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  • How to use Real plants in your miniature bases

    This quick tutorial will show you how you can use real plants in your bases and dioramas and open up a real treasure trove of unusual materials that add interest and are free to use.

    Difficulty
    : Very Easy

    Tools and Materials needed:
    Plants
    Glycerin
    Absorbant paper (ie kitchen roll)
    Water
    Small container

    First a couple of little pointers. This technique can be used on any type of plant but results can vary. Generally the more 'woody' the plant the better. Normally once you cut a plant the cutting will begin to dry out losing its water, this kills it and destroys the structure. This process solves that problem by replacing the lost water with glycerin which acts like an embalming fluid and retains the plants structure.
    Results can vary even with the same type of plant so I recommend you do this in advance of when you need the plants. I do batches every now and again and keep them in my bit box, no special requirements. Some have been in there for well over a year and are still as good as new. If you do it in advance like this then any plants that it hasnt worked on can be removed. This prevents the risk of using plants then later finding they wither away. If its going to fail it will happen with 48 hours generally so after this your safe!

    Step 1
    Collect some plants! I like to use mosses as they scale well and you can just pull them from the rock but try anything, small herbs like thyme can be good. For this tutorial I just popped in the garden and grabbed some moss - took me about 1 minute and found a good variety.



    Step 2
    For this stage you need some Glycerin. It is available from chemists over the counter (its often used as a childrens medicine) It isnt harmful and you need no bio-hazard suit for it!! Its pretty cheap, the bottle pictured was about 1.20 and lasts an age. You will also need a small container and some water.
    plants2.jpg
    You need to mix roughly 1 part Glycerine to 10 parts water in the container. Give it a good stir so its properly mixed. Next take your plants and dip them in the mixture, make sure they are well covered then remove and place on some kitchen roll or newspaper. This will soak up the excess. Some plants you may want to turn over after an hour to soak both sides. Then simply leave to dry (overnight if possible) After 24 - 48 hours most plants that didnt succeed the process will have wilted by now so you can discard these. The rest you are free to use. If you do a batch every now and again then you will always have a stockpile at the ready and any that are good by then will remain good.
    plants3.jpg

    Step 3

    Now the fun bit!! Stick them on your bases and give them a real wow!
    plants4.jpg

    Any questions feel free to ask

    Brett
    Comments 30 Comments
    1. Ulfgrimr's Avatar
      Ulfgrimr -
      Lovely stuff Brett, been wondering how it was done and now I know - many thanks. Does the foliage go woody over time or does it retain it's spring? and how paintable is it once the glycerin treatment has been applied?
    1. Darklord's Avatar
      Darklord -
      As long as the Glycerine 'takes' it should remain pretty much as is, it does vary from plant to plant so I would experiment. Not sure on paintable though - never tried it
    1. shanerozzell's Avatar
      shanerozzell -
      Superb tutorial Brett. I'm gonna do some this weekend
    1. Boris's Avatar
      Boris -
      Great timing! I'm planning on collecting a whole load for an IMP workshop - didn't know about the gylcerine though - I've just dried them out in the past. I will pick some up in the next couple of days to prep for the workshops. Thanks DL!
    1. shanerozzell's Avatar
      shanerozzell -
      Ok, update.... I was gonna harvest some little plants this weekend so I showed this thread to my better third and she said that if I go anywhere near our back garden with scissors......... Well, tail-less wonder came into the conversation. So I can either wait and nick bits from either my mums or my sisters or I can gather some.... Ninja-Style
    1. MaGie's Avatar
      MaGie -
      Thanks so much for a great tutorial. It looks amazing, very realistic! Think I'm going to crawl around my garden for some moss.
      I do wonder though... doesn't the glycerine make the plants sticky?
    1. NeatPete's Avatar
      NeatPete -
      Great tutorial Brett thank. The last time I tried this they still wilted. I'll hae to try it on some other types of plants this time.
    1. SkelettetS's Avatar
      SkelettetS -
      great article, have to pick up some glycerin asap! :) many thanks!
    1. Coneman's Avatar
      Coneman -
      Nice article Brett.
      Ironically, last week I was talking to a friends brother about the plants on his ww2 dioramas and he produced some large plastic containers from his cupboard full of various mosses that he had collected and cured in this same way, last night my friend came over and handed me 2 containers full of it and told me to take what I wanted.
    1. Jabberwocky's Avatar
      Jabberwocky -
      Fantastic article! I've been waiting for an explanation on how this was done. Hopefully, I can get some moss to try this out on.
    1. Boris's Avatar
      Boris -
      My local Boots only stocked the honey flavoured glycerine and were suspicious of me wanting it plain - I've seen Fight Club, I know what he meant!
      I told him I wanted it for modelling to embalm some moss - I don't recommend any one else taking this approach unless you like looking like a complete weirdo!
    1. Darklord's Avatar
      Darklord -
      Quote Originally Posted by MaGie View Post
      Thanks so much for a great tutorial. It looks amazing, very realistic! Think I'm going to crawl around my garden for some moss.
      I do wonder though... doesn't the glycerine make the plants sticky?
      nope dry normally
    1. Vern's Avatar
      Vern -
      Cheers Brett, top tutorial - now to get some glycerine
    1. NeatPete's Avatar
      NeatPete -
      Yeah I remember when I asked at the grocery store they all gave me wierd looks. I couldn't figure out why and I couldn't find it. I had to ask again for someone to show me and the person was all wierd about it and took me to the section where they keep all the lube and walked off. Akward!
    1. Simon.W's Avatar
      Simon.W -
      Excellent tutorial DL with some very useful information. I have always wondered if there was some other process involved aside from just getting the foliage moss etc and now i know, next to get some glycerin and give it a try.
    1. eBob's Avatar
      eBob -
      Quote Originally Posted by NeatPete View Post
      Yeah I remember when I asked at the grocery store they all gave me wierd looks. I couldn't figure out why and I couldn't find it. I had to ask again for someone to show me and the person was all wierd about it and took me to the section where they keep all the lube and walked off. Akward!
      Ahh.. I found out that unfavoured Glycerin is used to help move your bowels!
      You can get it from online pharmacies - you might pay a bit more, but it will avoid the awkward silence.

      http://international.drugstore.com/p...msrch=glycerin
    1. breadhead.'s Avatar
      breadhead. -
      Boris - They have this on the shelf at the Boots in Hillsborough, could get some there with no embarrassment!
    1. eBob's Avatar
      eBob -
      Quote Originally Posted by breadhead. View Post
      Boris - They have this on the shelf at the Boots in Hillsborough, could get some there with no embarrassment!
      I'm being told that old ladies that bake cakes also use Glycerin in the making of icing, so you might find Glycerin in a bakery or cake making shop type place.
    1. mrs ogreninja's Avatar
      mrs ogreninja -
      yes i have some in the cupboard that i used for my sons birthday cake a couple of years ago look amoung the food colourings in the supermarket
    1. eBob's Avatar
      eBob -
      Confirmed. I just bought some from the 'cakes' isle in Morrisons for 64p, and I plucked some leaves on the way home. I'll let you know in a couple of days if they've successfully mummified.