Favorite Holiday Traditions: Marilyn Sweeney's Candy Trees

Christmas ball topiary
See how Better Homes and Gardens reader Marilyn Sweeney creates easy tabletop trees for Christmas and other holidays using plastic foam cones, candies, nuts, and other holiday treats.

Marilyn's Holiday Tradition

Better Homes and Gardens reader Marilyn Sweeney of North Lima, Ohio, designs tabletop trees decorated with candies, nuts, and other treats to complement her collection of German nutcrackers. Displayed on a blanket of faux snow, the trees and nutcrackers form a dazzling holiday scene. Marilyn says her friends and family enjoy her creations every year.

How She Got Started

Inspired by a relative's simple nut-tree centerpiece, Marilyn decided to get creative and design her own tabletop trees. Once she saw all the colorful choices at the candy store, she was hooked and a holiday tradition was born.

Choose Your Tree Topper

The trees are really simple to make, Marilyn says. Start by choosing the tree topper; it will help decide the color palette, overall theme, or both. For this tree, a red-and-white snowman ornament inspired the circle rows of red jelly fruit slices, green gumdrops, peppermints, colorfully wrapped candies, and red licorice lace.

Attach the Candies

Use a hot-glue gun to adhere the candies in rings around a plastic foam cone, starting at the base and working your way up. Cap the tree off with a topper (also attached with hot glue). For the tree pictured, Marilyn used wrapped strawberry bon bons, green gumdrops, peppermints, and assorted red, yellow, and green candies on this angel-topped tree.

Marilyn's Design Tips

Marilyn recommends using larger pieces of candy on the bottom row to visually anchor the centerpiece. She also suggests repeating candy types every three or four rows to create an orderly design (like the green gumdrops and assorted peppermints do in this example).

Protect Your Work

Spray each tree with a clear glaze to protect it and keep it looking fresh for the holiday season. Marilyn stores her trees inside plastic tubs, standing them upright and side by side, in the basement during the offseason to preserve them for future holidays.

Red, White & Pink Tree

Play with the color palette for best results. Here, a white angel topper looks pretty paired with soft pinks and whites directly beneath, graduating into deeper reds toward the base. Red licorice laces add interest to the tree's silhouette.

Red, Green & White Tree

This red-and-green tree features gumdrops, peppermints, a variety of hard candies, and red licorice laces. Red-and-green candy canes make the perfect topper.

Black, Yellow & White Tree

Topped with a miniature soldier, this tree is decorated with black and white jelly beans, lemon drops, black and yellow gumdrops, and black and white hard candies.

Celebrate Additional Holidays

Design a tree for any holiday of the year and display it on a mantel, table, buffet, hutch, shelf, or plate rail. Marilyn's Halloween-theme trees feature iconic toppers along with orange, black, and green candies.

Thanksgiving Tree

This autumnal-tone tree sports shelled and unshelled almonds, buckeyes, caramels, and other hard candies in yellow, green, and purple -- perfect for a Thanksgiving centerpiece.

Licorice Twist Topper

This tree with a fall color palette is decorated with Brazil nuts, green gumdrops, wrapped candies, and a tree topper made of black licorice twists.

Orange & Brown Thanksgiving Tree

Paying homage to the original nut tree, this Thanksgiving version features Brazil nuts, pecans, filberts, and almonds still in their shells. Candy orange slices, orange soft and hard candies, and sprigs of bittersweet add additional autumn colors and textural interest.

Valentine's Day Tree

This valentine tree is festively made of red jelly hearts, foil-wrapped chocolates, peppermints, and red, white, and pink candy-coated chocolates. Heart-shape embellishments give it added doses of love. "I don't use chocolates as a rule, though," Marilyn says. "You can just envision what might happen if you're not careful with the hot-glue gun."

St. Patrick's Day Tree

This St. Patrick's Day tree is made up of green and white mints, green apple hard candies, lemon candy rods, white almonds, and candy sticks. The festive green tree is embellished with four-leaf clover garland. An Irish dancer on the top of the tree completes the look.

Easter Tree

This Easter tree consists of sour gummy worms, jelly beans, wrapped peppermints, and hard candy bunnies -- all in pretty Easter pastels. Bunny figurines flank the tree, while a white chocolate bunny acts as a tree topper.

Circus Theme Tree

A miniature clown tree topper and alternating rows of peanuts and popcorn make this circus-theme tree a festival of fun. The colorful gumdrop base ties it all together.

Stars & Stripes

In a salute to America, Marilyn created these patriotic trees with an assortment of licorice twists, wrapped candy, jelly beans, and iced pretzels -- in red, white, and blue, of course. The festive trees capture the spirit of Memorial Day and the Fourth of July. The smaller trees are topped with Revolutionary War patriots and the larger tree is topped with a pinwheel and a cascading star garland.

Liberty Tree

More Revolutionary War patriots gather around Marilyn's liberty tree, which is decorated with large pretzel rods and spearmint candies. The sides of the tree sport the red, white, and blue theme with the addition of round jelly candies, gumdrops, slices of red licorice, and a band of ribbon.

Uncle Sam

Although candy corn is usually a Halloween or fall treat, this patriotic variety makes a perfect addition to a Fourth of July tree. More jelly beans, wrapped candies, and licorice twists decorate the tree. Uncle Sam stands tall as the topper.

Hooray for the Red, White & Blue

Marilyn used many of the same candies on this patriotic tree, but laid them out in an orderly fashion for this tree. The candies march in rows around the circumference of the tree, which is topped with a vintage patriotic cutout of an angel and flag.

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