A recent article by The Wall Street Journal described a new horticultural design trend: trophy trees. The article, titled The Newest Status Symbol for High-Net Worth Homeowners: Trophy Trees, categorizes them as “the latest in status symbols for most well-off Americans”. But what exactly is a trophy tree?
A trophy tree is an exceptionally large, distinctive tree that is used as a central décor or structural element. The article details the popularity of trophy trees for American homeowners, but they can also be found in restaurants and resorts worldwide. TreeScapes & PlantWorks have had the pleasure of designing and creating these statement trees for many of our esteemed clients!
There are three main types of trophy trees: living, artificial, and preserved. Living trees require a complicated process of acquisition, transport, and installation. The trees are generally sliced vertically into multiple pieces, and then re-assembled using steel rods and cables. Each slice has roots and foliage, making it a separate tree. Eventually, the bark will grow around each tree, giving the look of the original single large tree. The cost, from start to finish, ranges all the way from $25,000 to $250,000 per tree!
Artificial trophy trees are constructed with steel inner cores and custom details. We create artificial versions of popular tree varieties, including Oak, Banyan, Mediterranean Olive, Birch, and Palm Trees. They are assembled on-site, piece by piece, and the end result is nearly indistinguishable from a living tree. There are exceptions, of course, like when we create a custom “hybrid” tree or one with specific colors or details.
The Sushisamba Tree is a great example of a restaurant trophy tree. The custom creation is a towering combination of Oak bark and Banyan foliage. The foliage is done in the restaurant’s signature shade of orange and accented with a seemingly endless array of twinkle lights. All of this, plus the oversized proportions – approximately 24-feet tall, with a 30-foot canopy – have made it one of London’s top Instagrammable features.
TreeScapes & PlantWorks are also leaders in the field of preserved trophy trees! We use real plant material and a proprietary organic preservation process to “immortalize” these natural trees as beautiful pieces of art.
Many are concerned about the environmental impact of cutting down old trees, but these pieces often begin as trees that would otherwise be cut down. This is a way of preserving a historic tree and appreciating its beauty for years to come. There are no guarantees, however.
Despite all of the effort and cost – sometimes up to hundreds of thousands of dollars – these trees can still fail to thrive in their new environment. Even if they survive, they might still have been essential parts of the ecosystem in their original location. So, the environmental impact should be considered when choosing a trophy tree.
Homeowners should also be aware that they may need specific permits, permissions, or insurance. Some areas may prohibit trophy trees altogether, while others could require special accommodations for transport. A giant tree (with a canopy of 18+ feet) might cost tens of thousands of dollars to purchase, and double or triple that amount for delivery and installation. Tree brokers can be hired to oversee the process and ensure it is done safely and legally.
After the trophy tree is successfully assembled and replanted, it needs to be cared for just like any other living tree. This means access to sunshine, regular watering, root maintenance, and treatment for pests or rot. These are all big reasons why many prefer to go with artificial trophy trees instead!
Fabricated trophy trees don’t require any of the aforementioned maintenance, and they’re built to last for years. We also construct our trees with either Inherently Fire Retardant (IFR), Ultraviolet Inhibited (UVI), or combination foliage. This makes them safe and durable for indoor and outdoor spaces and ideal for commercial projects as well as residential. We also design trees to the client’s exact specifications, making each one unique and perfectly suited for the home or business.
Some may wonder, is a trophy tree worth it – and why? The Wall Street Journal article quotes Raymond Jungles, a Miami landscape architect. He explains:
“For one, a big tree helps mitigate the scale of a very big house. A unique or particularly old tree, like a piece of art, is also a great conversation piece. Lastly, it means high-net-worth buyers don’t have to wait for a newly planted tree to grow on their site.”
Would you opt for a trophy tree in your home or hospitality establishment? We’ve included images of some of our favorites here, but that’s just the beginning! We can turn your creative dream into a reality with fabricated statement trees of all kinds.