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Live Sculpture Project - Specific Substrate Help

This is my first post on this great forum!

Hi guys, I'm working on a sculpture project and need to know of a substrate/growing material that can be put in a mould and hardened (or something of the like) and be taken out of the mould so that the material will hold in place and keep it's structure. The thinnest parts of the sculpture would be roughly 2cms in circumference (if not possible the next thinnest would be a big step up to about 15cms in circumference). The substrate needs to be able to take significant growth changes to it from the growth before falling apart or not falling apart at all. Does such a material exist? I'm pretty ignorant on the subject. I have made a vermiculite and brow rice powder substrate before but that's about. Any help would be GREATLY appreciated!

Super Green Thumb
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Count, are you trying to make topiary?

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Super Green Thumb
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My guess would be more the chia pet kind of thing:


only with the whole sculpture covered in plant material.

Or like the RoseBowl parade floats, but using live plants, not cut flowers.

Topiary there is no substrate, just a sculptured plant. Chia pets and all the elaborate stuff on the floats is all sculptured first out of some base material and then the plant stuff added.

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It's hard to conjecture without knowing what will be growing....

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My apologies guys, I'm not good at explaining things in general :P

So it's not topiary and isn't a hard formed sculpture made of say metal or plastic that had then stuff growing over it.

The sculpture will actually be a human. So the idea is that substrate/material would go into a plastic mould of a human body, set so it is firm and can be upright with some external support and then seeded with many different types of plants/growth. There's gotta be something out there that will do the job, there almost always is!

:/ I hope this explains it better.

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If you make a wire frame for your sculpture and pack it with sphagnum moss, then you can plant on the spagnum moss. Pick a plant with a sprawling flat growing habit like rock cress, creeping thyme, dichondra, or even some of the flat succulents like hens and chicks. What you use depends on where this sculpture eventually will be placed as all of them will need to get some water somehow and some can handle sun and others will need shade. The plants are not plastic so they will need water, the right light and some trimming to keep your sculpture recognizable. Unless your sculpture is small, most other materials will be too heavy and will crumble especially if you are putting appendages like a head and limb on it. If you can make your structure fit a more compact space like a human in a fetal position or in an egg shape then you might be able to pack something around it with a hope of it staying together, but I would still keep the core hollow because of the weight and it would be a good place to hide the drip tubing you would need to keep the plants alive.

If you want the sculpture to keep its' form I suggest you use moss for the plants.

If you make your sculpture out of terra cotta you can put some moss in a blender and break it up. Saturate the terra cotta with buttermilk or yogurt and spray on the moss solution, the moss will grow on the terra cotta. That is pretty much the technique that is done to age terra cotta pots. the moss will need to be misted every day and it likes being kept moist and shady. If your sculpture is not going to be out in full sun and you can keep it shady and moist, it should work and the moss should not obscure the features in the sculture much if the features are well etched. ... PorousPots

P.S. If you want to put the substrate in a plastic mold and leave the mold on then you can probably only grow plastic plants. Unless this is a very small piece like under 2 ft tall, you will probably have to have some kind of scaffolding inside it or the substrate will crumble if you try to move it. You will still need to have a wire framework to keep the shape. If you put in something similar to hypertuffa, once it dries, it will hold its form, but you have to get it wet again to support the plants and the two conditions are incompatible. Even a small piece will be heavy once it is wet and will not be able to be moved very well. Plants are living things and if this is to be a living sculpture you have to consider also how you are going to keep the plants alive.

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