How to make model trees on a budget

Looking to build a model railway on a tight budget? Here’s the first in a new series on making model railways when you’re on a tight budget, starting with trees.

If you read my recent article about trees and model railways you’ll know I’m a big fan of them and have a lot of them. Previously I’ve used off-the-shelf models and am also using SeaFoam to make them but even these cost money. A quick tally for the various materials to make SeaFoam based trees come out at about £25 for 30 or so trees.  This is a lot better than the £10 or so each you can pay but it’s still more than I’d like.

While discussing these SeaFoam trees with my wife she asked why I didn’t buy the organic plants they were based on. After slapping myself around the head a few times – I hadn’t for a second considered Sea-Foam might be actual plants – I did some research.

Sure enough, SeaFoam is an actual plant – teloxys aristata – you can buy, grow and harvest and yes it’s a lot cheaper than the £20 / 30-or-so plant boxes. A pack of seeds can be had for under £2!

Then its just a case of growing them – pretty much plant and wait – before harvesting in Autumn*

seafoam treesModelRailwayEngineer Extra:
To wait or not to wait that’s the question.

Essentially, we’re trading time for money here.

SeaFoam trees can be bought for approx. £20 and are ready instantly, this tip – by contrast  – requires growing them and waiting the four or so months until they are ready but if you’re too impatient you can buy grown and cut SeaFoam trees here.

Once you’ve got a few of the plants ready a little work is needed to get them looking even more tree-like. There’s a great guide to doing this here, essentially they suggest trimming the size and shape – larger trees can be made by glueing several stems – and soaking them in boiling water to bend as required.

You can then build on this using the video in the previous post on model trees using static grass but being in budget mode I’m also going to be exploring using bits of old Green and Brown cleaning sponge for the foliage. I’ll post some pictures shortly.

> A final, personal, note: I spend a huge amount of time testing, photographing, writing and researching techniques for these articles and pay for all the running costs of MRE out of my own pocket. If you found this article useful you can support me by making a donation on my fund-raising page. Thanks and happy modelling, Andy.

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Founder of ModelRailwayEngineer, Andy Leaning

Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of He has been building model railways, dioramas, and miniatures for over 20 years. His passion for model making and railways began when he was a child, building his first layout at the age of seven.
Andy’s particular passion is making scenery and structures in 4mm scale, which he sells commercially. He is particularly interested in modelling the railways of South West England during the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, although he also enjoys making sci-fi and fantasy figures and dioramas. His website has won several awards, and he is a member of MERG (Model Railway Electronics Group) and the 009 Society.
When not making models, Andy lives in Surrey with his wife and teenage son. Other interests include history, science fiction, photography, and programming. Read more about Andy.

Afflliate disclosure:The links on this page may take you to carefully selected businesses, such as Hornby, Amazon, eBay and Scale Model Scenery, where you can purchase the product under affiliate programmes. This means I receive a small commission on any orders placed although the price you pay does not change. You can read my full affiliate policy here. I also sell my my own ready to use, pre-made and painted buildings and terrain features. browse the range.

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