Sunday, November 25, 2012

Christmas Tree Heaven

Every year John and I attend The Festival of Trees here in Orlando, an event put on by the local art museum. I think there are nearly a hundred different decorated Christmas trees and wreaths on display, so it's complete Christmas overload - and I love it. Each tree is decorated by a different designer, so it's the perfect place to find new ideas and inspiration for your own tree and home, not to mention see every color combination and theme imaginable.

I took nearly four hundred photos in the few hours we were there this year, which I've whittled down to about 90. Obviously those won't all fit in this post, though, so I'll just post the ones I most want to talk about it here. For the rest, head over to my Flickr account.

Now, on to the goodies!

Since Christmas trees always look like a jumbled mass of sparkles from a distance, I tried to take both a full shot & a close-up of all my favorites. (Click any pic to embiggen.) This one had a great earthy theme, with mushrooms, branches, leaves, and iridescent bubble ornaments.

I was surprised to find that some of the prettiest trees in person - like this one - looked far less impressive on camera, and vice versa. The spotlight lighting made it hard to capture, but that topper was a gorgeous fan of peacock fathers and glittery berry-like sprigs.

The tree topper has always been the hardest part for me to get right, so that's the first thing I look at when I see a Christmas tree. I love how creative these designers get, using everything from stuffed animals to floral findings to... telescopes?

Yep, they glittered up a telescope for this retro robot/space themed tree. Isn't it fun? This one had  some of my favorite individual ornaments, too, so I took a bunch of close-ups:

I'm seriously considering using that last pic for our Christmas cards this year. Retro kitschy goodness!

Most of the Festival trees were 10 feet or taller, but there were also plenty of sweet mini trees like these mixed in. It's hard to see at first, but there's an adorable fawn figure on the right one. I love how that tree is wrapped in grapevine and twigs, too, so the lights really glow from the inside.

This tree would be perfect for my bedroom - if it could fit, of course:

There were full-sized Moroccan lamps used as ornaments, and jewel-toned silk scarves for garland. You can't see it in the close-up, but they also had brass "genie lamps" tucked inside the branches.

This next one had a lot of people oohing and aahing over it, but I think it's crazy creepy. See what you think:
That's a life-sized mannequin on top, except she had no legs. John and I giggled in horror at the thought of getting up in the middle of the night only to see THAT staring out at you. o.0 (Why not just spray her with granite texture and go full-on Who Angel? [shudder])

But if that's not unsettling enough for you, then the two "angels" that were beside the tree might do the trick:

They have no arms. Just sayin'.

Still, that tree did give me another pretty ornament shot:

 I like the soft pink glow and silvers. Hmm. Maybe *this* should be our Christmas card...

Alice in Wonderland is always a popular theme at the Festival, so I saw at least three or four Alice examples. This one had a whole themed display around it, in addition to the tree itself:

Great colors - and I love the vintage vibe of the White Rabbit.

This was beside the tree:

Lookit the little hedgehog!! And the "drink me" display is just gorgeous. (I think pale blue and red is my second favorite color combo - after teal and orange, of course.)

The red paint and brushes are a great touch. The photo on the right is of another Wonderland tree at the show, and I am LOVING that card topper. I believe it was made with flexible wire and Styrofoam balls painted with glitter, so not too daunting to DIY. Then add some vintage teacups, and you're golden!

Next to the blue Alice tree was this Beauty and the Beast one:

I think this one got way too drippy - you can barely tell there's a tree under there! - but I do love the way the garlands form a kind of lattice work on top, and the red roses with the gold.

Here's another one I'm not sure I like, but it's definitely...interesting:

I think I just like symmetry too much, so that giant gift box on top is throwing me. The unicorn is nifty, though.

Oh, and the biggest new trend I saw this year? That wide mesh ribbon stuff. It was EVERYWHERE. (Look back through my photos, and you'll see most of the trees used it.) It makes a great puffy garland, and seems to hold its shape really well. Some designers even used just that to make their wreaths - no greenery at all.

I found some giant rolls of both gold and silver mesh at Cracker Barrel (yes, Cracker Barrel) last week for only $10, so I'm going to give it a try this year. (It's as wide as a roll of wrapping paper, to give you an idea of just how big this stuff is.) I've always used wired ribbon for garland, but that's such a pain to get it to lay right. Here's hoping the mesh is easier!

