We are exhibiting our project in the attic of the Museum of Architecture and Design by the end of the month. With a wish to present the way the plant looks to the audience we wanted to plant few trees in the attic. A carrying residency for the invasive Tree of heaven is set as a symbolic gesture that represents a counter image to the present actions oriented towards protection of native species before the nonnative, disregarding the roles they play in their ecosystems and the mutual dependency they develop over time.

This is how we started to put the idea into practice:

We asked our partners to help us with the transplanting of 2m high trees. We failed terribly all the trees dried within 2 days and we started to think about the alternatives. We asked The Permaculture Association (http://www.permakultura.si/) for the advise and they thought us we can transplant the trees only when they are without leaves, so in winter, autumn and spring. They suggested us that in case we use the seedlings of the Tree of Heaven, we transplant them right before the exhibition and water them really well, but we need to expect that they will probably collapse in few days anyway. This did not sound very optimistic.

Then I remembered of the artists from the Tree of Heaven Woodshop. They were developing as well as exhibiting amazing projects with the tree, so there was a high chance they figured it out how to do it.

I decided to write to them and it turned out that they knew exactly how it works. They provided us with truly valuable advice!

Here is our correspondence:

Dear Ingo,

We are writing you as we are about to organize an exhibition which works with the invasive Tree of Heaven and we would like to plant the tree in the gallery space. For now we were transplanting the 2-5m high trees and each time they lost their leaves.

Do you maybe have a practical advice how to work with them – we are slowly losing the ideas about what more can we to do?

Thank you very much and hope to meet you at some point, we really admire your projects!

All the best,

Gaja and Andrej

We got a super fast reply from Ingo:

Dear Gaja and Andrej,

interesting venue and project you are dealing with.

To transplant a Tree of Heaven is unfortunately more difficult than expected from such an invasive species. Growing from seeds is quite secure and small seedlings are doing fine, but with specimens in the size of 2-5m it’s more like a lottery. We faced this problem when we established our tree farm in Detroit and had to replant three/four times. The tree grows better, when there is chalk/lime in the soil & mix with a lot of sand for drainage. But the main point is the root system, which is widespread and sensitive.

An easy solution is to get the trees from a tree nursery. Because here, they replant the seedlings frequently to keep the roots compact. It takes a couple of years to do this, but it helps if you want to plant bigger trees. Summer is generally a difficult time to plant and your trees will need high maintenance to establish – not too much sun, enough water but not wet etc.

For short term exhibitions, we use a more rough method: http://www.treeofheavenwoodshop.com/exhibitions2/11th-venice-biennale-for-architecture-italy/

Good luck with the trees and success for your exhibition!

Ingo

And another advice came few hours later from Mich

Hello Gaja and Andrej,

Yes they  will lose their leaves anytime their roots are disturbed, but if they survive the winter they will grow new leaves the following year.

You can try dipping the roots in a root growth hormone, but I have found they still lose their leaves even if they are not dead. Just waiting for next year.

You have to work within the rules of the Tree of Heaven.

all the best on your project.

Mitch

In the end we decided to try to plant little seedlings in the planting soil mixed with chalk and sand drainage. I found the paradise of Trees of Heaven in a slightly neglected site, really close to the rail and the newly built mosque. As it was raining few days ago the soil was still wet and the roots came out easily. It was great that the day was cloudy, since it is really risky to put out the plants in the hot sunny day. Hopefully the trees will succeed and we will be able to show them at the exhibition.

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