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Discussion Starter #2
Shhhh...it's free

I have posted one picture of a dead tree on my layout. The dead tree is actually a sun flower root. You can grow them in your back yard for a few bucks in seed. I will try to make up a gallery of all the trees I have like this. This root was trimmed and used as a dead tree. Others are kept in tact and used as armatures. Over the years I have learned there are tricks to making the roots grow the way you want them; long and skinny, fat and short, etc. I will be happy to share all this with anyone. Black sunflower seeds usually produce HO / N scale size trees and the big striped ones produce O scale trees. Shall I continue?
 

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As was stated before, there’s no need to start a new thread every time you post on the same topic.

Using botanical materials has been done with better effect. The problem with using roots is that when you insert them stem end first the “trunk” starts out thin then increases in diameter. This is opposite of how a tree actually grows.
The one on the left in the second photo looks ok.
As a retired landscaper, there is no way I’m using garden debris on an indoor layout. Flower head trees and sticks for logs, maybe. Real soil and root systems, pass.
Thanks for sharing, though.
 

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Discussion Starter #6
To each his own. The roots come in all different configurations, and most of the time the stem is larger than the root and grows like a tree; large on the stem, smaller on the roots, as above pictured. Depending on conditions, you can usually "train" roots to grow in certain ways. For instance if you wish a flat root system, plant the seed next to the pot wall and it will grow with one flat side. You may choose to do whatever you wish including rejecting natural materials. If you are afraid of natural materials and or to protect finer projections you can dip them in matte medium to preserve them. I have never had problems with bugs. Personally, there is not better material for a dirty road than some good old Maryland red clay...and once again...free. Smoochies
 

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To each his own. The roots come in all different configurations, and most of the time the stem is larger than the root and grows like a tree; large on the stem, smaller on the roots, as above pictured. Depending on conditions, you can usually "train" roots to grow in certain ways. For instance if you wish a flat root system, plant the seed next to the pot wall and it will grow with one flat side. You may choose to do whatever you wish including rejecting natural materials. If you are afraid of natural materials and or to protect finer projections you can dip them in matte medium to preserve them. I have never had problems with bugs. Personally, there is not better material for a dirty road than some good old Maryland red clay...and once again...free. Smoochies
I’m not afraid of bugs or anything else. I just believe in keeping compost and mud in the compost pile, not indoors. Ground foam was invented for a reason.

Some of your trees do look good, and some of them look like root systems stuck in upside down. It is a creative process, and like we say, your layout, your rules.
 

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I think the pictures were worth the wait.
I've used glycerin to try and keep my lichen from drying out, with a little luck.
I think if the root is sealed somehow, it will work for me.

Going outdoors now to dig up some HO scale tree trunks!
 

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Discussion Starter #11 (Edited)
In 1952, when my father started our first HO layout, I think LifeLike sold a box of dried up lichens...that was it pretty much. You wanted scenery, you used what you could find or make up, usually from nature but I can remember painting pulled out steel wool as a ground cover base. That said, even with all the new materials, I am willing to bet $100 that 95% of all the layouts that visit this site contain natural materials; from sand and ballast to coal loads to the Super Trees on Scenic Express we have all come to love, etc. Some of the trees in the photos were quickly grabbed and placed for photos, and are not necessarily permanently placed and I realize some look better than others. While it may seem easy to just put some seeds in the ground, it requires some experimenting and thought. I grow mine in big pots; 5 gal. buckets are good as well. Suppose the top six inches is moderately packed potting soil. The sunflower tap root will have unimpeded growth. Now, at seven inches down, you have put in a one inch layer of small pea gravel, and under that hard packed Maryland clay. At each level the root will face different conditions and produce different growth patterns on the same root; feed, don't feed, water top down or bottom up, pruning? There are a lot of variables. The downside of doing this is you have to wait for the plants to grow...hahaha. So, it may take a few years to get the results you want. You might start by noticing who in your neighborhood has some sunflowers growing and ask if you can have the roots. Water the ground before trying to pull out roots or use a small trowel to help lift them out. Hose of the dirt carefully, let them dry out. You'll figure it out, but don't hesitate to start by just throwing some seeds in a bucket of dirt. More later.
 

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I think they might think I have flipped my lid if I asked for their sunflower roots, ha ha ha.

I think your sunflower trees would look better laying down in the forest. Like they died and fell over. Or in a river or on it's banks.

Before I read about it the first thing I thought was that it looked like an upside down root. Maybe some trimming would make it look better?
Though it is a good ideal about using natural things for scenery.:thumbsup:

Now do tell about the "puff balls"?
Are they what you called "puff balls"?
 

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So I have to say that looking at all the photos, my original opinion of "meh" was spot on.

As someone else said, the idea of using botanicals for model railroad scenery is as old as the hobby itself. For anyone who has been around the hobby for a while, this is nothing new. The only thing "new" was that I had never heard of using a sunflower root before. I use boxwood roots myself. I think the size ratio of the taproot (the thick center section) to the "branches" is better, maybe because I'm not taking the whole root, but just nipping off some sections nearer the ends so as not to harm the plant. I also use sedum florets for tree armatures, and sticks for dead fall. Also real rocks, but they're not botanicals.

