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Add color and texture to your putz or Christmas village with easy, inexpensive winter trees. Click for bigger photo
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Written by Howard Lamey
(with a little help from Paul Race) for Big Indoor Trains™
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Note from Editor: Glitterhouse designer/builder Howard Lamey uses floral picks to make bare-looking trees for his villages of vintage-style cardboard structures. This is how he explained it to me.

Winter Trees from Floral Picks

Here's an easy way to use winter trees to add another layer of texture and color to your Christmas village or putz (cardboard house village). And they only cost about fifty cents each to make.

Click for bigger photo.Preparing the Picks

I use artificial flower "picks" from a craft store or dollar store. Look for picks that would have a believable branch structure when the flowers are removed. The “craft store” picks I used were on sale for 50-cents each and the “dollar store” picks were two on a card for $1.

On many picks, there are barbs on each branch tip to hold on the petals, leaves, or other trim. Pull off the petals, leaves or other trim. If the branch tips come off, too, put them back on after you've separated them from their foilage. In the picks shown at the right, it was easiest just to clip off the round balls.

On most picks, you'll also need to clip off the barbs on the branch tips. (Note: When making a "flower pick" tree for a Halloween setting, Harold leaves the barbs on. Click here to see an example of a project that included such a tree.)

Click for bigger photo.Caution! The tips of the branches will be sharp, so be careful. Remember, these are decorations, not toys for children.

Trim the excess off the bottom end of the picks to make them shorter.

Preparing the Base

Cut a piece of stiff cardboard into an oval, triangle, circle or square. Mine were cut into a free-form design with gentle curves and no sharp points.

Cut 3/4-inch long sections from a 3/4 to 1-inch diameter wooden dowel or broom handle.

White glue the dowel section to the cardboard base and staple from the back.

Click for bigger photo.

Drill a hole in the dowel to fit the diameter of the floral pick. Fill the hole with white glue, insert the floral pick and let dry.

Click for bigger photo.

Finishing

Prime the base with flat white wall paint. You may need 2 coats since the cardboard and end grain of the dowel will soak up much of the first coat.

This photo shows two trees from this project and two Howard made earlier, from another set of floral picks.  Click for bigger photo.When the primer is dry, spray paint the trunk and branches with a “mist” of white, tan, gray, light blue, silver or gold. You can even spray them a solid color to fit in with your color scheme. Cover the white base with a rag while you spray the trunk and branches.

Coat the cardboard and wooden dowel base with white glue and sprinkle on the clear glitter.

Conclusion

Click for bigger photo.Remember, these still have pointy wire tips, so don't let small children play with them. But you can play with them all you want. In the photo to the right, Howard has posed them behind a different house.

How the base is finished depends on what the rest of the house looks like. If the house is set in a season other than winter, you may want to paint the base with a different colored topcoat before you attach the house and accessories.

For another article on making trees for indoor trains and towns, check out our Easy Homemade Trees article.

Other Articles about Glitterhouse include:

Other Putz House Resources:

  • LittleGlitterHouses.com, Howard Lamey's own site about putz houses, featuring many he designed himself.
  • "Papa Ted's Place" Ted Althof's extensive resource about vintage pasteboard houses. Includes some history, many photos from other people's collections, and resources to help you build your own. The links below will take you right to the approprate page on "Papa" Ted's site. You'll find lots of other pages to look at while you're there, though.
    • Building from Scratch - "Papa" Ted Althof has collected tips and photos from other glitterhouse builders including Tom Hull and Ted Howard.
    • Repair and Restoration - "Papa" Ted Althof publishes Tom Hull's tips for restoring damaged antique glitterhouses.
    • Reproduction Parts - Ted offers authentic reproductions of just about every door and window that were used in glitterhouses over a 35-year period. These include celophane and paper "see-through" windows, as well as "stick-on" windows. If you don't know what sizes you need, you can order a template or sample pack. The page includes several photos showing how the replacement parts bring otherwise solid vintage glitterhouses "back to life."
    • Making "Flocked" Windows - Tom Hull's method for making "fuzzy" windowframes on celophane, with additional tips by author and glitterhouse collector Antoinette Stockenberg.
    • Repairing or Replacing Trees Tom's article about the "lufa" trees that were common on pre-war glitterhouses, and can be repaired or else replaced by new lufa carefully cut, soaked with dark green acrylic paint, and allowed to dry before gluing and applying white paint for "snow."
  • Aimee Gomberg's original putz houses - unique collections for sale.

Other Articles that Discuss Putzes and Christmas Villages of the mid-20th Century:

  • About Nativities - Describes how German-American Nativity displays (the original "putzes") grew into communities and landscapes that included pastboard, glittered houses and even electric trains.
  • What Do Trains Have to Do With Christmas - Describes how electric trains contributed to the communities many families set up at Christmas, with some details about the elaborate "Christmas Gardens" of the Baltimore/DC area.
  • Author Antoinette Stockenberg's home page - includes photographs and comments on putz houses and life in general.

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