Saturday, December 15, 2012

A Christmas Tree for Darlington

This past weekend a Christmas tree arrived at Darlington.  Well, it didn't just arrive, Dear Reader, it took some effort to make it happen.

Our freshly cut Christmas tree
in the back of our handyman Rich's pickup truck

When we put up a Christmas tree at Darlington House we go to a tree farm and we cut the tree down ourselves.  We are fortunate to live in an area where there are half a dozen such farms within an easy drive.  Walking through the farm's fields, searching for, and then deciding upon a tree, cutting it down, and bringing it home is a pleasant and evocative annual ritual.  It stirs up memories of similar expeditions in years past, and one is conscious of undertaking an activity similarly engaged in by millions of others, both in the present day and ever since the first man cut the first tree down one winter's solstice many, many thousands of years ago.

Rich holding the tree on the walkway
leading to Darlington House

This year the ritual was somewhat complicated for us.  First of all, our Rover—which we typically use for such expeditions—was in the shop for an extended (and expensive) stay.  And I wasn't up to engaging in the task, having been waylaid by a nasty, persistent cold.  Fortunately, our trustworthy and exceptionally helpful handyman, Rich, was agreeable and took Boy to the tree farm in his red pickup truck and helped him find and bring home a tree to Darlington House.  It was rather an undertaking, though, since the farm they visited is a very old and overgrown one.  It no longer has fields of trees, but rather forests of them.  The noble tree that Boy and Rich ultimately selected stood over forty feet tall, and it required calculations and a chain saw to fell and shorten for the trip home.

The lower part of the tree is cut off—we will
use the branches to decorate the house

Not only that, but Rich assisted Boy in readying the tree to bring into the house.  That takes some doing, Dear Reader, because it wouldn't do to merely bring a tree into Darlington House without first grooming it.  Grooming it, you ask?  Yes, you read that correctly!  Our tree needed to be (further) cut down in order to fit the ceiling height of our house, and it also required pruning of extraneous branches so that there was sufficient space to artfully hang ornaments.  But such administrations were not unique to this particular tree—almost every Christmas tree we've ever had at Darlington House has required (well, at least benefited from) such attention before it is deemed ready by Boy to be decorated.

Reggie is not a fan of most farmed Christmas trees that are available these days.  Too many of them have been aggressively pruned during their growth to achieve a form that Reggie considers to be too fat and too bushy, and too perfectly conical.  One cannot hang ornaments on such a tree, Dear Reader, one can only drape them.  No, Reggie prefers an old-fashioned, naturally formed Christmas tree, one that hasn't been managed during its growth.  But even such natural trees need a little help to achieve the spindly perfection they require (at least at Darlington House) for optimal ornament display.  One must carefully and judiciously prune them of at least a few extra branches in order to ensure perfection.

The tree, now cut down to size, is shown standing
in the brown painted galvinized wash tub
we use to hold it

It took Boy and Rich half an hour or so of careful grooming in order for the tree to be ready to be placed in our dining room.  Dining room, you ask?  Who puts up their tree in their dining room, instead of their living room?  Well, Dear Reader, we put our tree in our dining room instead of our drawing room (which is what we call our living room for reasons that are too complicated to explain in this essay) or our Snuggery (which is what we call our sitting room/den/study/library, also for reasons that are too complicated to explain here).  We do so because it is the one room at Darlington House that has a sufficient amount of empty space for one to fit!  

Once the tree has been cut down to size
the process of thinning out the branches
for optimal ornament display begins

Our drawing room is a symphony of symmetry, Dear Reader, and it would be highly disruptive to the room's carefully balanced arrangement if we were to introduce a tree into it.  I shudder at the very thought of it!  Our Snuggery, on the other hand, is so jam-packed with furniture and decorations that we would either have to cart much of it away in order to squeeze a tree into the room, or it would need to be a very tiny tree, indeed.

The now-groomed tree, placed in our dining room
and ready to be decorated

So, into the dining room our Christmas tree went.  And Reggie didn't have to lift a finger once during the process, as Boy and Rich did it entirely themselves.  Not only that, but Boy decorated the tree by himself, too, without any assistance from Reggie.  As I've explained here before, Reggie long-ago learned that it is best to leave such tasks as decorating Christmas trees or arranging flowers to Boy, since he does a much better job at such things than Reggie does (or can).  Besides, why should I get in the way of such activity when Boy is a high-toned, fancy New York decorator and I'm not?  People pay him to do this kind of thing!

This year, Boy's Christmas tree theme (and there is a different theme every year) is "Silver and Pinecone Woodland."  He decorated it solely with vintage silver ornaments, pine cones gathered from our property, white fairy lights, and a flock of little gray and white birds perched on its upper branches.  It is really rather beautiful.

Stay tuned . . .


  1. Don't make us wait too long for the finished tree!

    You've reminded me of a fun childhood memory. I grew up in central NY and was envious of all my friends who went out and cut their own tree. I convinced my Dad, a former city dweller, to take us out to do the same thing. He was completely out of his element, our eyes were too big and we came home w/a crazy tree that ended up basically being a square when my Dad finished pruning it. As it happens, it ended up falling over a few days later wiping out a bunch of ornaments. I still was pleased though because we were just like all the other families w/a tree we cut ourselves.