The whole "free" concept of this is overrated, because you have to clean, dry and preserve natural materials before you can use them, and in this case you have to wait for the flowers to mature as well. You're just trading money for time and effort. So yes, I use some natural materials, but I wouldn't go so far as to say that a "free" natural solution beats a purchased one every time. It's good to have alternatives.

All that said, though, it's not a bad idea, and other than the proportion issue I mentioned above, they look pretty good. Certainly, how he trains the roots to try to get certain shapes is very interesting. If this had come without the hype and conspiracy theories, he probably would have gotten a decent reception. It's all in how it's presented.
 

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Looks good, but not surprised they weren't interested in publishing an entire article on it... you explained your whole idea quite completely in one paragraph. Not really enough "meat" for a standalone article.
I'm not at all surprised, actually.

This is a nice technique, but it's not the hobby changing, free budget saver that it was hyped to be in the initial post on the subject. If I were an editor, and was looking for an article on tree-making, or using natural materials, and didn't have anything else, I'd probably buy the article.

The problem is, the editor told him that he already had a full slate of similar articles ready to publish. Looking at Model Railroader magazine, I see that in February's issue, they had the first of a series by Cheryl Sassi (wife of prolific model railroad photographer Lou Sassi) on making hardwoods. This month continued with white birches. We're promised another next month. Now the OP didn't say he sent to MR, but I'm willing to bet he did, and got an honest answer.

I recommended he try shopping it to Model Railroad Hobbyist. They like short how-to's with lots of pictures. As long as his photography passes muster, they'll probably publish it.
 

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Discussion Starter #17 (Edited)
First let me say I am completely socially awkward. I'm sorry if I over hyped it but I did come back and say that it wasn't going to knock you off your chair or cure world hunger, but it is certainly a tool to put in your palette. Some tress in the pictures were placed just for these pics and as noted could better be used as laydowns, stream side detritus, brush piles etc. Yes , they require trimming or pruning to get what you want. About 1/3 of the roots are broken down into smaller pieces. Not every root is going to look like a perfect dead tree or a truly beautiful armature. But, when they are right, they are dead on. Growing these things will provide you with a wealth of material most of which you will use. Until you hold one in your hand you can not appreciate the fine detail. I recommend that you dip them in matte medium especially the ones with hair like branches. No more talk. Just go grow some and we'll meet back here next fall and see how it went. At the very least you will feed some birds! IMG_1620.jpg

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Those look good. :thumbsup:

In my reply I didn't add that I never saw any dead trees that looked like yours.
I drive an 18 wheel tanker truck, most days I average 500 miles and am home every night.
I ran out on rt80 today in Pa around 225 miles and while at the stop I was thinking about your trees. I ran out in the dark, foggy, rain and ice must have passed a million trees.
When in I left the stop I told myself to look for them.

There is only one light to turn to get to the big road and I always get it red. Well sitting across there was a field and low and behold there were 2 upside down root tress just like yours sitting there.:D
The trip back home I passed the million plus tress and did not see anymore like yours.
I do see lots of dead trees but none look like the root.

This must be a certain type of tree that grows branches gnarly like that? Since these were in a field I was thinking it might have been a farm a long time ago.
I was thinking maybe apple trees? Or some kind of fruit trees?
Do you know what type of dead tree you are copying?

So now that I have seen an upside down root tree I stand corrected.

Yours look GGggggreat !:smilie_daumenpos:

I used to carry a camera. I have to start bringing it again.
We deliver out there quite often, next time I go I will get a picture and post it here in your thread to show how yours match the real thing to the T.

Took a sick day tomorrow and am off 2 weeks so it might be a while before I grab a picture.

I will ask again........Now do tell about the "puff balls"?
Are your root trees what you call puff balls???:confused:
 

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OK, so you introduced the subject poorly, and I know I sound like I'm down on you. I'm not, really. It's a good topic, and it may show some people an alternative they hadn't thought of, or remind them that there are other options besides buying ready-made stuff at the hobby store.

And as I said, both in my PM and above, I really do think you should see if MRH is interested in your article.

As far as realism.. you say you have to look closely to appreciate the detail. That's true of just about anything natural. Problem is, people don't see things on your layout that closely, but from 6 or more feet away, usually.

In your bottom picture, I think the 3rd and 4th ones are the best looking. In the one with the figure, I think there's too much fine stuff. When a tree dies, the leaves and many of the fine branches come down within a month or so, leaving only the larger branches and the trunk, which may hang around for years. While the tiny root filaments are appealing, I think you would to better to trim a lot of them off. If not, add some dead leaves to the structure, so it looks recently dead. Add thick gray artists acrylic tothe trunk to simulate fungus.
 

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I think the concept is good, but the *years* it takes to grow and perfect the look is prohibitive. Again, good concept and some of the stuff looks great.
 
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