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Bringing Nature Indoors: How to Build Your Own Native Plant Table Top Forest

Most Supplies Needed Are in Your Garden!

These easy to make table top trees enable you to bring your native plants inside! In under an hour and a half, you can gather greens and braches from the garden, an assortment of empty pots, some moss from a damp spot and some pea gravel from a path and create a table top forest for inside or out.



Pots filled with soil or pebbles

Branches for tree trunks

Pieces of evergreen conifer


Moss (optional)

Gardening gloves

For the tree trunks, I chose oakleaf hydrangea (Hydrangea quercifolia) and eastern red cedar (Juniperis virginiana) for their interesting bark but you can use any type branch. Initially I thought thicker 3/4 inch branches would work best. In the end, narrower 1/4 inch branches looked better.

For the evergreen conifers, I used pieces from male and female eastern red cedars. The female trees still have lots of small blue berries. The tiny yellow gold cones on the male trees look great too. I also cut hemlock (Tsuga canadensis) branches but they lie very flat and didn't work as well as the cedars. For five trees, an Ikea tote bag of branches yielded more than enough greens for the trees.

Making the trees:

Start by cutting the branches you have collected into straight pieces about three times as tall as the height of your pot. If you use stones or pebbles in your pot, you can make taller trunks as they will be more stable.

You will start each tree by securing the paddle wire around the trunk. Place your trunk next to the pot and note where the pot rim hits your trunk. Wrap the paddlewire around the trunk about 10" above where the pot rim hits your trunk. This will ensure you have part of the trunk showing once you have added the cedar.

Once the paddlewire is secured, you can begin adding pieces of cedar stem side up (branch tips down). Wrap the wire tightly around the stem of the cedar piece and the trunk a couple of times. Then add the next piece of cedar on the opposite side of the trunk. Keep adding pieces at that same level until you feel like it is full enough. I added four pieces at each level.

You will not cut the paddle wire until you are completely done and have reached the top of the trunk. Once you reach the top, don't worry if you have stems of branches haphazardly reaching above the trunk - you can trim them off later. At the top, you may want to add a small piece of evergreen that goes in the opposite direction, toward the top, to finish your tree.

Once you are happy with how it looks, knot the paddlewire and cut a 5" tail. Then find a nob or small branch to wrap the tail around to make sure the wire is secure. You can cut off any excess.

Place the finished tree in its pot and you are done.

Six Tips:

One. The first tree or two may be wonky. See above! By the third tree, you will have the hang of it.

Two. Cut the cedar into smaller pieces. When I started, I was looking for fuller pieces. They are harder to work with and make it harder to get the tree shape going. Instead, cut larger branches into two or three pieces. It should be much easier to work with.

Three. If your tabletop forest will be outdoors, fill the pots with stones or pebbles to make them more stable.

Four. Experiment with "trunk" sizes. For me, the smaller diameter branches resulted in better looking trees and the tops were easier to finish.

Five. Pieces of moss add a bit of the "forest floor."

Six. Make your forest your own. With a hot glue gun, you might top your trees with a small pine cone or coneflower seedheads! The possibilities are endless.

Happy Forest Building!


We want you to be as excited about planting Chesapeake natives as we are. “Plant This or That” gives you a native alternative to popular plants. Other posts highlight really fabulous fauna native to the Chesapeake.

Nuts for Natives, avid gardener, Baltimore City admirer, Chesapeake Bay Watershed restoration enthusiast, and public service fan.

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