    1. Hello MNH: What an amusing story! My father also had trouble with Christmas trees, and more than one of them toppled over when I was a boy, shattering ornaments. Reggie

  2. It is interesting to see all of the pains you take to prepare properly and in your own special way for the holiday. We know the results will be worth it and will reflect the aura of Darlington House.

  3. That is quite an undertaking! I'm looking forward to the seeing it decorated.

  4. Reggie, I am so excited to see your tree in all of its glory!

    2012 Artists Series

  5. Your trees are always so very pretty. We got ours up yesterday as well -- no Thanksgiving Day trees for us! Let's wait, I say!

  6. I cannot wait to see the result of Boy's decorating. It really does sound magical.
    Love this term the "Snuggery". We've got one of those, I might have to steal that from you Reggie.

    1. Hello DaniBP: Once one starts calling it "the Snuggery" (must always be preceded by "the" when referring to it singularly), it becomes impossible to call it anything else! I assure you... Reggie

    2. Reggie, Was it Alva Vanderbilt who had a Snuggery at Marble House, or Lulu Vanderbilt or the Senior Mrs. Roosevelt at Hyde Park. On one of those house tours, I remember hearing that name used for a small parlor/living room, that was more intimate than grand and airy. The word is just soo Gilded Age Cozy!

  7. I think we need a post on names of Darlington rooms and why they are named thusly.

    My childhood home has a room named Milton. Milton is half of a double parlor that is used as a library. My father named it Milton and now, since the name stuck, pretends he did not name it.

    On the other hand, I anxiously await the finished tree and pictures of the rest of your Christmas decorations!

    1. Hello Emmaleigh: I love that one of your parlor rooms was called "Milton". That is a stitch! I am planning on doing a post on the Snuggery one day, and how it got its name. Thanks, Reggie

  8. What a lovely and charming post RD. You and Boy have such a high taste level- perhaps a book is in order, a monograph, like "An Affair With A House" by Bunny Williams! Glad you left all the work to Boy,(and Rich) and hope you are feeling better.

  9. We have been buying our Christmas tree from a nearby farm ever since we moved to Georgia. There is nothing like it and the smell from a freshly cut tree is worth its weight in gold. A close second to our favorite Bitter Orange!

    I love a tree in the dining room, particularly since every year I host Christmas Eve dinner. We have solved having to make a choice by having the big one in the "great" room and a smaller one there. Between the lights from the tree and those from the candles its magical!

    BTW what did you do with the other 30 feet?

  10. I simply can't wait to see your tree. You and Boy always have such exquisite taste.


  11. I use a tub for Christmas trees as well. Those typical little stands can be a disaster.

  12. I can't wait to see Boy's marvellous decorating.Is the tree a spruce?

    The trees you can buy here, are all pines..with that very piney smell as they wilt outside in the heat waiting to be taken home.

    I do like your yellow walls.

  13. hard to top your feather tree from last year. On the edge of my seat...can't wait to see your elegant live tree

  14. Dear Reggie,
    I am with you entirely on the whole tree selection, trimming and decorating procedure. Having had a german father, the tree was the focal point and always had to be big, and properly decorated. It never ceases to amaze me why people choose the artificial kind, that are exactly the same every year and scent free. Have a good and peaceful Christmas the both of you.

  15. Great Blog and Help.
    Say hi to your hottie Rich.

  16. I must confess that upon receiving this offering by yesterday's post, I only scrolled down and glanced at the pictures while wondering if Hudson Valley drought and/or evergreen famine had rendered this year's crop sickly & careworn. Being in a playful mood, I was even contemplating a mildly reproachful sally while boasting of the healthy full-figured specimens produced in the upper Midwest (oh the fragrance of a xmas tree lot!!!). Thinking better of it, I then carefully read Reggie's shrewd logic behind his selection and come to you with hat in hand--chastened and abashed. Who am I to bandy decor bon mots with Reggie Darling?!?!(...or the 'high-toned' Boy Fenwick?). Lesson learned and I very much look forward to seeing the end result of Boy's masterful hand in the dining room of Darlington House!

  17. Such a tease you are! I kinda like the tall slim shape of it, rather than short and rotund. Seems perfect for corner settings and other slim spots. Sure it's going be gorgeous when Boy is through with it.

  18. Can't wait to see it! We also put our tree in the dining room -which is open through a large doorway into the living room. I figure we decorate the mantel in the living room so we already have a focal point - the dining room looks rather forlorn without anything and as it has a large empty bay window, it's the ideal place! I love the notion that each room has a little Christmas decoration in it.

  19. I love the wash tub. How do you get the tree to stand straight?

  20. It looks so pretty. A very Merry Christmas to you and yours.

  21. I think you have the most beautiful trees I've ever seen. They are elegant without looking "decorated" as so many trees do. Absolute perfection. Boy does such a marvelous job, and he could even give Martha Stewart some lessons. Me, too, for that matter. My favorite so far is the one with the oranges that your friend in California sent. The ornaments on that tree were lovely, too.

    I eagerly look forward to seeing this year's finished tree.


  22. I'm thinking that the handsome lamppost at the start of the Darlington House walkway is crying out for some type of spray or garland.

    When you post photos of the finished tree, please consider a photo of the lamppost and perhaps the entrance door.

    Reggie and Boy, you do have impeccable taste.

    Merry Christmas!

  23. I can't wait to see what magic Boy weaves throughout the tree, he is wonderful at this sort of thing.

  24. A lot of effort so far, but so rewarding I'm sure. I can't wait to see the finished product, it will be perfect in every way. David.


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