that, my friends, is the basic run-down on fountains and their care! It's very do-able, depending of course on how complex your feature is. If you've ever visited our store, I'm sure you know we are all about making life easier and more enjoyable at once, so naturally we advocate the freestanding style of fountain. That's not to say, however, that in my dream garden I wouldn't head straight for, say, the piano waterfall option! I hope you both learned something and got a little inspired (for more photos, as well as the sources for those featured in this post, visit our Water board on Pinterest) - thanks for reading!


If you're thinking of adding a water feature to your garden or patio, allow me to suggest some helpful links:

Campania International - we have been carrying cast stone statuary, urns, birdbaths and fountains from this company since our opening in 1999 and they are an excellent source for garden ornament. They also provide fountain covers and replacement pumps.

Lilypons Water Gardens - Lilypons has been in the water gardening business since 1917 in Frederick, and are THE place to go for pond supplies and aquatic plants. If you are considering a larger, more permanent water feature they are worth a visit!

 The Dutch Plant Farm - Another local source for fountains, just down the street from us. I believe they also carry algaecides (which we, unfortunately, no longer do!)

Sunday, April 29, 2012

The Importance of Garden Cloches

Hello! I’m Katie, otherwise known as “Christie’s Daughter,” and just like Christie, I have the inner heart of Gardener. 
Well, I want to have the inner heart of a gardener, but recently I was just too plain stupid to be awarded the title.  I planted basil before Mother’s Day. 

Ah! I don't want snow-capped basil! 
But I’m not the only foolish one.  Casey recently wanted to surprise a friend with a gorgeous pink Begonia.  Her friend wasn’t home, so Casey left the specimen on the porch…possibly overnight…when it would drop below freezing. I think we know the end of that story. Just like me, Casey was seduced by early warm temperatures and we let our excitement for summer plantings run wild! 

But who is Casey?  Who is "Katie?"  You see, the legend of Garden Pastimes has a quirky family tree.  I’ll tell the tale.  First, Christie “The Strong One” opens Garden Pastimes in a plain cinderblock castle.  A few years later, Joey came along and started doodling murals on the walls and crafting lamp shades by hand (Joey’s not Christie’s daughter, but now as good as one).  These two artists-in-residence strengthen the colorful empire known as Garden Pastimes.  As time passes, young daughter Katie begins “hanging out” around the empire on weekends when not fulfilling quests across the world.  Around the year 2011, the smiley, fair-haired maiden, Casey (Empress Joey’s younger sister) is knighted “part-timer.”     Now, the two young friends in knighthood, Casey and Katie, add a touch of sanity to the ruling duo, while occasionally getting overexcited and impatient about things like gardening.

But this first entry is not about store family dynamics, it’s about my newfound reverence of garden cloches.  Back to business.

Spoiler alert! My basil lives!
I stopped by Surrybrooke recently.  Surreybrooke is an enchanting place, but should never be frequented by people with plant problems.  For those that do…you know what I mean. (Do you talk to your seedlings? Do you only need five more verbenas to call your house a home? Do you know Lacecap hydrangeas more commonly as Hydrangea macrophylla normalis?)

I know I have a problem with herbs, because I don’t think about them rationally.  I can’t just buy multiple identical specimens to fill out my garden, I have to get different varieties of each herb.   The warring Anglophile and Francophile sides of my heart made me buy both English Lavender and the French (“spike”) lavender.  I bought three types of thyme. Although we’ll use mostly sweet basil for cooking, I insisted on getting three varieties of basil.  Why?!  I have no idea.

A gratuitous picture of my cats and herbs
Because I wasn’t using my rational brain when I bought the herbs, I also wasn’t using it when I planted my herbs.   I know I shouldn't have planted before Mother’s Day, but what did I do?   I planted my herbs on April 20th.   But I love them! I had to!  Imagine my terror when I saw the weather forecast… frost… freezing temperatures… snow?!?

Finally, here’s where the cloches come into play.   I covered my basil with garden cloches. During the day, the soil stays warm from the sun.  As the sun sets and the temperature drops, heat from the soil is released. The cloche retains the warmth, keeping the plants from freezing. After multiple nights of below freezing temperatures, and one night of slight snow, my herbies live!  

What is the importance of Garden Cloches?  They saved beloved plants from an often irrational, occasionally mistaken gardener (admittedly in-training).