• Care and Maintenance

    Getting started

    1. Choose a location for your sculpture so that you can conveniently enjoy it regularly. Plants are selected for the sculpture that can tolerate moist soil and indirect light, though most will do well in full sun, too.

    2. Do not try to move the entire sculpture together. Complete sculptures weigh up to 40 lbs., and the rocks and figurines may shift or fall if carried in the tray. The figurines are very fragile, so set them aside in a safe place first. Place the rocks in a plastic tray or on a sheet of cardboard or scrap wood with a scrap towel to absorb the water. The rocks are very abrasive - use gloves when handling them.

    3. If the sculpture is located on a finished wood surface, a protective placemat or a sheet of clear acrylic plastic can be used beneath the tray to protect the finish. Use an adequate size so that there is at least a 1” protected margin on all sides of the tray. Handle the ShanChuan tray carefully to avoid scratches. When the tray is in position, place the rocks using the outlines on the tray bottom if provided, and install the pump and/or fogger. Finally, set any figurine(s) in place.

    4. Add water to just below the slot where the pump cord exits the tray. If your landscape includes a boat, the water level should make the boat appear to float.

    5. Plug in the fountain and/or fogger. The pump and fogger may be run together or separately. If moisture condenses on the edge of the tray or on the surrounding surface, use a placemat or sheet of plastic beneath the tray. A “mist governor” is available, with a switch for reducing or turning off the fog.

    6. Check the water level again after the pump has started circulating and the rocks have begun to soak up water. Whenever the water level is too low, the fogger will shut off, or gurgling from the fountain pump will let you know it’s time to add water. If the water level drops below about 1”, the pump may need to be primed – simply start and stop it a few times. When you add water or touch the pump or fogger, unplug the power first.

    Occasional maintenance

    Avoid running the pump and fogger longer than 8 hours per day. An inexpensive lamp timer can turn them on and off for you, to save energy and preserve the components.

    The fountain and fogger will run well without much attention, but they suffer when the water level gets too low. Turn off the fountain and fogger when you’re away and can’t maintain the water level. The rock itself is very porous and can wick moisture to the plants without the aid of the fountain or fogger for up to a week.

    If the pump is run every day, the water may not require changing more than once every month. If the pump is turned off for prolonged periods, the water may tend to develop algae and may require changing more frequently (a turkey baster or hand siphon works great to remove the water without disturbing the sculpture). Occasionally, the pump may require disassembly and rinsing to clear debris from the internal components.

    Over time, mineral deposits may form inside and along the edges of the tray. If a dry towel won’t remove them, take out the rocks and figurines, empty the tray of water, and use ordinary vinegar and a cloth to rub off the deposits. A kitchen scrubbing pad designed for non-stick pans can help with heavier deposits. Be sure to rinse the tray thoroughly with plain water before replacing the rocks and plants. Remember to wear gloves whenever you handle the rocks.

    Using rainwater or distilled water can reduce mineral deposits. On the other hand, tap water is more effective in controlling the growth of algae (algaecides such as Fountec are safe for plants and animals – except fish). The best choice for you will depend on the quality of your tap water. If your sculpture includes a fogger, keep in mind that the manufacturer recommends using only tap water.

    Adding aroma

    The porous rock of ShanChuan Islands™ is an ideal medium for essential oils, to add another dimension to the experience. These are just a few of the many oils used in aromatherapy that you can try by simply adding a few drops on a bare, dry area of the rock:

    • Basil – spicy, licorice aroma
    • Cedar - like the inside of a cedar chest
    • Fir, juniper berry, pine, spruce - evergreen aromas
    • Jasmine – sweet, intense floral aroma
    • Lavender - sweet, floral aroma, repels insects
    • Lemongrass - lemony, grassy aroma, repels insects
    • Oak Moss – heavy, earthy bark aroma
    • Ravensara - strong, tree-resin aroma
    • Vetiver - very strong earthy aroma

    Enjoying the changing landscape

    One of the unique pleasures of these sculptures is that they are constantly changing, inviting you to simply observe, or take part by pruning and shaping each plant. You can also change the landscape of your sculpture with a variety of tropical and sub-tropical plants. Most plants of this size retail for about $3 each and are available from your local greenhouse, so feel free to experiment. Note: English ivy is one of the best plants for fighting indoor air pollution.

    All the plants listed below have been grown successfully in ShanChuan Islands:

    • Alternanthera, e.g., Thin Gold, Red Threads
    • Blue creeping pilea (pilea glauca)
    • Blue Dart rush (juncus inflexus)
    • Dwarf boxwood (buxus microphylia compacta “Kingsville”)
    • Dwarf brush cherry (Eugenia myrtifloria nana)
    • Dwarf creeping fig (ficus pumila minima)
    • Dwarf cyperus (cyperus alternifolius gracilla, cyperus isocladus)
    • Dwarf English ivy (hedera helix), e.g., "Itsy Bitsy", "Spetchley", “Feen Fingers, “Duck Foot”, “Needlepoint”, “Green Globe”
    • Dwarf Kenilworth ivy (cymbalaria aequatriloba)
    • Dwarf myrtle (myrtus communis minima)
    • Dwarf natal plum (axylia buxifolia)
    • Dwarf pomegranate (punica granatum nana)
    • Dwarf scouring rush (equisetum scirpoides 'contorta')
    • Dwarf violet (viola “Yokushimana nana”)
    • Dwarf weeping Barbados cherry (malpighia pendiculata compacta)
    • Fujian tea (carmine microphylla); flowering
    • Miniature Brass Buttons (leptinella gruveri)
    • Nea (nea buxifolia)
    • Oakleaf creeping fig (ficus pumila quercifolia)
    • Psuederanthemum (psuederanthemum sinuatum)
    • Quaker Ladies (houstonia caerulea “Clone One”)
    • Singapore holly (malpighia coccigera); flowering
    • South African Boxwood (myrsine africana)
    • South African honey suckle (turaea obtusifolia)
    • Willow leaf fig (ficus salicifolia)

    When replanting your sculpture, shake or soak off most of the soil in the original nursery containers. Mix this soil with course sand, and reuse it to fill in around the roots. This will help your plants drain well. Fertilizing about every two weeks with Miracle-Gro (1/2 strength) helps to replace the nutrients flushed out by the constantly running water.
    Adding music

    For an especially soothing experience, try some of this background music while you enjoy your sculpture:


    Enjoy ShanChuan Islands!

    ShanChuan Islands™ are based on ancient arts developed over centuries, which continue to develop today. Enjoy yours as it grows and changes, and please share your comments, questions, and suggestions.