BOUGH WOW: Putting on the dog with a 'personalized' tree

BOUGH WOW: Putting on the dog with a 'personalized' tree

December 22nd, 2012 by Susan Pierce in Life Entertainment

One of Karla McKamey's seven dogs stands before her dog-themed Christmas tree in her Signal Mountain home.

Photo by Allison Love /Times Free Press.

They used to be called "theme trees."

Now all-of-one-idea decor is known as "personalizing" your tree, say area designers. A tree might be personalized by choosing ornaments in specific colors or design, or decorations that reflect a personal hobby or philanthropic preference or even your pets.

Older homeowners might stick with the traditional theme tree from Christmases past in order to save on expense of new ornaments, says Ferlencia Tuggle, designer at Michael's Arts and Crafts.

"Trees are changing colors," Tuggle says. "Traditional red and green is being replaced by nontraditional colors such as purple, lime green, hot pink, browns and turquoise."

Even in children's trees, themes are changing as the branches are being laden with pop culture icons such as Superman or Tinker Bell.

Cameron Smith, designer in the seasonal department at Hobby Lobby on Gunbarrel Road, says he still sees theme trees in offices, but individuals prefer "flashy ornaments, bright colors, leopard and zebra prints."

"A lot of businesses are doing inspirational trees -- lots of nativities and Baby Jesus. Candy cane ornaments on trees are also quite popular."

Karla McKamey-Valadez has a showstopping tree that immediately tips visitors off to her favorite philanthropy. Her tree has literally gone to the dogs -- specifically, her dogs -- a look that's fun and projects the whimsy of the holiday season while maintaining a stately presence in her Signal Mountain home.

Gil Cartwright and Curt Hodge at Gil and Curt's Flowers have created a canine Christmas tree on a 12-foot, Fraser fir cut from Weaver's Tree Farm. It's decorated in "all things dogs," says Cartwright.

Dogs of all breeds run in packs around its branches. A beaded dog-bone garland drapes branches. Dog collars are part of the treetopper.

The tree perfectly reflects McKamey-Valadez's advocacy for animal adoption -- a practice she preaches. Not only did her family give a $1 million gift to help fund the building of the McKamey Animal and Adoption Center, she is the proud owner of seven shelter or rescue dogs.

Their roll call brings to mind Clement Moore's famous poem, "A Visit From St. Nicholas," better known as "The Night Before Christmas." Now Murphy, now Ella, now Lila and Winnie. On Komatsu, on Bob, on Jeje ... and the eighth will be adopted after the new year.

"I've had as many as nine at one time," says the dog lover. "They rule the place; they just let me live here."

The seven pets range from Komatsu, the eldest, a shepherd mix rescued off the road beside the heavy-equipment plant on Signal Mountain Road, to 140-pound Murphy, a Great Pyrenees.

Golden retrievers Bob and Jeje are named for her parents, while Ella is a 120-pound Newfoundland-labrador mix, Lila is a yellow labrador mix and Winnie is a Dalmation mix with one blue eye and one brown.

To protect the tree from seven rambunctious dogs, it is stabilized with 20-gauge wire that Cartwright says wraps around the tree trunk and is anchored to the door facing.

This tree has been a five-year project for Cartwright and Hodge. Knowing their friend's love for dogs, they snap up ornaments every year when they discover something new.

"Anything that pertains to dogs is on it," says Cartwright.

Have an idea for an interesting home or garden feature? Contact Susan Pierce at or 423-757-6284.