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Trimming the tree, professionally

In some homes, decorating for the holiday season is a jobs for the pros, and this year, they are booked.

© St. Petersburg Times
published November 29, 2002

TAMPA -- It's that time of year.

Time to the deck the halls. And walls and banisters, mantles, trees, tables and anything else in your home that you want to brighten with holiday cheer.

For some, it's a task they wouldn't dare entrust to another soul. For others, it's a job best left to the professionals.

"Many people find that they don't have the time to decorate as extensively as they'd like to have it done, so they turn to us," said Marion Adwell, owner of Outa Ma Tree Florists in West Tampa.

Adwell and other florists and interior decorators in the Tampa area say their appointment books are already filled. Many people scheduled as early as the spring, knowing that the time frame for holiday decorating is limited.

A large house with several trees may take a whole day to adorn.

Sometimes more. Employees at Anita's House of Flowers, located in downtown Tampa, worked in Diane Vaughn's home in Avila for several days earlier this month.

Ed Griffin, owner of Anita's, says the process begins with a walk-through to find out what the client wants and to take an inventory of their decorations. If necessary, Griffin will supplement.

Some homeowners overhaul their entire collection every few years, Adwell says. The majority keep the same items.

"Most people have heirloom decorations, and they want to work the overall theme around what they've had for years," Griffin said.

Griffin's employees decorate artificial trees, garlands and wreaths in his warehouse, then transport them to the houses and put on the final touches. Live trees are done on site.

Traditions vary from home to home.

"I've made trees that have a very outdoorsy feel with just pine cones and twigs and branches and berries, and I've done some with very ornate glassware," Griffin said. "We do green trees, we've done white trees."

This year, he's had requests for foil trees, which were popular in the '60s.

Interior designer Jay Tenuta, who owns La Bella Interiors in Odessa, had a tree skirt and ornaments made from fabric that matches his clients' pillows and window treatments.

Many florists, designers and gift shop owners get their ideas from decorating shows and other industry events, which start as early as in January for the upcoming holiday season.

"It's a good way to keep your finger on the pulse of what's new and happening and what we should be stocking and what people are going to be seeing in home fashion magazines," says Ian Prosser, owner of Botanica International Florist in South Tampa.

This year, Prosser said, he's selling lots of Venetian decorations, a look that was popular in larger markets in 2001.

"We had Venetian last year, and no one was interested," he said. "At our Christmas open house, that was all that sold."

Prosser's South Tampa shop features many Venetian ornaments and trims. The Christmas tree drips with big-nosed masks, minstrels, marionettes, glass balls with harlequin patterns, beads, ribbons and silk jester caps colored in bright gold, purple, red, green and pink.

Jeweled butterflies, birds and dragonflies have also attracted a lot of attention, along with feathers. On one tree, Prosser interspersed black and brown pheasant feathers with imitation nuts, berries, pine cones and clove-studded lemons.

Adwell, of Outa Ma Tree Florists, says peacock plumes have been particularly popular, and she is sold out of boa garlands.

New this year are Tommy Bahama-style decorations crafted from bamboo, shells and rattan. For one client, Tenuta, the interior designer, plans to trim a tree in an island-themed room with clusters of felt and beaded pineapples, bananas, mangoes, pomegranates and other exotic fruit. A burlap tree skirt and goldenrod and deep chocolate stain ribbons will complete the look.

The cost to call in the pros can range from several hundred dollars to trim a tree with the client's ornaments and replace lights to more than $10,000 to do several rooms and light the outside of the home. The cost includes coming back after the holidays to remove the decorations.

Griffin actually hauls off decorations for some clients who pay him to store their booty from year to year in his warehouse. Even people with large homes, he says, don't have room to store several 10- to 15-foot trees.

"Normally they'll keep anything of real value, like heirloom ornaments," Griffin said. "But they'll let us store the larger things -- the trees, garland, wreaths."

Until next year, when it's time to do it all again.

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