With Apologies to Joyce Kilmer

“I think that I shall never see
A poem lovely as a tree.”


Progress continues on the signature scene of The Hills Line, the Iowa Interstate’s deck-girder bridge and surrounding area in Iowa City. With the base scenery in place it’s time to add the flora. As previously mentioned, my scenic methods are not groundbreaking and follow well-established practices.


To start, I exclusively use Scenic Express SuperTrees for all my foliage needs. The combination of realistic branch structure and variety of shapes allows me to assembly line the tree-making process. I pick and choose a batch and place them on a sheet of foam for easy handling when painting and flocking.

“A tree whose hungry mouth is prest
Against the earth’s sweet flowing breast”


The tree bunch is blasted with a coat of cheap gray primer to simulate bark. I don’t worry about trying to get full coverage, since the natural branch color peeking out of the gray adds to the effect.


If necessary, I’ll touch the branches up with a second coat of primer. While waiting for the trees to dry, I’ll prepare two large containers for the leaf-flocking process.

“A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray”


The first will hold a bath of diluted Matte Medium. Multiple options are available, but I prefer the ready-prepared version from Scenic Express. It’s one place where I spend a little money to save a little time.


The second container holds the flocking material. On the advice of Tom Johnson, I’m trying out the new SuperLeaf scale leaves. First results are impressive, and already an improvement over the open-foam material I used on the IAIS Grimes Line.

“A tree that may in Summer wear
A nest of robins in her hair”


With everything lined up, it’s a matter of moving left to right. First, a dip in the matte medium. I try to only dip the tips of the branches in the glue, since that’s where the leaves will ultimately go.


Second is a sprinkling from the SuperLeaf. I avoid rolling the trees in the material since that causes the flakes to clump together, ruining the purpose of scale leaves.

“Upon whose bosom snow has lain;
Who intimately lives with rain.”


Then its back into the foam board to dry. I’ll usually spray on a final coat of cheap hairspray to seal everything together. The entire process takes seconds from bare branch to finished foliage.


When placing finished trees, I try to follow prototype scenes whenever possible, but ultimately it’s a matter of feel. One advantage of using extruded foam for by roadbed is that it’s a simple matter to push the trunk in when planting.

“Poems are made by fools like me,
But only God can make a tree.”
-Joyce Kilmer, 1914


5 thoughts on “With Apologies to Joyce Kilmer

  1. Those trees look pretty good to me. I’ve never seen trees using these “scale leaves” in person. Do they really look as good in person as they do in these views? I’d like to see a really close-up shot of a tree so as to see the detail.


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