[Note: We have a post on a different technique for doing this here.]
Securing Manzanita Branches with plaster is relatively simple, quick and easy. You'd want to use this technique if you plan on displaying your branches in a relatively low and wide container such as a terra cotta garden pot, a box, etc. The goal is to secure the branches in the pots so they don't shift around, and to put enough weight in the base so that the display is stable. Having enough weight in the base is especially important if you are planning on loading up your Manzanita Branches with votives or crystals. You can get Natural Manzanita Branches here or here, and you can get Sandblasted Manzanita Branches here or here.
Here's how to do it:
1. Get your supplies. You should have no problem rounding up supplies at your local home improvement store. The first stop for us was the garden and outdoor section, where we grabbed a bag of pea gravel (about $4 for much more gravel than needed). Pea Gravel was angular enough so that it sort of locked together a bit, but not so much that it was difficult to make small adjustments to the position of the branch (more on this later). For the container, we picked out an 8" diameter standard clay pot (also around $4). While we kept it plain, there were a ton of other inexpensive options. For the 36-42" Natural Manzanita Branch we used, the 8" pot seemed just right - not too big, and not too small (we also got a 10" pot, which looked way too big). Then we headed over to the vicinity of the paint section to get the plaster (around $10 for an 8 lb pail, or $15 for a 25 lb bag).
2. Set your Manzanita Branch in the stones. If there is a drainage hole in the bottom of your pot, tape it over. Place the branch in the container, hold it in the desired position, and pour a sufficient amount of gravel into the container so that it can stand on its own (a few inches). Make any final adjustments to the position of the branch.
Now you could skip over this step and use nothing but plaster in the pot, but then you'd have to worry about how you're going to keep the branch in the right position while the plaster sets, and you'd need to use a lot more plaster, which compared to the gravel, is more expensive and trickier to work with. Something I definitely wouldn't use as filler is a light material such as packing peanuts or crumpled paper, as these wouldn't add the necessary weight to the base.
3. Mix up a batch of plaster. Make enough to create a layer a few inches deep in your container (carefully follow the directions!). Try to avoid making too much plaster, as more definitely is not merrier when it comes to plaster, and you can always mix another batch if you need it. This is a messy operation, so take the necessary precautions such as covering your work area. When it's ready, it should be smooth and about the consistency of pancake batter.
4. Pour the plaster into your container. Do not fill the pot completely with the plaster, however, as you'll want about an inch over which you can place an attractive material such as sand, stone or moss. Unless you're super careful, you'll probably get some plaster on the outside of the container and/or the branch. This isn't a big deal - just wipe off what you can when it happens, and finish cleaning up the display after the plaster has set. A damp sponge with a scrubber pad on the back works quite well.
5. The final touches. In about a half hour, the plaster will have set. This is the best time to clean up any plaster that ended up on the branch or the exterior of the container. The last thing to do before you really get decorating is to cover up the plaster with a layer of attractive filler (we just used some pea gravel).
Now you're ready to get decorating!