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Plants and flowers

Posted by Will Vale , in Scenery, Details 18 October 2010 · 1,890 views

cow parsley rosebay willowherb flowers small
I shouldn't really be doing these, I should be doing more important things like weathering more track - but these were fun:

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This is supposed to be cow parsley, made from twisted wire, green paint and white scatter. Below is rosebay willowherb from brush bristles, static grass, lilac scatter and more paint.

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I *nearly* didn't post the pics, because I was a bit let down when I saw the close ups - I was quite excited about the individual plants before planting them. In the end I thought it was better to show something in progress and hopefully get some tips to improve things, plus it's a good alternative to sulking :) It's also a good demonstration of how useful close-up photography is for making you raise your game, since I think they look OK from the mythical normal viewing distance.

What I don't like are the usual give aways - you can see the wire the cow parsley is made from, and the brush bristles I used for the rosebay willowherb are mostly too thick. I did some experiments with Hornby's field grass and that was much finer, but I was worried it would break if I breathed on it! I'm also not entirely sure about the colour of the rosebay willowherb - I remember it being pink when I was little, and I thought when I looked at pictures last night that it was purple, but I must have been dreaming or confused or something - looking at pictures again today: pink. Weird. I think I'll pull up and redo this one, although I need to make a few buddleia bushes as well and I might be able to re-use the stalks.

So (apart from the colour) what do you all reckon - would it be better not to have them, because they give away the model-ness more than just static grass and sea foam, can they be fixed, or are they OK as they are? I should add that any fixes will probably have to wait until I've done some of the more important layout-finishing jobs, but I do want to come back to these when I get the chance.
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I couldn't let it lie, and having deforested the area with tweezers, I made these

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while waiting for my daughter to eat her tea - the benefits of being a kitchen table modeller :) I'm reasonably confident they're an improvement in appearance, I just hope I don't accidentally crush them since the stems are just dried grass out of a Hornby packet. I was surprised in the close-up pics that the Jordan scatter I used for the flowers actually looks like petals - not that it's accurate or anything, since these are heads with many flowers rather than large blooms, but it's in the right area. The colour was a bit bright so I tweaked is with blue wash at the bottom, and drybrushed white at the top.
Hi Will. Well my first impression was "Wow!". I think as a general indicator of flowering plants they work really well. If you then start looking more closely at them, I see what you mean about the wires etc giving the game away, although I don't think it's a huge issue. But I'm not sure just how close this is to the viewer?

If you want the plants to be immediately recognizable as a distinct species, then maybe the Rosebay Willowherb should have more leaves? And pink it is :-)

As for the cow parsley, maybe you could conceal the wire a bit by making that patch a bit more "wild", as it is in the second picture with the Rosebay Willowherb's? I think the grass etc in that second picture works extremely well, with the dark green clump mixed in with the other drier colours.

In any event, am really impressed by what you are doing here, you have a great eye for detail.

EDIT: I see you just got a new picture in there while I wrote my comment - those are excellent!
Will, I thought the Cow parsley looked ok, and colour asides the rosebay willowherb looked good too... although I admit that the final pink version is much nicer. This really shows off the lineside now but highlights the cleanliness of the ballast, but not unrealistically. Good luck with the buddleia (buddleja): this is a plant that all layouts possibly need - I've yet to see a yard or sidings without the stuff growing somewhere... good luck producing this, it does look a little more fiddly. Looking forward to seeing the result.
Thanks for the kind words, much appreciated as ever :)

Mikkel, the cow parsley is right at the front of the layout - I don't think it's actually going to be a problem for an exhibition viewer unless they put their nose in it - when I catch it out of the corner of my eye I rather like it. It's more in the close-up pictures that it doesn't hold up. I'm thinking that it might be possible to do something better using fine non-stranded wire, with 3 or 4 pieces bound together and used as stalks? Then you wouldn't see the spirals and it might be easier to get the straight stalks/angle bends that the real plant has. The downside would be that it'd be harder to create the flower heads - at the moment I'm splaying the last 1-1.5mm of the wire strands which gives the matte medium something to cling to. I also nicked a load of my wife's dressmaking pins, and I was going to try spraying those and flocking the heads, either as daffodils or possibly to thicken the cow parsley patch a bit.

I think your idea of making that bank bushier is a good one, I'm holding off at the moment since I need to do more water pours first, but I will come back to it with that in mind next week hopefully. Thanks!

Jon, I'm hoping that the buddleja (I stand corrected!) can be made the same way as the willowherb heads, only with e.g. brass wire which will take the necessary droopy bend. I'm not sure about the bigger leaves though, and I haven't though about the shrubby bit - sea moss and scatter, maybe?

The second attempt at the rosebay looks great but I bet you wished you'd taken some reference photos last summer! Funny how we tend to photograph trains and buildings but not the surrounding flora even though its important in setting the scene and season. I can see what you mean by the wires showing on the parsley, but I should imagine that it would only show in close up.
I wish I'd taken some reference photos in 2003 - that's the last time we were in the UK in summertime! It doesn't seem to grow in NZ much (or at all?) certainly I haven't seen it . Luckily it's pretty enough that there are plenty of pics on Flickr.

I really don't know how I got pink and purple so mixed up, that was just stupid :)

I'm sure that there's plenty of people on here that would happily photograph flora for you if you requested. (Assuming that they can be persuaded to point the lens a couple of degrees away from the track.............)
James Hilton
Oct 18 2010 09:58
Will - simply superb!
Lovely attention to detail and something I'd love to get onto on my layouts - but I never quite manage it. Where did you source all the bright scatters from? I've always thought it extravagant to get such a large bag as you need so little to do flowers! Is there anyone who does smaller bags/mixed bags?

Anyhow - given me some good ideas so thanks for sharing your techniques.

As for help - I can only suggest what's already been said, perhaps thickening up the grass cover for the cow-parsley would help - I doubt you could get any finer wire that would give you the right effect still.
Great stuff Will, that second attempt at the Rosebay Willowherb looks spot on B) I can see what you mean about the cow parsley, but I can't think of a better way of doing it ATM.

Keep up the good work B)

Is there anyone who does smaller bags/mixed bags?

Looking at the colours I have, I *think* what I'm mostly using is Woodland Scenics -  this pack has four small bags of very fine and quite granular scatter in red/white/yellow/orange - it feels different to ground foam. 

They do other colours too, and Noch do something similar. For the rosebay willowherb I used a bag of lurid pink I picked up in a bargain bin. Made by Jordan, it might be this one? If you start with something paler than you need, it's fairly easy to tint it with ink or paint washes, but going the other way is difficult - drybrushing tends to knock the scatter off.


the blue ones look a bit like lupins
Mrs Halfwit says that Rosebay Willowherb tends to grow in clumps closer together, and the leaves are as long as the flowers, growing all the way up the stem.
Hope that helps.
Thanks Halfwit (and Mrs. Halfwit) - I have another 20-odd on my bench which I'm hoping to use to thicken and extend what I have. I'm not sure what to do about balancing the leaves and heads - maybe I can tweak my gluing process or something?
Feb 25 2015 13:32

Very nice photos. Wikipedia has an article on rosebay willowherb- the flowers are "magenta to pink". For the stems, how about bristles from a paintbrush? I bought a 3 inch brush for a couple of euros... nice and thin and flexible.

Perhaps for the cow parsley you could use little sprigs of sea foam- it's very fragile, but I've found that soaking it for 3-4 days in a 50:50 glycerine/water solution it seems to become more flexible. I only did that a few weeks ago, though, so I don't know if it'll dry out after a while. Certainly less effort than twisted wire (which does look pretty good).

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