Most of us guys wander around craft stores with a glazed deer-in-the-headlights look on our faces. It’s not our normal environment. I often recommend craft stores like Michael’s or Hobby Lobby as a good place to find supplies, so I thought I’d share what I look for when wandering up and down the aisles of the artificial flower section.

Understanding that I’m not going to find scaled down precise replicas of full-sized vegetation, I keep my eyes open for general shapes, such as tall and spikey, rounded and the like. Color is not important because it can be easily changed. On a recent trip, this fern or evergreen like spray caught my eye.

Artificial evergreen bough

Made with flocking material over a plastic armature, it’s useless as is but, sharp-eyed readers should see the same possibilities I saw; that each large clump resembles an evergreen tree. (Looks like a young white pine to me.)

Artificial evergreen bough clipping

The coloring is too gaudy but that’s easily fixed with a spray of something more appropriate. Another shortcoming is that they are flat and two dimensional only, so they wouldn’t work for anything but a simple background tree. I placed a couple on the layout for evaluation. At a mere three inches or so high, they will pass and should look even better with proper coloring. I should mention that I zoomed in with the camera. You would not see them this close in person.

Artificial evergreen bough clipping background trees

The lesson to learn is to ignore the big clump that is the original spray and to see the smaller tree shapes in the individual branches. While this larger shape worked for trees, I also saw other uses closer to the foreground. Giving one these sections a thorough cutting up and better coloring, I see bushy weeds in addition to trees.

Artificial evergreen bough finer clippings

There are many things you could do with these, like small cedar saplings, or making taller weeds such as milkweed, thistles and so forth. You could also gather a bunch together to represent a bushier shrub. Again, the color needs fixing but the potential is good (below). For three bucks, this artificial frond will yield a lot of material.

Taller weeds without coloring

My local Hobby Lobby has scaled back drastically on their selection of natural dried plant material like baby’s breath, caspia and others. In fact, about all they had on this trip was this dried grass seen below. The package only said it was floral material, no indication of what it actually is. (Oats?) As you see in the photo, I was after the long stems coming off the seed heads. Numerous short clippings can be made from these for tall grasses and weed material.

Dried grass seed heads clipped

Seen below, in combination with the sisal twine grass, the stalks aren’t bad as is, but could be colored and textured for more variety in the landscape. A 7oz. package of this stuff was also three bucks and will yield a lot of weeds on a layout. You need to watch the scale of such growth and keep your weeds from getting too tall as I did. Of course, you can always mow them down a bit with scissors.

Taller weeds from dried grass

Again, the lesson is to keep an open mind. You won’t be handed a prepackaged solution labeled perfect weeds for quarter-inch scale model railroads. Have an idea of the general shapes you want to see and look for those while ignoring the rest. Study the first few photos at the beginning and you’ll get the idea. Merry Christmas everyone.



  1. Jostein

    An interesting post, I’ll be sure to keep my eyes open the next time my wife wants a trip to the craft store. The dried “grass” material looks like barley, by the way.

  2. mike

    Hi Jostein,

    Welcome to the blog and thanks for commenting. There’s a lot of good scenery items to be found in craft stores once you train your eyes to see them. I do request that everyone sign their comments as a courtesy to all. Merry Christmas.


  3. Simon

    Merry Christmas, Mike.

    Working in S scale in the UK creates a mindset a bit like the one you describe: look at items with an attitude of “how could I use this on my layout?” Of course, one advantage of S is that so many H0 and 00 components (couplers, the width of wheels, any scenic components) are a touch oversize or their intended scale, but many of the details can find an alternative use.

    Merry Christmas to everyone!


  4. Jostein


    Thanks for the welcome and gentle reminder – I simply didn’t think to add my name to my earlier comment. I’ve been a reader of your blog for a while, but haven’t felt moved to post a comment before now. I very much enjoy the content you publish, both free and commercial. Thank you, and best wishes for a happy and prosperous new year!

    Jostein Thorbjørnsen

  5. mike

    Thank you Simon. And a Happy New Year to you and everyone.

    I’m not at all familiar with S scale despite having American Flyer as a child. Working in quarter-inch is much the same. Stuff is out there but well hidden either by design, default or tradition. I’ve never figured out which it is.


  6. mike

    Hi Jostein,

    No worries at all. Happy to have you as a reader and appreciate your kind words.


  7. Marz

    Hi all, Merry Christmas (albeit belated) and Happy New Year,

    Interestingly, the crafty mindset is not limited to only craft stores, and I am sure you already know that. Once your perspective changes, you begin to look at all sources as potential modelling material…

    A haberdashery can yield interesting textiles that can be used for a variety of re-purposes… bridal veil makes great chain link fence, faux fur used diligently makes interesting clumps of grasses and so on.

    Shoe laces, not the flat variety, make interesting fire hoses in larger scales.

    Hardware items just require some lateral thought that can be used in so many ways other than their intended purpose… your imagination is the only limit.

    The crafty mindset is a really powerful tool in your modelling bag of tricks… just think outside of the box…



  8. mike

    Indeed Marz. Opportunity is where you find it.