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  Artificial Trees
From: Adam Black epiphyte1 at earthlink.net> on 2003.01.06 at 21:06:12(9765)
Hi Harry,

I made mine based on how Fairchild has theirs constructed- with pieces
of corkbark affixed to an armature. Theirs is shaped like a tree
(branches coming out of a trunk), but mine are just more or less hanging
horizontal branches that are forked and bent into natural shapes. I make
them long enough so they span the width of my greenhouse, all going in
different directions so they criss-cross, weave over and under, etc. I
don't have an artificial "trunk" holding these branches up. They are
constructed out of thick heavy PVC pipe with joints and "T"s used to
give a natural shape, which cork bark rounds and curved slabs covering
the pipe. The whole branch is therefore hollow, and I run a length of
cable through it and hang it from the greenhouse frame. I make sure to
leave some gaps between the cork panels, as these are good sites to fit
plants in, while other epiphytes can be wrapped on with fishing line,
glued on (Tillandsias), or even nailed on (larger stoloniferous
bromeliads). Use some sphagnum moss around plant root that you wrap with
line and keep it damp to give them a good start. After adding in the
specimen plants, I always like to cover the remaining bare areas with
other creeping or spreading "filler plants", such as small Peperomias,
Dischidias, mosses, ferns, small orchids, etc. for a more natural look.
After a while, you will not even see the joints between the cork panels,
and various other plants will grow up and cover the cables, and vining
types can be encouraged to spread from branch to branch. Together with
long pendant epiphytes hanging down through several levels of branches,
upright epiphytes reaching up through the "canopy", and tall
terrestrials growing up through the tangle, this helps tie everything
together, and is a much better way to get the full enjoyment of growing
tropical plants in a more natural manner than in a pot. It also saves a
lot of space in the greenhouse, utilizing the overhead space to its
fullest. I also use cypress branches (resistant to rot for quite a
while) here and there to get a some variation in branch size, since it
is difficult to "create" smaller branches approaching twig proportions.
These smaller branches are the best places to put smaller Tillandsias
and orchids, as well as drape with spanish "moss" Tillandsia usneoides.
Good luck and use your imagination.

Adam Black

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From: Jonathan Ertelt jonathan.ertelt at vanderbilt.edu> on 2003.01.06 at 23:07:57(9766)
At 5:59 PM -0500 1/6/03, Harry Witmore wrote:

I just received my Orchids monthly magazine and there is an article
on creating an artificial tree in it. I wondered, does anyone on
this list have any experience with doing something like this and if
so, what process did you use. I have a small (8'wx6'lx12'h)
greenhouse that I want to place an epiphyte tree in and would like
to make it artificial so it will not rot.

Harry,

I have worked with a number of different artificial tree
structures, the biggest one being 15-18' tall, with seven branches.
The base structure for this tree was rebar, with a central core of
pieces, and a perimeter of pieces helping to define the diameter of
the trunk, a little over three feet at the base. All the branches had
rebar going through them which could then be tied onto the trunk
framework. What really gave this tree its structural integrity,
however, was the polyurethane isocyanate (expandable foam), of a type
used to make structures for theatre sets - denser than the expandable
foam spray insulation.

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From: "Cooper, Susan L." SLCooper at scj.com> on 2003.01.07 at 05:29:49(9767)
Hi Harry,
Also try checking the archives, I think there was a lot of discussion on
this same subject. Sorry I can't remember when!
But I do remember the discussion on having materials that won't rot....
Susan

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From: Harry Witmore harrywitmore at witmore.net> on 2003.01.07 at 15:27:18(9770)
Wow, thanks for the responses so far. The article in the Orchids Magazine
mentioned the technique of using the expandable foam and then covering it
with cork bark. I would like to get a bale of cork. I have found some
sources for this in the past but I need to start looking again.

I don't have access to cypress but I do have red cedar and it's used around
here as fence post. I use it some to mount orchids and other small
epiphytes. This sounds like it could be a good on line web story. oh well
Brian has a wall, I have a tree, what else are you all dreaming of doing to
grow your plants in an attractive manner and if you are doing it already,
where are the picture. I think a page which shows members plant displays
would stir interest in the plants. Those of us in temperate to down right
frozen areas of the country, need to create the look of the tropics in our
own environment.

Any more ideas on this subject will be grateful.

Harry Witmore

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From: "Ron" ronlene at adelphia.net> on 2003.01.07 at 16:27:58(9771)
I like PVC plumbing pipe as the frame for the cork.
----- Original Message -----
To:
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From: "Craig Allen" callen at fairchildgarden.org> on 2003.01.08 at 10:13:00(9773)
The following note is what I send out to people that ask about the construction of Fairchild Garden's epiphyte display. I have purchased my cork bundles from: OFE International, Inc., 305-253-7080; 12100 S.W. 129th Court, Miami, Florida 33186-6421

Epiphyte tree construction
A pipe frame is assembled from 4, 6, and 8 inch PVC irrigation pipe and fittings then covered by a skin of cork bark.

At the base of the tree is a concrete anchor with an embedded lag bolt. The tree base is bolted to this foundation and all the 1/4" stainless cable is clamped around the heavy bolt and threaded through the pipe and tied to the overhead beams. The stainless steel cable is actually the support structure, as the PVC is not strong enough to support itself.

The PVC pipe frame isn't glued but is screwed together using galvanized screws. I do it this way so that I can rotate the fittings or change the whole structure if the shape turns out to be unconvincing as a tree.

