How can I create a realistic-looking garden for my layout?

Howard Leader, who worked on Spalding Model Railway Club’s Gosberton layout, offers some tips.

Model gardening is in many ways not dissimilar to real gardening – the materials, of course, are different, but the planning, construction and ‘planting’ all have echoes of the real thing, but the risk of back strain is much reduced!

Like planning any real garden, model gardening begins with a good deal of research. In the first place it is important to know what time of year you are going to be representing as all of nature looks different from one month to the next and your choice of plants in flower must match the season of the model.

If you are modelling ‘summer’ remember that some common plants and shrubs do not flower all summer long and, with the exception of some rare varieties, you are not going to see daffodils in a summer garden. In the case of Gosberton the brief was high summer, July/August which meant that I could include buddleia in bloom, second-flush lilac, roses, lupins, hydrangea and hollyhocks.

Each garden of the semi-detached house has a different character. PAUL BASON

Every model maker will tell you that having a good stock of photographs to refer to is essential and there is no substitute to taking a walk round your neighbourhood in the chosen ‘moment’ of your model and making note of what you see in flower, what has gone over and what colours the foliage of trees and shrubs are displaying.

Bear in mind also that not all plants will grow in all parts of the country so if you are modelling a Scottish railway but you live in Cornwall your local research ramblings may need a bit of double checking.

Gardens are a living expression of the personalities, interests, skills and indeed lives of those who tend them (or not!) so the other piece of preparation I do with all my models is the creation of a back-story. If you are modelling a proprietary scene, then there may be historical research material that will tell you about the people who lived and worked in the place you are modelling.

If you are ‘freelancing’, then simply using your own imagination will enable you to create a back-story for your model. The brief for Gosberton, being a club-running layout, was broad – any time between 1935 and the end of the steam era. So, in the case of the crossing cottages, I really had to make up my own back-story.

Inspired by my real-life walks around local towns and villages, I decided that, while it is a pair of semi-detached cottages, I would give them each a very different character based upon my imagined occupants.

For the full article, see the March edition of Modelling – available now!

For a complete list of stockists and how to get your copy, visit:

Enjoy more of The Railway Magazine Guide to Modelling every month. Click here to subscribe.