Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Making Trees

VIA's The Canadian, coming through homemade trees.

Before taking down a third of my layout (as part of the rebuilding process), I counted over 500 trees on my model railroad—the majority handmade.

Most of the trees are made from local plants and weeds such as Yarrow, Spirea and Sedum, with a few unidentified species thrown in for variety.

Some of the “trees” are harvested from neighbour’s yards or nearby fields, but I grow my own Sedum. I have just one small bush, but it yields a couple dozen trees each year.

Start with this.

Making trees from Sedum is easy. All you need is some white glue, clothespins, a piece of Styrofoam and some cheap spackling paste (or other kind of putty). Spray paint (brown, black and green), cheap hairspray and Woodland’s Scenics ground foam finishes it up.

Glue them together, fill in the trunks.

After harvesting the Sedum trees, the next step is to select three to five pieces that fit together to look like, well, a tree. Put the clothespin on the trunk to hold it together, then squirt white glue inside and alongside the pieces to let it dry. Stick the trees into the Styrofoam and let them dry overnight.

Spray paint black, brown and green.

Next, apply the spackling paste or putty to the base of the trunks to fill in the cracks and gaps, and let dry.

After that, it’s time for spray painting. I start by painting the “leaves” (the top of the tree) green. When dry, I spray paint the truck and underside a mix of black and brown.

Sprinkle on ground foam.

When dry, I spray on the cheap hairspray (use unscented; you won’t regret it), then sprinkle on ground foam. I use a blended turf as a base, sprinkling on weeds, burnt grass and yellow to add variation. Remember to apply the ground foam to the top and the bottom of the tree.

(The same process goes for the Yarrow and Spirea trees, except you don’t need to glue them together.)

That’s itexcept for planting the trees on the layout, of course. Which I plan to start doing again soon, once the new lower level peninsula is finished.



  1. Excellent technique! Thanks for posting this story. I'm going to grow some Sedum in my backyard here in Ottawa this year and give it a try. Well, my wife is the gardener :-) and she's willing to give it a try too. Do you know which variety of Sedum you grew?

  2. A colourful perennial, always producing a new crop. Nice to 'sedum' getting recycled!