Weekend Project: Tabletop Trees in a Twinkling

Create a lush holiday atmosphere throughout your home with tiny trees.


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Oh Christmas tree! If you're looking for simple-but-charming holiday decorating ideas, think trees. The selection of tabletop-size, live trees of all kinds has never been better. Just follow our project directions - they're easy as 1-2-3.

1. Shop: Visit a garden center, nursery, or even a mass merchandiser and choose from an exciting array of dwarf evergreens, herb topiaries, and shapely ivies for your decorating as well as gift-giving pleasures. Tempt your fancy with wee junipers and arborvitae, fragrant rosemary and santolina, or the newest varieties of variegated ivy in miniature tree forms.

2. Decorate: Start by purchasing prettily-potted plants, or slip your selections (still inside their nursery pots) into vintage containers, such as sap buckets or classy urns. Then whisk them off for trimming with lengths of ribbon, a few bright baubles, or a little tinsel.

3. Display: Set your tiny trees here and there throughout the house, where they'll surprise and delight you through the holiday season. These potted plants set the stage for a festive, small-scale landscape and they're easy to maintain. If you live in a climate where freezing temperatures don't threaten plants, place potted trees outside the front door to greet visitors. Better yet, pot up extra trees and give them to all your favorite people.

+ enlarge image Ivy toparies

Ivy: Grow ivy topiaries easily by starting with plants in 6-inch pots. Transplant into an 8-inch pot; set a wire, topiary cone on top of the soil. Gently guide the strands of ivy up and around the wires of the frame; secure them with bits of twine, if necessary. Your ivy tree will grow and become more lush over time. Water when the soil feels dry. Once a month, include a dose of liquid fertilizer made for houseplants. Ivy thrives in bright light.

+ enlarge image Evergreen Saplings

Evergreen Saplings: Tiny evergreen trees -- conifers such as spruce, pine, and fir -- make perfectly festive additions to a holiday table. You'll find saplings at a local nursery or near mature conifers in your yard or nearby forest (only where you have permission to gather them). Plant saplings in 3-inch terra-cotta pots filled with rich, all-purpose potting soil; top with bits of moss. Keep the trees on a sunny windowsill through winter; water when the soil dries. Transplant saplings to the garden in spring after the soil warms, giving them plenty of growing room.

+ enlarge image Dwarf Conifer

Dwarf Conifer: Young, dwarf junipers (shown), as well as other pint-sized evergreens fare well for a few weeks indoors over the holidays. If they've been living outdoors at a nursery or garden center, acclimate trees to indoor life by placing them in a cool garage or on a porch for a few days before bringing them in the house. Water plants when the soil feels dry. Keep them away from heat vents and the fireplace where they'll dry out too much. After the holidays in temperate climates, move dwarf conifers to a sunny spot on the patio or transplant into the garden; remember to water them. If you live in a cold climate, plan ahead. Dig a planting hole in the garden before the ground freezes. Fill the hole with hay; cover it with a tarp or sheet of plastic weighted in place with bricks. Store the excavated soil in a 5-gallon bucket in the house until planting time. Transplant by uncovering the excavation, removing the hay, setting the plant's root ball in the hole, and filling around it with the loose soil saved for this purpose. Water thoroughly. Apply the hay as a mulch around the base of the tree to help preserve the soil moisture over winter.

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