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Tillandsia Nest

Welcome the natural world into your home with this handcrafted tillandsia-filled nest.

This is an easy, fun project that is great for kids. The nest is a simple creation made out of forage—dried materials you can find in your yard, along the side of the road, or in any field or forest. I used a selection of pine needles, dried grasses, old hay, lichen, vines, dried leaves, and a few seed heads. Make sure some of the materials you use are pliable, like pine needles, shredded redwood bark, horse hair, or thin vines. These materials will make it easier to form the shape of the nest. The tillandsia nest can be displayed on a tabletop or in a vase, or mounted on a branch that’s hung on a wall. The tillandsia nest will last for as long as the tillandsias live. For a temporary display, use rosette-form succulents like aeoniums and wire them into the nest to keep them stable.

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MATERIALS

  • Foraged dry materials such as old hay, pine needles, shredded redwood, grasses, vines, and leaves (A)
  • 3 to 6 small tillandsias (B)
  • Lichen (C)
  • Branch (optional) (D)
  • 20- or 22-gauge aluminum wire (E)
  • Clear monofilament fishing line (F)
  • Vase (optional)
  • Rocks (optional)

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TOOLS

  • Small bowl (no more than 4 inches in diameter) (G)
  • Clippers (H)
  • Wire cutters Scissors (I)

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Gather twigs, supple grasses, vines, pine needles, etc.

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Turn the bowl upside down and form a small mat of dried materials on the base of the bowl. Alternate the direction of the materials as you place them on the base of the bowl. Long pieces that hang over the bowl are okay—they’ll eventually be pushed down onto the side of the bowl.

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Push the longer pieces down over the side of the bowl and, using the more pliable materials, begin weaving them into the longer pieces, using the bowl as a mold to create the side of the nest.

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Slowly weave the strands together around the bowl. Add new materials and work your way down to the rim of the bowl. You want the materials to vary and to become a sturdy mass. Ideally the nest should be 1/2 inch to 1 inch thick.

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Once the nest feels stable and you have worked your way down to the rim of the bowl, lift the nest off the bowl and turn it over. Gently tuck in a few dried seed heads and strands of grass around the edge of the nest.

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If you are using the nest as a tabletop display this is the last step. Place the tillandsias in the nest and you are finished! Go on to the next steps if you’d like to mount the nest on a branch.

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To mount the nest on a branch, find a spot on the branch where the nest can sit naturally. Cut a 6-inch piece of wire and poke it through the base of the nest and around both sides of the branch to the back of the branch.

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Hold the nest and branch together and turn them over. Twist the two strands of the wire together at the back of the branch.

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Find another crook on the branch to place a tillandsia. Place a piece of lichen in the crook.

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Cut a 4-inch piece of wire and bend it into a V.

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Weave it through the bottom few leaves of the tillandsia.

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Place the tillandsia over the lichen and bend the wire around the branch.

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Twist the two strands of wire together. Repeat steps 9 through 13 a few more times along the branch.

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If you are using a vase, place the tillandsias in the nest and then place the branch in the vase. If the branch is top heavy, place some rocks in the vase to prevent it from tipping over.

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If you want to create a wall-mounted display, tie a length of fishing line to two different spots on the branch. You will be hanging the branch from the center point of this line, so find a spot where the weight of the branch is balanced.

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WATER

Remove the tillandsias from the nest to water them. Tillandsias can be misted, dunked, or soaked, but I recommend soaking. It is the most thorough way to water your air plants. Place the air plants in a bowl of water for an hour or so once a week to water. They can be misted to add humidity, but unless you are very diligent they will never absorb enough water to live with misting alone.

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LIGHT

Tillandsias like very bright indirect light for most of the day, with a little direct sun.

FERTILIZER

Tillandsias should be fed with a water-soluble solution. A fertilizer for epiphytes or orchids can be used.

MAINTENANCE

Remove dead leaves by cutting or pulling them off in the opposite direction of the growth.

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PROPAGATION

Once an air plant has bloomed the plant will slowly die. Before it dies it usually produces offsets, or pups. If you would like to remove a pup from its parent plant, firmly hold the base of each plant and pull the pups apart from the plant.

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CAITLIN ATKINSON