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Featured image for Light Up the Night

Light Up the Night

December 10, 2010

During the winter months, the night comes sooner, darkness lasts longer and most things around us are enveloped in shadow.

That is until the snow falls, collects and starts to shimmer. The emerald evergreen branches become heavy with white flakes, accentuating their pyramidal, dense shape. And every single trunk, branch and twig of their deciduous counterparts become outlined in pure, gleaming cotton. It lights up the winter night.

While we aren't lucky enough to get perfect snowflakes that collect and sparkle every day of the winter, during the holidays we get a similar, magical effect as  lights outline tree shapes, bringing them to life when they seem the most quiet.

Recently on a trip through a park with my family, I got the chance to see many trees accentuated in a variety of twinkling color. We couldn't help but "ooh" and "aah" at the beauty.

To help you deck the halls in style, we thought we'd share a few tips from our arborists on how you can decorate your trees and ensure you get the best of both worlds: wonderful holiday lighting and happy, healthy trees.

Any tree in your yard is fair game for being accentuated with holiday lights. And even though lights today are rather small and lightweight, it's best to choose trees that are strong and healthy. That way you're not doing anything to further injure stressed trees, and you keep yourself safe from weak falling branches.

Before you string your lights, make a plan. Make sure plugs can reach electrical outlets or extension cords that lead to them. The shorter the stretch between light bulbs and outlets, the lower your risk for frayed wires or other electrical problems. Purchasing lights and extension cords meant for outdoor wear and tear is key. For trees too far from outlets, you might think about not lighting them at all.

As you're setting your plan, make sure to test your light strands - you want to avoid a Clark Griswold Christmas movie moment where you've spent all your time stringing lights only to find out they don't work later.

Then, choose the best day for installation when weather is cooperative. Stringing lights during a snowstorm, especially if a ladder is involved, is not the safest time.

When it's time to install outdoor seasonal lights, we recommend against throwing light strands into trees because that could break and bend delicate branches, not to mention the light bulbs (and the look isn't as neat). Start from the outlet or extension cord and then start stringing lights from the bottom of the tree, gently wrapping trunks and thicker branches with lights as you move up the tree. As you reach the end of each strand, attach the next string of lights to the end. Avoid stringing lights on branches that are too thin. When stringing lights on evergreens, be careful not to put too much pressure on branches or tug on them, removing too many needles by being too rough. One note: do not exceed the maximum number of strands connected in sequence.

As you move higher into the tree, you'll need a sturdy ladder for the taller sections. If you'd prefer doing the job from the ground, try using a long pole similar to those they use in department stores to reach items hanging on the top shelves. With this method, the lights may hang more loosely so you may want to use some specialized tree clips sold at hardware stores to attach lights to tree branches.

While you're stringing your lights, it's best to have a partner to work with. This person can hold the ladder or help test lights and get your next strands ready for installation...or get help when you fall off the ladder!

The best part is after you've finished stringing lights, you can turn them on, step back and admire the scene, toasting to a job well done with the appropriate holiday drink: eggnog!

Happy Holidays from Davey Tree!

P.S. Think you've got some amazing lights? Enter our Holiday lights contest this weekend.

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