Scary bare branches cheer up the landscape when draped with twinkling Christmas lights.

How to Attach Christmas Lights to Bare-Branch Trees

by Lorna Hordos

After colorful autumn leaves drop, you’re left with bare-branch trees -- or the frameworks for interesting Christmas light displays. Kids and adults alike enjoy colorful or creative outdoor lights, and exposed branches offer a wispy or delicate look compared to lights on full, evergreen boughs. Come up with a few bright ideas for attaching this season’s lights to typically overlooked trees.

1. Hooked on Christmas Lights

Hang exterior lights from the tree’s bare branches using plastic gutter hooks to keep them in place. Slide one loop of the S-shaped hook over a branch, and slide the other loop over the light strand. You don’t have to cover every branch with lights, but repeat the hanging process until you have roughly outlined the tree -- stand back to check the tree's light coverage from the home and curb. Alternative to loose-fitting gutter hooks, use plastic-coated twist ties or cable-bundling straps; avoid metal or wire hooks or straps, which could damage the branches or harm the tree. One-color bulbs, such as all red, blue, green or white, provide a clearer outline than multicolored lights. Use a different color on each tree for distinction. Red and green offer a traditional look, while blue, white or clear are more modern.

2. Let Loose Your Lighting Inhibitions

Probably the easiest way to decorate bare branches is to drape light strands loosely or randomly over them. You won’t get a tree outline, but more of an organic, free-form display. If you like, create deep swags with the lights for an elegant look that resembles jewelry or strands of crystals on a chandelier. To play up a rich look, use jewel-toned lights, such as amethyst, ruby red, emerald green or a golden white.

3. Spread a Little Cheer

Spread net-light “blankets” over "naked" trees. As the name suggests, net lights come as an evenly spaced, square or "net" of lights. Two or more people make spreading out these lights easier, so get your family involved. Again, plastic clips or hooks will keep them in place since typically they'd lay atop a shrub's generous, evergreen boughs. Use multicolored net lights to create randomly shaped globes or spheres; in the darkness of night, the ethereal shapes seem to hover over your yard. For something more entertaining or flashy, use blinking or chasing lights. If the trees are only a few feet apart, single-colored lights form dissimilarity and separation.

4. Hanging in the Balance

Hang single star- or sphere-shaped lights from tree branches to create a roughly even or balanced look. These novelty lights typically come with attached hanging apparatus that you can simply loop over the branches. Add some weather-friendly Christmas tree bobbles and garland for more interest. Regardless of the lighting and hanging methods that you choose, solar lights are a safer option than electric lights, and won’t run up your utility bill.

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