If you’re like me, you’re always looking for that je ne sais quoi that brings your display to life. Trees & other shrubbery are a big part of that, in my opinion. Maybe that negates the ne sais part, because I do know what the quality is, but also I don’t speak French, so….
Cherry trees in particular bring a nice pop because of the bright color. One popular technique that has made the rounds of AFOL communities makes use of the sprue that holds brand new flower petals together:
(Source: Pieter Barendrecht)
I saw a few builds like this, and had to do it myself. I love how it enables you to get the drape that takes the tree from “Lego” to “wait… that’s Lego?”. My version wasn’t quite as intricate as the inspiration above, but I was pleased:
The key components to achieving this are new flower petals (still on the sprue – you can’t do this with used / disassembled parts) and 3-prong stems. Together these create a network that can be draped to form the tree canopy.
I’ve also seen folks who effectively “weave” the petals together to build the canopy – it gives the same effect, but with a denser result. It often still relies on brand-new petals still on the sprue, however.
I really enjoyed my little cherry tree, until one fateful day at a LUG meeting. One member, in discussing what he thought were lazy building techniques, mentioned how he didn’t like seeing this done, and I think went as far as to call it “cheating”. He had never seen my tree, so it wasn’t personal at all, but it stuck with me.
The validity of this position aside (is it cheating? How so?), I did take it as a challenge: could I build a cherry tree that was as satisfying aesthetically, without relying on the sprue connection?
Shaping was the challenge to solve: With a few exceptions here and there (such as the small tree builds in 10247 Ferris Wheel and the shrub / tree in front of 10251 Brick Bank), most official Lego trees I’ve seen are along two planes: the base of the tree (exactly vertical), and the flat branches and foliage (exactly horizontal).
With that in mind, I focused on finding a way to create a rounded shape that I could add the flowers to, and ended up with this:
There’s still tweaks I’d like to make to it, and it’s a little more fragile than I would like (I have re-built it after transporting it to and from shows a few times), but I’m happy with the general structure.
To be able to set leaf pieces (and therefore stems and flowers) at angles, I relied on an octagonal modified plate with bars (75937) off of which I attached a bar holder with clip (11090). Since I wasn’t constrained by on-sprue flowers, I could get more texture by mixing shades of pink and flower types.
At the end of the day, I like both trees, and keep them both built. I’m not against the on-sprue technique at all – it allows for a unique effect. But I’m glad to have found another way to shape trees.
Of course my approach isn’t the only way AFOLs have approached it. This beautiful creation uses off-sprue flowers on 3-prong stems, which appear to be woven together to keep them connected; it may not be an official connection, but it sure looks good:
(Source: studio tidepool)
So which style do you prefer? What other techniques have you used for building greenery? And is leaving the sprue attached “cheating”?