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Written by Paul D. Race for Big Indoor Trains™
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Add Spring Color to Your Village or Indoor Railroad

To tell the truth, I got the idea for this in the spring of 2008, while I was working on an article about Saint Patrick's Day for the Family Christmas Online™ site. My garden (outdoor) railroad has changes of seasons, but why not have more "change of seasons" on our indoor railroads?

I thought, why not have bright green trees for Saint Patrick's day, followed by trees with blooms for Easter?

The Hawthorne Village Lamplight Village features have built-in vegetation that looks like it belongs in late spring or early summer. Click for a bigger photo.As you can see from the photo at the right, some of my "non-winter" indoor buildings and accessories already have trees and blooms. But since they look like this all spring, summer, and fall, I thought it wouldn't hurt to add additional color for the spring holidays.
Autumn Joy flower heads can be harvested in the dead of winter and spray-painted for a temporary display. Click for a bigger photo.I seldom get around to "deadheading" my Autumn Joy sedum in the fall. The dead flower heads actually work nicely in "dried flower" arrangements. They lose all the petals eventually and make nice winter trees or foundations for model trees, as I reported in the article on Easy Homemade Trees. But for a time in midwinter, they have enough dried flower-petals left to spray-paint green and make into temporary spring trees. I used a satin paint - a gloss paint would take too many coats to do the job.

If you don't have this particular plant in your yard, there are weedheads that will do. I harvested a bunch of usable weedheads years ago in a fallow field. On the next dry day, take a look around the untended areas near your home.


After several light coats of paint, the temporary Each of these "trees" required several light coats of paint, because the flower petals absorb the first two coats more than you might expect, and there are so many angles, you are bound to miss some every time you paint. Once you're done, and the paint's dry, you can cut the stems to the right length and install them. In this case, I just poke the stem into the styrofoam base of this village display. (If your base has a thick coat of paint like mine, you may need to poke "starter holes" with a skewer or something.) Our town is now green enough for St. Patrick's Day.

Mix a range of white and pink paints to dab onto the trees. Sorry I don't have a bigger photo for this one.When St. Patrick's Day is over, it's time to get your town ready for Easter. Using acrylic craft paints, mix a range of white and pink and in-between colors and dab them into the foilage. I tried using yellow on one tree, but it looks funny to me - most of the spring-blooming trees in Ohio are white, pink, or somewhere in between. Yes, a few get all the way to magenta, but blue and yellow don't happen. Yellow on a shrub would be suitable, though - I'm thinking Forsythia. But I didn't think to do any shrubs this year. Maybe next year.

I used the inside of a disposable container lid to mix my paint, squeezing some off-white out first, then gradually adding pink as I went from tree to tree. Spring blooms vary in tone from branch to branch on the same tree, so keeping exactly the same color for a whole tree isn't necessary.


Finished trees give a springlike look to your town or railroad. Click for a bigger photo.The photo at the right shows the same trees with colors added. Now I'm thinking that adding shrubbery next year is a very good idea. Clicking on the photo will bring up the big version.

If you decided to try to preserve these trees for use next year, coat them "inside and out" with a clear satin acrylic and hang them upside down like you do herbs - that may help to preserve them. After all of the paint and topcoat are completely dry, protect the flower heads with a plastic bag. After all, if they get dusty, the vaccuum cleaner is not an option.

Update for November, 2008: It is now almost seven months since I wrote this article, and to my surprise, the "trees" I made for this project are still in very good condition. If you have any Autumn Joy in your yard, it's just about time to cut it anyway, hint, hint. Keep it in a box or something that will keep the dust off of it until you're ready to use it.

Conclusion

If you have photos of your projects or of your own indoor railroad or collectible villages (or any combination of the two) that you would like to share with our readers, please contact us, and pass along as much information about your photos as you can. We'll be sure to give credit where it is due.


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