The cork bark covering is screwed on with galvanized deck screws, reinforced with steel washers under the screw heads. 'Liquid Nails' construction adhesive is spotted around the pipe to strengthen the corks bond to the frame. The washers spread the pressure on the cork to a wider area so that the screw will not go all the way through the soft cork. If the screws are noticeably visible after construction and planting, a dab of liquid nails and a cork chip covers the exposed metal, or even brown marker.

In my original structure, great attention was put to lining up furrows in the cork to help the believability of the branches, but that proved to be a waste of time after the plants were added.

After the large cork sections are attached, cut cork pieces are used to fill gaps between large slabs. Small gaps can be filled with cork chips, Osmumda fern fiber, or bits of moss. If a constructed tree is going to be heavily planted many of these small gaps shouldn't be visible any way.

The living epiphytic plants were attached using thin aluminum wire as a strap with small deck screws. Wire that is twisted around a screw then snuggly crosses the stem or rhizome and twists around the second screw. As you tightened the screws the wire tightens on the plant, holding most plants. Small plants can be attached with large ungalvanized electrical staples or even glued with the 'Liquid Nails'.

Most epiphytes readily attach to cork. I have had problems with cattleya orchids. I am not sure if the problem is an aversion to the cork, or staying too wet. Most show no root attachment to the cork bark.

...As far as how to make it look real... I just did it by intuition, but if you could see under the skin, there is just as much structure made from fittings as pipe. They make a number of fitting with 22% and 45% bends. Used lots of them to make your branches twist. Avoid long straight sections, even though it would lower costs. The fitting (example 8" connector with a 6" side tube at 22% angle) is the most expensive but the most important for looks. 8" for large trunks, down to 4" for smaller branches. Do not cantilever any branches over peoples heads more than 3' with out support. The PVC is not that strong, a heavy epiphyte load is heavy indeed.

I can't think of anything else except that after plants are attached all the areas that bother you tend to disappear. If you do a fallen branch as I did, try to keep most of the branches aiming in the same general direction as if it was from one side of the tree. I rearranged my first display when I was 1/2 way through because it wasn't looking natural.

Craig M. Allen

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From: Harry Witmore harrywitmore at witmore.net> on 2003.01.08 at 15:26:32(9775)
Thanks Craig, the epiphyte displays at Faichild are exactly what I'm going
for. They are very convincing. I will let you all know how it goes when I
get started.

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From: Dan Levin levin at pixar.com> on 2003.01.08 at 16:25:17(9776)
One variation on this theme, which I'm currently building in my
greenhouse, is the totem on steroids approach. The concept has
been discussed here before, I think. Certainly not as compelling or
elaborate as an art. tree, but it is significantly simpler (= cheaper)
to install and the ultimate result provides similar functionality which
doesn't look half bad- and if you squint a bit, looks great.

Though I may experiment with mounting non araceous material onto
these structures, my primary interest is in providing support for many
of my climbing, epiphytic and vining aroids e.g. Anthurium, Cercestis,
Philodendron, Rhaphidophora, Syngonium, etc.
---

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From: Dan Levin levin at pixar.com> on 2003.01.08 at 16:26:04(9777)
One variation on this theme, which I'm currently building in my
greenhouse, is the totem on steroids approach. The concept has
been discussed here before, I think. Certainly not as compelling or
elaborate as an art. tree, but it is significantly simpler (= cheaper)
to install and the ultimate result provides similar functionality which
doesn't look half bad- and if you squint a bit, looks great.

Though I may experiment with mounting non araceous material onto
these structures, my primary interest is in providing support for many
of my climbing, epiphytic and vining aroids e.g. Anthurium, Cercestis,
Philodendron, Rhaphidophora, Syngonium, etc.
---

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From: Jonathan Ertelt jonathan.ertelt at vanderbilt.edu> on 2003.01.08 at 23:26:17(9786)
At 6:26 PM -0500 1/8/03, Harry Witmore wrote:

Thanks Craig, the epiphyte displays at Faichild are exactly what I'm
going for. They are very convincing. I will let you all know how it
goes when I get started.

Harry, et al.,

A couple of points on other responses that I've been reading,
and then I think that I will have said all that I need to say and
will bow out.

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From: "Julius Boos" ju-bo at msn.com> on 2003.01.09 at 01:48:04(9787)
Dear Craig,

Just a note on behalf of the many whom I`m certain this note will assist,
thanks so very much, it took a lot of your time to do this, and it is
friends like you that make this list so valuable and interesting!
I hope that your Amorphophallus 'giants' and all your other babies are doing
well, and am looking forward to your postings and photos on any future
bloomings of these wonderfully grown botanical marvels.

Good growing!

Julius

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From: "Cooper, Susan L." SLCooper at scj.com> on 2003.01.09 at 05:40:38(9790)
Wow, I hope we see some pictures when you and Harry are done! Brian, Is
there a picture of your wall on your website, and if so, where?

Susan

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From: Harry Witmore harrywitmore at witmore.net> on 2003.01.09 at 15:04:57(9799)
Darn Jonathan, I love the tree at UNCC. It is really what has inspired me
to get into aroids and reinforced my love for epiphytes. I go there when I
can. Are you still located there? I plan to head that way to give the tree
a look soon. I'm only live 45 minutes from UNCC. I often call it an
undiscovered jewel because people are alway astonished at what I describe
there.

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