If you've been following this blog for any length of time you'll have noticed that my modelling tends to focus on the man made aspects of a railway (locomotives, rolling stock, bridges, etc.) rather than the natural environment it runs through. One of my main reasons for entering the Dave Brewer challenge this year was to force me into thinking about the scenery around the bridge and so far it seems to have worked. I've experimented with lots of different approaches to painting rocks as well as figuring out how to model dark peaty water (which I promise I will come back to soon). The third major part of the scenery on the diorama is the heather and this has had me worried for a while.
I'd looked at a number of really nice commercial grass mats but none really matched the scenery around the real bridge well enough for me to be happy with, partly as I couldn't find a good representation of the heather. While I still need to decided exactly how I'm going to do the bits of grass not covered by heather (probably a mixture of scatter and static grass) I think, after a number of experiments, that I now have a good way of producing heather.
My first attempt at heather involved using some Woodland Scenics forest blend bushes covered in scatter. Having seen other people have good results using Flower Soft to represent.... flowers and given that they do a packet called heather this seemed like a good starting point. While the colour in the packet looks okay there was quite a lot of white bits that I wasn't happy with as I thought they would be too bright. Given the others colours seemed reasonable I picked out the white bits and then scattered the other bits over a bush covered in glue, and you can see this on the left hand side of the first photo. Unfortunately I think you'll all agree that this doesn't look like heather. The bits are too big (the bush is a reasonable size for the scale I'm working in) and the colours are wrong.
To try and fix at least the size issue I tried again this time with some Ultra Fine Flower Soft called Raspberry Fizz (strangely the Ultra Fine stuff no longer seems to be listed on the website). Unfortunately again there is too much white and this time the bits are so small I couldn't remove them, so I think it looks even worse (right hand side of the first photo).
At this point I was fairly stumped. I knew, from the photos I have of the bridge, roughly what colour the heather should be but I had no idea how to make it. Fortunately my wife had an idea that seems to have worked really well; she suggested I use some chenille. Now given that she has been buying chenille so she can crochet baby blankets I wasn't initially convinced by the idea but she was convinced that chopping the fibres up into little pieces should work so I gave it a go. My first attempt was horrible as the bits of yarn, while the right colour, was way too fluffy. For a second attempt I dunked a piece of yarn in scenic cement and left it to dry before cutting it up and this seems to have reduced the fluffiness to acceptable levels.
Now in close up you might not be convinced that it looks like heather, but if you stand back and look at it from a slightly more sensible distance I think it does a very good job. Yes I could do with separating the fibres a little more so it doesn't clump but in general I'm really happy with how it looks.
For anyone wanting to try and replicate the idea I used James C. Brett Flutterby Chunky yarn, mostly the Mulberry (B21) but also a little Rose Pink (B19) to give a little variation.