Ok, back to the trees:

I don't think my pictures do this next mini-tree justice, because it was just stunning in person:

The grapes were lights, and the whole thing was wrapped in grapevine, with rich teal and wine-colored ornaments. So, so pretty.

Next to it was what I dubbed The Alcoholic's Tree:

A few wine corks = rustic charm & character. 
A whole tree-full = time for an intervention.

The Festival also had a few room vignettes set up, and I fell head over heels for this one:

I'm such a sucker for black and white checks and stripes - and it looks fantastic with all the red and green!

Another random close-up, and an especially pretty tree topper:

Those roses look like a still-life painting. I never would have thought to use flowers like that for a tree topper, but I like it!

Which reminds me: butterflies were another popular theme at the Festival. Two more of my favs:

The blue butterfly ornament has a large hole in the glass on the backside, in case you're wondering (as we did) how the pine cone got in there. The right photo might be another card candidate. (Decisions, decisions...)

I know most people aren't as crazy for Christmas decorations as I am, but I hope you guys still enjoyed my photos!

Next I'm going to post some of my favorite wreaths from the show, since there were plenty of stunners with fantastic ideas to rip off lovingly copy. ;) Stay tuned for that, and in the mean time, head over to Flickr to see the rest of my tree photos!


  1. I'm for the Robot pic myself! The other ones are beautiful, but everybody send out beautiful Christmas cards. The robot is beautiful too, but it also stands out from the others!

  2. Geesh, Jen, thanks for mentioning Who-angels just before I go to bed. Now I won't have any nightmares at all.

  3. Om my gosh...! The soap bubbles, the robots, THE UNICORN! These are all fantastic!

  4. Ahh that Angel Tree! That is so creepster. I just watched Blink for the first time and although the sculpture areas of art museums used to be my favorite part, now I'm going to be constantly looking over my shoulder.

    Thanks for sharing your pretty pictures!

  5. I am definitely crazy for Christmas! For the past two years I've not only decorated my own tree but my mother-in-laws as well (last year it was a broken foot, this year she is recovering from Guillian-Barre Syndrome).

    She was all for not having her house decorated, but I will not let her give up!

    Your pictures are beautiful as always. I'm excited for Utah's Festival of Trees this week.

    Such beautiful trees! I liked the idea of the Beauty and the Beast tree - if only they did it with smaller ribbons.

  6. Lust, lust, lust. Some years I yearn to ignore all of the mismatched ornaments from over the years and do something like this.

    For your card, I totally vote for the robot!

  7. I love this! I used to go to a similar Festival of Trees in Washington every year but I've missed it since I moved a few years ago, so it was great to get to enjoy some trees anyway. AND you posted them on my birthday, so bonus points :)

    That white angel is terrifying, and you definitely need to use the robot one for cards.

  8. I really like the robots, although the white butterfly is beautiful too. Sounds like a fun festival.

  9. And here I am spending all weekend trying to get both kids to smile and look at the camera at the same time! Love love love that adorable robot ornament as a card!

    But speaking of unicorns, which you did, you must find Dave Barry's 2012 Holiday Gift Guide. It was in today's Tampa Tribune but is probably on the Miami Herald website. As a cat lover, you'll appreciate the inflatable unicorn horn for cats. Other hysterical ideas as well.

    I am thankful for both of your blogs, Jen. Don't ever stop!

  10. Haha this is great!:D We just hit the festival a week ago and yes, it's all so gorgeous! You should've done some pix of the gingerbread houses, too.

    It's so funny; my fam. commented on everything you mention; the tiny hedgehog, the creepy angel tree (and its armless, alien companions), etc! ;D Love, love love. Best holiday tradition ever. Now only if we could go on the same day and accidentally run into each other! Lol

  11. Go for the robot! It has so much personality.

    And thanks for the decorating inspiration!

  12. I wish I had known about this when it was happening. I would have SO been there. :( Why don't these things get advertised in Lakeland for heavens sake.

    I like the white and silver for the Christmas card myself.

