I'm doing another tree texture which means I have time to think again. Sorry :)
Recently a nice woman blogged about Aintree Gardens - it was flattering and for the most part accurate. One thing she did get wrong was that she said my trees were all high prim and that's why they're so detailed. In fact, except for the sculpty trees, they're 3 or 4 prims. The detail comes from the textures.
I think I've mentioned that I spend a lot of time on textures. The foliage for the willow tree I finished recently took about 10 hours. The fir tree I'm working on now will probably take longer than I've ever spent - it looks like I'll spend about 20 hours on the foliage (those needles are small).
I know people like my stuff because of the detail. What I've not been able to figure out is how much of the time I spend is really not necessary. The fact that I redid that one leaf a few times is probably only important to me. Anybody else looking at it won't even notice the darn thing. I've concluded that the aggregate of all my fussy little details is what makes the whole and what people respond to. Even if they don't get out a magnifying glass and look at the individual parts.
Doing these textures is a gamble for me. When I do a flower I can tell in advance what is going to work and what won't. But that's because I've done so many of them. Doing the foliage for the sculptys is new territory for me. The oak, chestnut and willow worked really well and I'm glad. I think I'm right that the fir tree will work - but I won't actually know until I finish it, upload both the foliage and bark textures and start building the tree. Finding out then that 20 hours of work was wasted will be a pain. I guess I'm a gambler. :)