Friday, 29 November 2019

Finding a use for little trees

When I first returned to miniature gaming I set about collecting a core set of terrain as quickly as possible. One of my earliest purchases were cheap sets of trees from a Chinese supplier on eBay. The trees were functional, but I always thought they were a little too small and lacked impact on the table. It wasn't long before those smaller trees were retired in favour of much larger trees. You can see those trees and how I made them in this post.

As you never know when you might find a use for something I have a tendency to hang on to things like these and tuck them away in storage. So this has left me with a number of small trees in various shapes and sizes.

I was really pleased with the way the Woodland Scenics Coarse Turf created the foliage for my larger trees and so I experimented on some of the smaller trees using the same method. I thought they turned out quite well and were a big improvement on the original. So I began to think of ways I might put them to use.

The tallest of the trees bear a resemblance to the types that line the roads in parts of rural France and as these were something missing from my terrain collection they became the first project.

The tree trunks and branches come in a shiny brown plastic and so I gave them a coat of Vallejo light grey.

Once dry this was followed with a wash of Citadel's Agrax Earthshade to bring out the texture in the bark.

The next job was to apply additional foliage. The existing foliage was liberally doused in Woodland Scenics scenic cement.

Medium Green Coarse Turf was then applied. I wasn't careful about covering all the existing foliage, in fact I liked the way some of it came through to break up the colour.

I created a base from a piece of MDF. As with all my terrain the edges were bevelled and roughed up for a more natural look using the sanding disc on my Dremel.

The base was then textured using PVA glue and a mix of sand.

Once dry it was given a base coat of paint using Dulux emulsion Brown Land.

This was then given a dry brush with a lighter shade before adding flock and ground cover.

The trees work very well for 20mm and just about pass muster for 28mm, although they might be a little on the short side. Here they are with a 1/72 scale Firefly.

And to be honest I don't think they look too small with this 28mm miniature.

The next project was something I've been considering for some time and that is to revisit my hedgerows. While I'm quite happy with the ones I've made I've begun to think they look a little too neat and well kept and unlike the types of hedges you see in period pictures.

I wanted something that could recreate the look of the hedgerows in the 1944 aerial photograph below.

The small trees seemed to offer an easy way to add some variation to the hedgerows. A couple of years ago I had created some hedges specifically to represent bocage but I overdid them in terms of height and scale for 20mm and I've never actually used them. I know bocage hedges could be quite tall but I just wasn't comfortable with quite how wide and tall these were.

While they provide good cover for this suspicious looking group of French Resistance fighters I have created far too many of them and more than I'm ever likely to need.

I decided to convert several of them into something that could work as either bocage or rural hedgerows. The rubberised coconut fibre that forms the basis of the hedges was removed and cut to a much smaller size. It was then broken up into clumps to vary the height and so that trees could be interspersed between them.

These now seem to be a better height and scale for the 20mm figures bearing in mind that they will increase in height when the foliage is added.

Here it is in comparison to the previous height.

The next stage was to apply foliage as I had done with the trees. I start off with a dark layer of Coarse Turf.

You can see how the foliage has already increased the height and this will increase again once I apply a lighter shade over the top.

The dark foliage then had a layer of light green coarse turf added to finish off the hedges. Lastly the whole lot was given a misting of scenic cement to hold everything down.

I like the way these have taken on a much more rustic character, it's easy to forget that these existed at a time when power tools were rare and most cutting would have been done by hand. I'm particularly pleased with the way the small trees add extra height and break up the uniformity of the hedgerow. I think I have something closer to the look of that aerial photograph from 1944.

Those two projects have made a small dent in my 'excess' tree collection, but I'm not done with them all just yet. I think I might make a few more hedgerows like the ones above as I'm really happy with those, meantime I'll have a think about what I can do with all the others.


  1. Some mighty fine up-cycling there Sir, looks the business.

  2. Your end results look great. I really like the rows of trees lining the roads.

    1. Thanks. Surprising how little it took to make the trees look so much better.

  3. Those enhanced trees are excellent, as are the upgraded hedges.
    Thanks for posting such a detailed description.

  4. The hedges look very realistic Mark,like the addition of the trees. I was also send some of the same trees as freebies with my palm trees orders, maybe now I can put them to some good use. Thanks for sharing and nice work
    cheers John

    1. Thanks John, as you know it's often the small details and variations that really lift a terrain piece and it was amazing how quickly those rather cheap little trees took on a new life with some better foliage. There's always a use for something, it's just a matter of working out what that is!

  5. Very well thought out and nicely executed. Definitely a technique to "borrow" in the future!



  6. Excellent, although I wish I had as many spare trees. I lost a lot of mine in the move. Oh well, time to order some aquatic plants for jungle terrain...