Making scenery: PALM TREES

These are the most time-consuming of the trees I have made, but they look jolly nice, though I say so myself.

The trunk is a curving twig, with bark which isn't very rough.

Attached to the top of the trunk, are many lengths of gardening wire. These are lengths of steel wire, enclosed in a green plastic ribbon. Some of these ribbons are cut with little slits down both sides, all at an angle, and these you can see at the top, representing young new branches. The main branches are made much wider, by sandwiching them with transparent book-covering film. The book covering film is then cut (I found scissors to be better than a knife) with lots of slits, all at an angle, and then painted with acrylic paints, a dullish green. The plastic film gives the leaves a sort of dull shine, which looks quite realistic.

The branches are held firmly to the tree by a blob of sculpted Milliput epoxy resin putty, into which I have embedded some fronds of brown plant matter, which I found on a pavement. I'm not sure what it is, but it resembles the covering fibres of a coconut.

Because of the curve of the trunk, and the weight of the branches, I found it necessary to weight the base with bits of lead around the bottom of the trunk.

The trunk is dry-brushed grey. Palm tree trunks are more grey than brown.


I didnít make these trees from scratch, but I include them on this site because the way I got these may be of some interest to wargamers who need lots of palm trees. The above method is time-consuming, whereas these trees can be made ready for the table pretty quickly.

On the left you see some cake decorations. I imagine that people use these trees for cakes topped with pineapple or something else tropical. I have clipped down the top of the brown plastic central stalk (it stuck up rather high and conspicuously), and I have painted the top of the stalk green to hide it. The trunk has been dry-brushed grey (difficult to see in this photograph). The model trees have been based by me, by cutting little nicks in their bottom tabs (designed to be poked down into a cake) to give the Milliput putty something to grip onto, setting the trees into small blobs of the putty on card bases (sealed with universal adhesive to stop them warping), then when this was dry, covering the base in a thick plaster mix, adding a couple of bits of texture before this was dry (you see here some cat litter stones and plastic plants), and dry-brushing the result with very pale paint. The trees come in pairs, like this, with a single tab as the base, so I cut the pairs into singletons, and based them in various formations, some singly, others in twos, threes and fours. I bought these on Ebay, and I have reason to believe that these are commonly available in cake decoration outlets in the USA, but might be very difficult to get in Britain.

On the right you see a plastic tree that came in a packet of cheap plastic dinosaurs. These can occasionally be found in pound-shops (Everythingís a Pound, Poundstretchers, Poundland etc.), so with two in each packet they work out at 50p each, which is better than most trees made commercially for wargamers. Iíve put a little blob of Milliput, sculpted and then painted green, to disguise the top of the stalk. Iíve painted the trunk brown and then dry brushed it light grey, and based the tree. Such trees are easy to store Ė you just bung them in a box all together. They are robust enough.

I have a problem, though, with this type of palm tree. I have the same problem with near enough every model palm tree Iíve ever seen, no matter by what method they were made. I donít think trees like this actually exist. Whenever you see a cartoon drawing of the classic desert island Ė a little dome of sand with a single palm tree in the centre Ė you see this kind of tree. It has a long thin trunk, and at the top an umbrella-shaped formation of fronds. I have visited countries where palm trees grow. I have been to botanical gardens where they have many kinds in green-houses, and I always keep an eye out when I see photographs or film of palm trees, and never once have I seen a tree like this. I strongly suspect that they are merely an artistic convention. Actual palm trees have quite thick trunks, typically, and their fronds grow upwards, or in all directions, forming a sort of ball of fronds at the top Ė never sideways only, as here. If any visitor to this site can produce a genuine photograph of a real palm tree that looks like this, Iíd be interested to see it.


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