  13. We went to a tree festival in our town today. It only had about 30 trees but they were all gorgeous. I noticed that they almost all had crazy tree toppers too. Lots of branches, floral stems and crazy things sticking out the top of the trees. And yes, lots of the wide ribbon.
    I work at Hobby Lobby so I can tell you it has been very popular right now. It's called Deco Mesh. You can find it in a wide variety of colors. They have it in with the Christmas stuff and in the Floral department.

  14. Woah! It's the Host on a tree!

  15. Festival of trees is my favorite! The one up in Utah is awesome too :D
    I will never look at an angel tree topper ever the same ever again O_o they're all weeping angels in disguise!

  16. Thanks so much! I've only managed to get there once in all these years and my favorites then were the one done by Ikea (the bright colored kitchen utensils were cool) and a full, sized red feather tree (if I just didn't have allergies, I swear I would have one!!)

    My vote is the retro robot, of course, if you don't think your very own robot is good enough (sniff).

    -Barbara Anne

  17. I am in complete heaven here. They're beautiful thanks for sharing. I'm dying over the Alice in Wonderland trees. My husband and I trade off every year with the theme of the tree. This year is his turn (Ohio State Buckeyes) so next year I'm thinking AiW! I already have a few things in my bathroom I can use (let me just clarify that my bathroom is AiW themed before that sounds too strange), and I can totally get cheap cups and saucers from the thrift store, and......let me stop now. Thanks for the inspiration as always! I can't wait to see the wreaths!

    I also vote robots, and can I get one? ;-)
    Nikki T

  18. The Angel Tree is definitely disturbing, but I didn't think of the Weeping variety at all; to me, it looks like the Christmas tree equivalent of one of those hideous cakes with a Barbie stuck in it that you show over on the Wreck. It also looks like Lady Gaga was so full of the Xmas Spirit, she exploded.

    The unicorn tree is hideous. SO MUCH PINK. It looks like it was designed by a 10 year old girl on mescaline.

    Cheers, and a belated gobble-gobble-hey!


  19. How fun! I love the blue & red Alice tree. The Beauty and the Beast tree does looks a little dwarfed by all the wrapping, but I like how it mimics Belle's gown and I love all the accessories around it.

  20. I like the spacecadet for the card myself!
    That mesh is so easy to work with! The wreath bases for it are just wire and you just make big puffy loops.
    Our Festival of Trees is the same way, it's an overload of amazing. I cannot wait for it. ^_^

  21. I have to say the angel tree give me more vibes from the shop mannequins from "Rose" being combined with the deadly spinning Christmas tree from "The Christmas Invasion". Either way very very creepy and not what I'd want to see in my living room.
    I do like the robot ornaments a lot. Thanks for sharing & Merry Christmas.

  22. I vote white and silver for the Christmas card, it's so beautiful, and has more going on than the robot.

    Also, that angel... SUPER CREEPY. And knowing my house, the whole tree would probably fall over at some point during the night, causing it to look like a murder scene: "Angel crushed by Christmas". What a cool festival though, I would love to go to something like that!

  23. I liked the underwatery one on your flickr! Really spectacular. Anyway, the robot makes the better card.

  24. You'd like our tree this year. It is orange and blue, with white accents and an icicle garland taken apart to make 'snow drops' that hang on the branches. Working on a lighted orange ball topper, and maybe some Portal-ish mirrors on the wall behind it. :-)

  25. All of those Adorable Retro Robots are available at Michaels Arts & crafts. I saw them just this weekend

  26. We also went to the Festival of Trees at OUR local museum, but ours didn't allow photos. Bummer.

    I don't recall any truly weird trees at ours. One of the prettiest ones I saw was completely done in brown - like beige brown, no Christmas-y colors at all. It shouldn't have worked, but it looked gorgeous.

    They had some fun themes - cupcakes, princesses, etc. - but at home I shy away from the coordinated look. Our tree is completely mismatched and full of ornaments that I've had literally since I was a baby. My mom even sent ones that I made in school our of paper and beads!

  27. Eep, I just watched the Doctor Who Chrismas on the Titanic episode (Voyage of the Damned), and those angesl remind me of the Host angels that ran amok. Creeeeeepy. Nice trees, tho. I always fantasize about designer trees, but I would miss all the kid-made ornaments. The closest I've gotten was back in college, when I had my "horny" tree- covered with every french horn ornament my mom has ever found me. ;-) You'd be suprised how hard it is to find real french horn ornaments, as opposed to the hunting horn style. *shrug* Hey, got your mind off the creepy angels for a minute, there, didn't I?

