Mulch, soil, flowers and plants
Many people like to use dried, used coffee grounds or dry used tea leaves to simulate soil. Personally I prefer paint and sand.
If just a little dirt is to be showing, I’ll paint the area with a dark, dull brown, like burnt umber, and while it’s still wet I’ll work in just a little black. If more soil is meant to be left showing, I’ll treat the area the same way I like to do my grass, painting the spot with brown umber and letting it dry, then brushing on glue, sprinkling sand, and repainting with a bit of brown and black.
Why don’t I just glue on the sand, then paint it? In short, I think it’s easier and less aggravating than trying to work the paint into every tiny crevice. This way there’s already a base coat of color, so there’s less work later.
I do like to use the tea leaves and coffee grounds as mulch. I discovered that if I blended them, the end result looked a lot like the mulch I have in my real life garden. The coffee grounds alone look like dark, fresh mulch, the tea leaves are lighter in color. I paint my base a dark brown, spread on a bit of glue, sprinkle on my mulch mix and let dry. When it's dry, I'll turn the board over and dump off the extra mulch. In the pictures you'll see coming up, you'll notice I don't worry about covering the whole exposed flower bed with mulch. I don't think it's necessary, but you can if you want to.
Be sure to use only used tea leaves and coffee grounds, and be sure they are completely dry before you use them in your landscaping.
There are two kind of miniature gardeners, the ones who insist a flower or plant look just like the real thing, and those who just want a splash of color and an interesting looking settitng for their dollhouse. I belong to the latter. You won’t find any of my miniature plans or flowers in a garden book, they all come out of my head and the artificial flowers section of a craft store.
Here’s a picture of part of my gardening stash. Although it doesn’t look like it in this picture, the plastic box is one of those big plastic storage boxes that’s about knee high. The plastic bags are gallon sized. Right now I’ve got 2 full, big containers and the rest overflows into the crisper drawer from my old refrigerator.
Every time I go to Michael’s or AC Moore (my local craft stores) I check out the artificial plants and flowers. If I’m lucky, I’ll find quite a few things that look like they have mini potential and the store will be having a 50% off sale.
Of course, I look for small blooms, checking to see if the little blossoms remind me of anything. It might help if you look at the flowers through a small tube, as if you were peering through a telescope. Don’t worry about people thinking you’re some sort of nut, if someone stares at you just tell them that you’re a miniaturist looking for proper materials, and we do this sort of thing all the time. Use the phrase “miniature artisan” if you want to, or “an artist working in miniature”.
Keep in mind that some little flowers work in the mini garden better than others. There are some widely seen little floral bunches that I’ll never use unless I’m doing a fantasy garden. These flowers may be quite pretty, and look small, but in a 1:12 garden they’ll still look enormous. You want to look for flowers that are no more than ¼” wide, remembering that translates into real life blossoms that are 3” across. A 3” wide flower is a big bloom.
One way to acquire tiny flowers is to look for artificial stems that feature flowers that come in clusters. Below is one example. You can use these as is, growing in a tight cluster, or you can cut the stems apart, using the flowers singly or in 2’s or 3’s. The stems on this example are a bit short, others have longer stems.
The leaves shown are the ones that came with this particular floral spray, and I used them together for the Gnome's Cottage garden. In actuality, the leaves are too big, and I would not have used this pairing as a rule, but it suited the gnome fantasy, and therefore was just fine.
The next picture shows another example of these kind of flowers that can be cut apart. If you look carefully, you’ll see how they were cut at the stems. The petals of this flower were dipped in some sort of solution and came in white, pink, or purple. I w3anted some yellow flowers, so I painted the petals of some of the white ones. Some of the petals of silk flowers can also be touched up with paint to change their hue.
Another example of clustered flowers paired with leaves. This time the leaves were from a different spray.
More clustered flowers below, paired with leaves from other artificial sprays.
The last two pictures featured the leaves shown below. I found these twice, once in a darker green, and later in a slighter lighter shade of green. You can see how they’d work to form a small shrub, and also how they can be cut to form a group of 3 leaves. I’ve even cut them down to 2 or even used the leaves singly.
So how did I get the flowers and leaves to stick together into blooming plants and then stay put in the garden?
Usually I used a drill, hot glue and round toothpicks. If you’ve ever taken an artificial spray or two apart, you’ve seen that they slide onto the plastic stems in one way or another. I’ll take advantage of this and slide them, whenever I can, onto a toothpick.
Sorry about the fuzzy picture, somehow I accidentally changed the focus on that shot.
So I’ve selected my flowers and leaves and am ready to plant them.
I can either plant them directly into the garden, meaning attach them to the garden base, or to another piece of plywood if I want to be able to move this garden bed around.
I’ll drill a hole, the size of the toothpick, into the plywood. Next I’ll snip the sharp ends off the toothpick, cutting the pick to whatever length I want it to be. At this point I can use hot glue, or, since the toothpick is wooden, a bit of wood glue, to insert and attach the pick. Sometimes I’ll use a short length of thick floral wire instead of the toothpick, in which case I use hot glue. Next I’ll slide on the leaves. Sometimes I’ll want to attach a single leaf into the arrangement, so I’ll hot glue it into place. When the leaves are arranged, and sometimes I’ll glue a leaf or spray of leaves to the mulch or dirt, I’ll add the flowers. They will either slide onto the toothpick, or have to be attached to the pick and leaves with hot glue.
When I plant trees or shrubs, I’ll drill a larger hole. Sometimes I’ll stick the stem of the shrub right into the hole, gluing it into place, other times I’ll need the help of a dowel. It all depends on the plastic stem of the spray I’ll working with.
With larger plants I find I usually need a thicker base. If I try to glue into a ¼” sheet of plywood, the stem won’t go in deep enough and the bush starts to tilt. When I planted the trees and bushes for the bungalow garden, I used a ½” thick plywood panel, si it wasn’t a problem, but otherwise, I would have cut a small piece of plywood which would be glued to the base, drilling through the double thickness so the “trunk” of my tree would have more surface to glue on to. I’d later cover the extra piece of plywood with some sort of groundcover.
I first got the idea for this method when I was setting up my Dickens Christmas village. I wanted some trees, and something to suggest a small wood. I drilled holes into a thin piece of plywood, then arranged my little trees, covering the plywood base with polyester batting “snow banks”.
Here’s a picture of reindeer moss as it comes out of the bag. The last bag I bought had a lot of neat clumps in it, the last one had only a few, the rest were much looser in form.
You can see how the clump on the bottom left would make a perfect little bush just as it is.
Here are some bushes, my tea leaf-coffee grounds mulch and some little flowers using my favorite leaves.
Next comes a tall treelike shrub that I used for the Bungalow.
I really liked this next spray, though I wasn’t sure when I would be able to use it. The flowers are pretty big when you think of it in 1:12 scale, but as I was working on the Bungalow garden it struck me that this would pass as a wonderful exotic specimen plant.
Next time I’ll continue with more on the subject of flowers and plants in the minilandscape.
Continue to landscaping part 4