The 12 Posts of Christmas, Day 3: Our Prim Christmas Tree Forest

Inside: Feeling craft-y? Know how to wield a glue gun? Have we got a Christmas project for you! Make our Prim Christmas Tree Forest to celebrate the season. It’s inexpensive to make, doesn’t require any special talents, and you’ll likely find most of the materials in your front yard. 

12 posts of Christmas prim trees
Our own little winter wonderland! Picture courtesy of Emily Moore.

Blame it on Pinterest again! They are so darned inspiring that we can’t help ourselves. So we saw some stick trees and got to thinking how we could do a riff on them. Now I’d like to tell you the project from start to finish was easy peasy, but we had some challenges along the way.

Early on we decided to do a forest of trees of various sizes. Remembering a common garden design principle, I figured we’d need to do an odd number (three, five, seven, or nine) of trees. We stopped by Walmart for a few materials, namely a base for the project. Dry floral foam did the trick. We brought home a rectangular section 1.8 inches by 11.8 inches by 17.8 and cut it down to about 11.8 inches by 13 inches with a serrated knife. We weren’t looking to necessarily do a perfect square. I confess we do a lot of “eyeball measuring.”

We talked about making the trees a different day. At that point it was before Thanksgiving, and we like to take our holidays one at a time, so we figured we’d start the project some time after turkey day. Well Mom got an itch that only a pile of sticks could scratch, and next thing I knew she had a small forest of flat trees to show me. They looked great!

Several days later we started poking them into the dry floral foam, and they weren’t bad by any means. But something was missing. Although we’d already settled on the idea of a blanket of poly fill for snow, the trees needed some umph. We toyed with the idea of painting the trees with a washed out white or green, and even red, but none of the attempts caught our eye. She also mocked up some trees with buttons, and although these were cute, they didn’t fit the project. She hauled the forest back home and added a three-dimensional element to some of the trees for a total of nine altogether. She also made three stars. The addition of these brought it up a level, and our little forest was close but still not there.

After more discussion we figured that leftover maize chalk paint might work well on the stars. More experimenting and hauling the project home by Mom followed. Then it occurred to me to spatter white paint on the trees, as I’ve used that effect before and loved it. I also thought the stars might be improved with a little distressing, so I sanded the stars. Mom had warned me that they might be too fragile, and they were! She had to glue the pieces of stars back together with my apologies!

Finally it came time to assemble the trees and glue the white poly fill on to the base. We stood back to evaluate, and there it was–our perfect little Prim Christmas Tree Forest with all its imperfections! That’s the beauty of folk art–perfect equals imperfect. My daughter Emily photographed the project to make it look it even better.

All in all lots of fun but lots of work, too!

How We Did It

You will need:

  • Dry floral foam
  • Poly fill
  • White tempera paint
  • Maize (or yellow) chalk paint
  • Sticks of various widths
  • Glue gun and glue sticks
  • Paint brush
  • Sandpaper
  • Pruning sheers (for cutting sticks into pieces)
  • Paper, pen, and scissors for making tree templates

Make four triangle templates for your different sizes of trees. (This is optional, but it’s helpful to keep the branches tapering properly.) The height of our large trees is approximately 10 – 12 inches, medium trees 8 – 10 inches, small 4 – 6 inches, and tiny 3 – 4 inches. I say approximately because this isn’t rocket science. Every project will be unique. You want your own personal style to show through in the sizes, bark, and placement of the trees. For example, Mom chose a curved stick for a trunk on one of the trees, and I loved how it gave the tree character.

Cut different sized branches, using the triangle template as a guide. Glue the tapered sticks (branches) on your vertical trunk, spacing between the branches for the flat trees. The challenging part of this is that sometimes the pieces fall of because the bark doesn’t adhere well to the trunk. Be patient. Reapplying hot glue a second time generally does the trick.

For the 3-D trees, Mom glued sticks at various angles every other tapered stick or so, spacing less for these trees. Again, experiment with placing the sticks if you wish. It’s your project.

For spattering white paint on trees to simulate snow, I strongly advise you to do this in an area that is either easy to clean or that you’re not particular about the stray white spatters–or lay down a large drop cloth. (I laid down newspaper, and though I held the paint brush about an inch above the trees, spatters landed five feet away against the wall.) To create the spatter effect, I watered down the tempera paint about two parts paint and one part water, dipped the brush in the paint, and ran my finger over the bristles, flicking paint on the trees to make the white spots.

Push the trees into the dry floral foam. We did the three tall ones in the back row, two medium trees in the next row on either side, then the next row we placed a small tree with two tiny trees in front of it on the left side. On the right side we did a small tree with a tiny 3-D tree in front of that. (Look at the picture for help on how we did this.) We ended up putting glue into the holes to keep them firmly in place. We also pushed some of the poly fill in some of the holes if we needed to steady them better. (We had pretty much swiss-cheesed the dry floral foam with experimenting, so we had to do more filling in of holes.

For shaping stars, keep in mind it’s hard to get a “perfect” star. Start with five sticks about four inches each. Paint these maize (or yellow) chalk paint first, and sand off some of the paint to give it a distressed look. Fashion the sticks into a five-point star and glue together. Repeat the process for the small stars, only use thinner sticks that are about two inches each. When the stars are finished, glue the big star on a fourteen-inch stick to tower above and behind the tallest tree, back row center, and add smaller sticks to glue small stars to and then attach them to two middle trees, one left side, the other right.

For the snow, place tufts of poly fill on the base–no need to glue it unless you want to because it stays in place on top of the dry floral base and between all of the trees. Glue poly fill onto the sides.

Finally, stand back and admire you’re own Prim Christmas Tree Forest!

Prim christmas tree forest
The stars are brightly shining. Picture by Emily Moore.

Do you make your own Christmas decorations? Tell us about it in the comments.

Tomorrow, The 12 Posts of Christmas, Day 4: A Truly Southern Christmas 

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The 12 Posts of Christmas, Day 2: Spiced Nuts

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