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Hey everybody. I am Natalie's husband and helping with the build.

In response to the copper, we wanted to use it for the structure as well so the plastic tubing wouldn't do any good. We are thinking about scratching the copper and using something else, maybe conduit with a tube on the inside of it for the water to run through and then a coating on the outside of the metal to cover it and protect it. We are very thankful for all the ideas you guys are giving us.
 

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Hi Natalie's husband! If you're planning on making the structure that way, best bet is to use pvc pipe. You can run your irrigation system through it. Metal is bad for anything like this where humidity and water is a factor. Besides leaching of toxins, you run the possibility of corrosion, even with a coating on it. It's amazing where water can get to. Just ask the reef folk about the weird places they have cleaned salt creep from......lol

Another option would be to hide an irrigation system in the canopy. You can run a system like did with my madagascar tank pretty easily and inexpensively.

Also, other options on the tree coming out of the island are use dried oak branches instead of the ash. Or you could plant something live there such as a ficus ;'benjamina' or a tree fern. Growth would be slow, but as you grow, mosses can be added as well. Just a few ideas for you :) one thing you will find with this forum is there is rarely ever a shortage of ideas :)
 

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If you think PVC might be structurally strong enough (it will) but not flexible enough, you can heat it and bend it, curve it and so on. And it is still water proof. I have seen it done for swimming pool installations.
I would start with something as large as 2" near the bottom, and run some feet out to the edges for stability. (The feet do not have to be 2") Then reduce the size going up as the 'wood' branches off.
When you cover that with Great Stuff you can create the look of convoluted wood.
 

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The water level will be 12", the height of the overflow.

We've had somewhat of a change in plans. Due to concerns about the Ash branches rotting out too quickly, and honestly mostly due to my desire to have mosses growing in the tree, I am scrapping the Ash branches.

We will build the tree with an internal irrigation system. I will try to make it as similar in appearance to a mangrove as I can. I will make it out of PVC, 1/4" copper tubing (it's for refrigerator ice makers, so water safe), floral foam, Great Stuff, and two to three shades of tinted concrete painted on.

This tree will be quite a project, but could be pretty darn cool if we can figure it out.
I think concern about the branches rotting is entirely valid, but I'd just suggest you go with bigger branches. It will still decay, but will take much longer, and in the meantime supply nutrients to the plants. If you want to slow the decay even further, you could soak it with thinned epoxy resin or something.

I've got a chunk of driftwood sitting in a pot that I've filled with plants, and it gets watered almost every day, so the wood never quite dries out. There has been some notable decomposition, but the plants look great, and I don't think the structure has been severely compromised.

Heres a pic, from about a year ago (attachment)

anyways, I've seen some great builds done with pvc/great stuff, but as people said, I'd avoid the copper. I think you'll get all the structure you need from the pvc.
 

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Discussion Starter · #26 ·
Excellent suggestions... So inspiring!! A heat torch, PVC, and foam test branch will be coming!!
 

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Cool. I hopes yours holds. :) mine came floating up, even with silicone attaching it to the bottom. It's amazing how buoyant that stuff is. You've got enough foam there to save a 200 lb man from drowning.....lol
Actually, that's probably a pretty valid concern for something like that, where it's an island in the middle, and only held down by the silicone glue. Before you finish it, it might be worth carving some holes in the middle layers and putting some bricks or rocks in, and try and get it as close to neutral buoyancy as possible.
 

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Discussion Starter · #33 ·
Oh my gosh that's so funny that you just posted that! It's definitely helpful with what we decided to do.

We actually did a big overhaul of the tree today and started rebuilding it using PVC. I pulled all the ash branches out, pulled out more than 50% of the foam, created a little depth with foam and started adding "roots". I still have lots to do with cutting/bending/adding PVC branches (and this will not be how they are positioned, I just haven't fastened them yet). We will also add some rope roots and branches, and will still use some of the ash branches (sealed with DryLock) to flesh out what will be the tree. Then, we will use plastic tubing, silicone, peat, and floral foam to run the irrigation up through the tree to keep it moist.

Again, this pic is not the best... the PVC branches aren't done, aren't placed where I want them.... lots to do. But it's a "progress" shot.

 

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Discussion Starter · #34 ·
Update time. Haven't made a ton of progress due to my job being crazy during the holidays, but have managed to do a bit.

I pulled all the branches out, and built the trunk out of 4" PVC, cork bark, foam, and rope. I cut about a dozen short lengths of PVC, and bent most of them with a heat gun. These will hold the branches at the trunk. This way, the branches are easy to replace, if needed, without disturbing much.



In order to try to avoid needing to replace the Ash branches, I sealed them all up with DryLock (tinted to light brown). Then, went back over them lightly with DryLock mixed with dark brown acrylic. There is one branch in there that is sealed with Titebond III instead, and one Ash branch that is plain -- so I can see how long they last with various treatments. I also filled it out some with manzanita.





Still lots to do with coating the structure, and the stand isn't painted yet either.

Current plan is to paint the exposed foam with the light brown DryLock, then go back with the dark brown DryLock to make it look more realistic. Planning to do vines above water with peat/silicone and vines below water with peat/Titebond III. Thoughts?

Sorry the flash makes the last two pictures look so washed out.
 

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Discussion Starter · #37 ·


A bit of progress only, the holidays keep me very busy with work and family. :)

Painted the trunk with the first color of DryLock, still a couple darker colors to add. Mounted broms. Put some plants in the planters (none of these will have submerged roots and drainage is good). Started making lianas.
 

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Discussion Starter · #38 ·
The above-water structure is done, painted, planted.

The stand is done, frame painted. Still needs trim and doors.

Although not shown here, the 40b sump is placed in the stand.



Closer view of the tree:

 

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Discussion Starter · #39 ·
Oddly, the photos are right-side-up on my laptop, but upside-down on the iPad. So, my apologies if they are wrong on your device. Strange, no?
 

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That is some amazing work you have done there, I can't wait to see what everything will look like completed. Also, the pictures are oriented just fine on my laptop :).
 
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