Making Scale Trees from Hydrangea Blooms

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The best material for modeling trees that look like trees is natural vegetation… nothing beats it. For years I’ve used various kinds of natural materials from the yard, my wife’s gardens, and fields near my house. One of the easiest pieces of vegetation to use is a bloom from the Oak Leaf Hydrangea. Note that this is not just any hydrangea – it’s the Oak Leaf variety. Here is what the bush looks like.

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And here is what the natural bloom looks like, fresh from the bush. But before this can become a great scale tree for your model railroad layout, we’ve got some work to do!

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Preparing the Bloom

First you have to remove the remaining leaves from the bloom. Be careful as you do this; don’t pull off the little green beads or balls. They will help add to the bulky look of the tree when it’s finished.

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After that, let the bloom fully dry. You want it to dry because the stem turns a trunk color varying from brown to gray, so no painting is necessary. That’s a great time saver! It may take a week or so for the bloom to completely dry out.

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Applying the Adhesive

Before adding the foliage you need to hit the “tree” with either hair spray or adhesive spray so the ground foam will stick to the branches.

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Adding the Foam

Sprinkle on the green foam a little at a time, adding more adhesive as necessary. Keep adding the ground foam until the tree looks full enough to have a home on the layout. I always use a big box to catch the foam as I sprinkle it on the branches. This foam can be re-used after it falls to the bottom.

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The Finished Tree

And there you have it! Easy as that. All you have to do now is puncture a hole in your scenery and insert the tree trunk. This tree probably costs about 10 cents to make, if that.

It’s a great way to produce a lot of nice trees for your layout without spending a lot on readymade trees.

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Do you have any other ideas for money-saving scenery and layout ideas? Let us know in the comments.

Related video: How to Make Model Railroad Trees for Your Background

Discussion
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17 Responses to “Making Scale Trees from Hydrangea Blooms”
  1. Dale Trongale

    Great looking tree. Would it help to soak the branch in a white glue/water mix and clip a small weight on the tip, hang it upside down and let it straighten the trunk out a bit? That’s what is recommended for Scenic Express Super Trees. Just thought it might work on this too.

    Also, I have recently been making poplar trees out of caspia branches. I buy a bundle and after using the pieces with the flower buds on them, the left over twigs that have no buds can be clipped off, glued to a ‘trunk’, in my case, stained and weathered chopsticks or bbq skewers (the non bamboo kind), and then using a leaf material from the likes of Noch or Scenic Express, glued on in the same manner you used with these trees, gives you a nice looking poplar tree. Just an idea I happened on.

    Reply
  2. Bert Mackay

    Hi I am a newbi, just starting a small layout 3ft 9″ x 6 ft.
    You mentioned ground foam is this something you grind yourself or is a bought item ?. I have an otyher question, can I slope up the track ,lets say approx 3 ” I want to build a bridge over a water section . some one said NO any thoughts.
    Bert

    Reply
    • Customer Service

      Hi. I think it’s a lot easier to buy ground foam than to try to make it. You can use many natural materials and sift them down as well.

      Reply
      • Stefan

        In the space mentioned a 3″ rise is probably way too steep unless your loco is only pulling 1 or two cars. Better to keep your track flat and sink the water below the level of the track. You can do this by putting a layer of 1″ insulation foam on top of your sub road bed. The track is then glued to the foam and you can cut the foam with a box cutter, or other sharp knife, where you want the river or water

        Reply
    • Wil

      For the size of your layout 3” can be quite steep. Grades are usually expressed in% of grade. For long trains 2% is considered steep, but for short trains of 3-4 cars, 4% is considered reasonable. Your 3” dose in 100” of distance would be 1%. Therefore your 3” rise in 100 inches would be 3%. If you can climb the 3” in approximately 5 ft of distance it will be close to 4%. Of course you will probably have part of the climb on a curve it will mean you will have an effective grade of more than 4%.

      Reply
  3. Pradyot Basu

    The idea is a great help. Can any body give an idea any substitute base branches available in India? This oak hydrangea is not very common in India.

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  4. Larry

    This hobby cost enough and it is sure nice to see articles and videos that make inexpensive items great for the layout !

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  5. Jerry Kolwinska

    Another great plant bloom is astilbe. The dried blooms are a very nice ash shape.

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  6. Kevin Duffy

    Dale They look great I’m going to try them , I use grape stems to make trees they work good too

    Reply
  7. Richard Bacchi

    I also use Hydrangeas, but not just Oakleaf, The ANGELICA has a more rounded shape good for oaks and maples as well as others, Also they come in different sizes on the same bush and no two are the same.

    Reply
  8. Dennis Devito

    I had used dried sedum ( the large autumn joy type) flower heads to make layout trees. A large plant offers a verity of different size flower heads from large to small, stems are also a verity of length from tall to short, since the flower dry to a brown color I would spray paint the flower green and leave the stem its natural color but it can be painted a darker color if one wishes. One can also spray the flower using yellow and orange for a fall look or keep it brown to add some dead trees to the landscape.

    Reply
  9. TOM

    I used Sedum branches a couple of years ago and used white glue. It worked well. Some have dried out now after a couple of years so will try scenic express trees and their leaf products next.with glue mix.

    Reply
  10. Don Rogers

    I saw someone disolve woodchips from a BBQ pit to make sawdust to make scenery, I go to lowes or home depot either will give you all the sawdust you want for free, I use the sawdust and cheap paint, all colors to make all type ground cover, plants trees, bushes, flowers and so on

    Reply