I like all the ideas presented here. But to me the bigger problem is the support interface to the print and surface quality. Solve that and you have a huge winner. Perhaps something like a raft on top of the supports? Or something along those lines? Also the gap between supports and printed part should not be scaled in layers but with a specified height. This would require dynamic layering though.
As far as retractions you could disable them when printing support trees and I would guess the strings would not impact the print for the most part. Although I suppose in some circumstances that might become a problem.