Previously, In Miniature Landscaping part I, I mentioned using foam and plywood to make rises in the land to cover your dollhouse foundation and to create visual interest in your minigarden.
Blocks of scrap wood can be a big help too. I’ll use bits of 2 x 4’s or 1” inch thick lumber scraps to build up areas. I round off any edges that face away from the foundation. Flat edges are great against walls, they fit snugly, and if you glue them to both wall and base, they’ll help strengthen your structure. On the other hand, cover a right angle cut with foam or reindeer moss and you’ll find yourself using more and more foam or moss to make it look right. I like to cut some curves and round off the edges of my wood blocks.
Another thing you can use is Styrofoam. I save the good sized pieces that companies used to pack just about any piece of electronic equipment my husband brings home.
To glue Styrofoam to wood, I use Weldbond glue. When I was working on Miss Nutkin’s tree trunk house, I learned that wood glue and white glue just don’t stick the Styrofoam all that well. I don’t advise using hot glue either. To use it, you need to apply it to the wood, let it cool slightly, then stick on the Styrofoam. If you wait too long, it won’t stick. If you don’t wait long enough, you’ll melt a hole in the Styrofoam.
Of course, if you’ve used builder’s foam to make a project, use leftover bits of that. In other words, you can use just about anything.
This picture shows how I used scrap wood and home made paper mache.
Please keep in mind that before this the only paper mache projects I had ever done were those ones in elementary school, the kind where you cover a balloon or something with layer upon layer of newspaper brushed with paste or glue.
I started with a long piece of wood and glued it along the foundation. Then I started tearing up newspapers into skinny strips. I had no idea what I was doing, I just sort of learned things as I went along. I learned that trying to tear up paper in a blender doesn’t work very well. I got tired of tearing paper, so I decided to try using a paper cutter. It did make things go faster, but it left a distinctive looking paper mache. I wound up liking the way it looked anyway.
I mounded the paper mache along the wood strip, making a slope towards the base platform, then I waited for it to dry. I waited and waited and waited. For several days I waited.
Eventually it did dry, and I painted it. I used a couple of shades of green, some yellow and just a little white. By the way, you’ll notice bits of white in the “bank”. The paper mache shrank more as it dried over the following weeks, days or months. It was quite a while before I noticed it. Someday I’ll probably touch those spots up.
I made the little plants out of sponges and reindeer moss. I cut small blossoms of artificial silk flowers off their stems to stick into the sponge plants. I wanted a springtime feel, something that would remind me of daffodils, so I painted the fabric flowers with a little watered down yellow paint before gluing them into place.
The airy pink flowers are dried sprays of baby’s breath from the craft store that I cut up.
Getting back to sponges, here’s one of my first efforts, a tidy sponge bush.
The picture was taken with a flash which really shows how I used different colors while painting the bush. In real life the varying colors aren’t really noticeable.
I had mentioned that I’ve also used natural sea sponge. The plant in the right hand corner that’s sort of climbing upwards against the post is made from one. Sea sponges give an airier look, because they have more big holes.
In order to make your plants blend in with your base better you can either simulate soil or mulch, or use a darker green paint to make the plant appear to be growing out of the midst of very short groundcover. I used one of my old brushes to pounce and blend some dark green underneath where some of my plants will go. Notice that I don’t do the same thing everywhere.
In the next picture you can see how I mounded some of the lighter green paper mache up and over the edges of the steps. I then mounded some reindeer moss for an interesting contrast.
The paving stones are cut from very thin plywood, and I pulled off bits of the moss to make it look like plants growing amongst the stones.
You’ll notice that I did not encircle each and every stone in order to hide the plywood layers. If you give the eye enough to look at, it won’t notice every tiny little flaw or detail.
I had mentioned using reindeer moss in a tree, and here it is. I went out into my yard to look for an interesting twig with which I could make a small tree. I hot glued the moss to the twig to simulate thick clumps of leaves.
The plywood base is meant to simulate closely cut grass. I painted it in mottled shades of greens and yellow, coated it with a thin layer of glue, sprinkled on sand, then added some more paint. If you paint your grass in mottled shades, it’ll trick the eye into seeing it more like real grass than if you just painted it a flat green.
Here’s an example of plywood paving stones nestled in moss. In this case I surrounded the stones with moss, because they were butted up to an area that was covered in it. Sorry the picture’s a little blurry.
Before I forget, there’s yet another foam product that I’ve found handy in minilandscaping. It’s Great Stuff insulating foam. It comes in a can and you can get it at the hardware store. It’s meant to be sprayed into hard to reach areas where you want to add some insulation. It has a thin straw that you stick into the nozzle and the stuff comes out through the straw, sort of like DW40, the lubricant you spray on squeaky hinges, etc.
Now, I must warn you, Great Stuff is very, very sticky when wet, and it whooshes out of the end of that straw and grows and grows. It’s meant to fill crevices, you see.
I had bought a can once to fill up a gap in the mortar of the foundation of our garage. A mouse had gotten into the garage that way, and from there it was only a foot to another little gap in the mortar to get into the basement. After using what I needed I found I still had half a can left. You can’t store the stuff once the can has been opened so I decided to play with it. I found out that once the foam has dried you can slice it rather neatly. It makes great thin groundcover, just slice, paint and glue, then dab on a little more paint to blend the foam with the “grass“. It’s the low growing stuff in the foreground of the picture. It bends down over uneven areas well and doesn’t spring up like the reindeer moss. It’s also much easier to cut thinly than sponges.
I also noticed that some little globs of dry Great Stuff look like they'd make nice round rocks. They have a smooth shiny surface, and would need to be primed before painting. I haven't needed any rocks like that in any projects yet, so I haven't tried painting them. Any readers who decide to try it are welcome to let us know how it turned out.
I think I’ve pretty much covered the basic knowledge you need to go and start a minilandscape of your own. You’ve gotten tips on grass, slopes, bushes, groundcover, steps and stepping stones.
Next will be how to make assorted plants, flowering plants, soil and mulch.
Continue to landscaping part 3