  28. I agree, the angel tree and its friends was too Dr. Who.
    NOT THAT IT MATTERS but that big silver star the alarmingly serious angel in the tree was holding came from IKEA - I bought four of them to hang in my front windows. Maybe that will help de-creep it for you, knowing the Blink angels shop at IKEA...
    I know it will sound like I'm brown nosing, but your steampunk tree from last year looked as good as some of these... even without all the wide mesh ribbon.

  29. I was so excited to see the robot! I found those very same robots and spaceships at Michaels Crafts just last week... so of course, I had to buy a couple :D Now I just need a telescope tree topper......

  30. The angels without arms immediately made me think of Lady Gaga. Lady Gaga and Christmas do NOT go together.

  31. Perfect timing! We do not have a christian background but love the Chritmas holiday. We have a tree but have always felt a little weird putting a star or angel on top. Right now we have three large ivory flowers but it could definitely use something. This gave me so many ideas! Seeing these up close, do you have any insight on how they constructed the toppers? are they pieces that just slip over the top or are they wired right to the tree?

  32. @DanaLynn - in my experience the toppers are always wired to the tree with thin floral wire. It's much more secure, and actually easier to get everything to sit right where you want it! (For mine, I set the topper just in front of the top branch, & then wire the two together.)

  33. I need to show the robot tree to my four year old. Her favorite things are robots and spaceships. (Although last year she picked out a bunch of dinosaur ornaments for the tree...) Her grandmother is working on a collection of retro robot/spaceship ornaments for her. I know people have mentioned Michaels, but Hobby Lobby has some as well. I would imagine JoAnn's would be worth a shot, too.

  34. The Cork Tree wasn't an alcoholic's Christmas tree. This is an alcoholic's Christmas tree:

    See also:

  35. If the mesh you picked up at cracker barrel is like the pink mesh on that tree it is deco mesh and I hit the motherload of that stuff the other day. If you have a Carolina Pottery near you, ours had an entire shelving area devoted to different colors. My sister-in-law was looking for red and green and all we could find at Hobby Lobby was red. Carolina Pottery had 3 different shades of green plus a ton of Christmas stripes and plaids on top of other colors (including a Halloween Orange with black stripes that was pretty.) As hard as that stuff can be to find in a brick and mortar store I thought I'd pass that along.

  36. I feel like the only one, but thought I'd share anyway.
    I am neither American nor Christian, and frankly, I would never remember when Christmas is without the internet (same goes for Halloween). There are some people who have trees but probably not many.
    So I find the whole concept of trees in the house a little strange in any case, and all these decorations are a bit alien. I can't think of any holidays that have one decorates for here.

    It was fascinating to see, but I can't imagine doing it. For religious reasons, as well as lack of time and room. and isn't it expensive? I just bought what I need for the next holiday, and it cost me all of 3 dollars or so. The traditional food will be a bit extra. All done!


  37. Love the retro ornaments! Thanks for sharing and posting all those pictures Jen. I do so appreciate people who do stuff like this. ('cause I never would)

  38. No offense, but I thought most of those over-decorated jumbles were hideous.
    Your photos were excellent, and many of the close-ups of the ornaments showed they were lovely, it was just the totality of each tree that seared my cringing retinas.
    I adore funky, steampunk, fairy, Disney and many other whimsical themes, but "tree dragged through municipal tip" or "tree covered in dead stuff, rusty wire and the cardboard tubes from toilet rolls" just don't get my Bells Jingling.
    I think your home tree with the indestructible faux snow is lovely...and vastly more attractive than these "Zombie Liberace's of Xmas Trees".

  39. I thought that angel was a Princess Leia doll at first glance. Full size??? Now I can't help thinking that Jedi families should really not bring light sabers to Christmas dinner and bring up politics.

  40. "Why not just spray her with granite texture and go full-on Who Angel?"

    Not life-size, but it still made me think of you and this post. XD

  41. Does anyone else see Bjork in those creepy angels?

    Also, the mesh stuff is great if you like the look of wire ribbon garland, but hate actually using it.


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