ATSF Howard Branch
I am experimenting with several ways of making trees. This is a work in progress, so come back and see where this is going.
1. Crape Myrtle Trees
Living in Houston, Texas, Crape Myrtle trees are everywhere, and the ends of their limbs make very good tree trunks (armatures).
In HO, trees of 5-6" are large (35-40'). I model Kansas, so these are a good size for me. I carefully snip the last 7-8" of crape myrtle branches and then custom cut them for my trees. When I cut them down to 4-6", I cut the trunk at an angle to form a point. This will make them easier to plant. Any lower limbs that don't look great are removed. I need short trees as well as tall ones.
My leaves come from Woodland Scenic clump foliage. I put chucks in my blender and cut them down to smaller bits. (Yes, I have a blender that I purchasd at a thrift store for $5 and use it for all sorts of modeling projects.) They come out a little stringy, which I like. All of those bits go into a small cake pan.
Next I use spray adhesive - just about any will do, and carefully spray the limbs of my tree. Most spray adhesive nozzles spray a flat pattern, not a round pattern, which is great. I try to keep from having much of the adhesive on the main trunk, confining it to the limbs.
Once sprayed, I carefully roll it around in the pan of foliage, trying to get foliage to stick to all of the adhesive. If one area looks too thin, I just spray that area again and repeat. Once covered well, I stick the pointed trunk in an old piece of Styrofoam to dry. I am using foam that was used around some type of appliance - free and easy to find on the curb on trash day.
A final coat of thinned matte medium seals it. I found hair spray attacked the glue, but the water based matte medium does not.
Not all trees are the same color, so I have used several colors of clump foliage. I stocked up at Hobby Lobby's after Christmas sale last year. Hobby Lobby also has a 40% off on one item coupon on their website. You can download that coupon and use at will, one per day per store.