On the recommendation of another TerraGenesis member, I perused the book "Making Miniature Gardens" by Freida Gray online and liked what I saw enough to purchase it. First published by Guild of Master Craftsman Publications Ltd (ISBN 1-86108-058-1) in 1999, this book is an invaluable reference for modeling plants at 1:12 scale. "Making Miniature Gardens" is a comprehensive tutorial covering materials and techniques to complete plans for the construction of model gardens. Although this book is generally aimed at doll house builders, some of its techniques can be applied to a range of terrain scales.
Ms. Gray has divided her book into two parts. Part One, Techniques and Materials, is also effectively two parts and starts with an introduction to miniature gardening then covers scale, materials and tools. While these first few chapters may be old hat for experienced modelers, beginners will be fully versed and ready to go after reading. The second half of Part One then explores methods specific to modeling plantlife through making particular species of flowers, from Asters to Zonal pelargoniums!
Part Two, Projects, starts with a word on safety and then launches into step by step instructions for building complete gardens. Plans include Walled Garden, Pond & Rockery, and Cottage Garden plus more. Each project includes sub-projects like trellises, furniture or garden implements and includes templates and patterns when needed for rock walls or tile walkways. The final chapter discusses some further uses for the techniques learned and suggests future projects. The book closes with some metric conversion tables and a thorough index.
I enjoyed this book so much that the first time I read it I couldn't decide whether to put the book down and start building, or turn the page to see what was next! The writing is clear and concise and maintains enthusiasm, so it's a fast read and imparts maximum data; it is efficient. However this is not to say it is 'clinical' or cold, it is a warm and inviting book. Almost every page has full color captioned photographs illustrating salient points in the text with occasional side-bars providing helpful tips. Complete materials lists and illustrations of techniques are also sprinkled about. Even the page headers and numbers have accompanying icons that are tiny photos of projects from the book. The whole design of the book was well thought out.
The author provides many brand name examples for materials and has her own personal favorites. Experienced modelers will be completely familiar with most of Ms. Gray's choices, and may pick up a few new ideas. On the other hand, some modelers may disagree, or wonder why she doesn't use something else possibly better. An example that stood out to me was her choice to use florist's foam for brick/stone walls and a well in a couple of projects. I find florist's foam to be a little soft and prone to damage. In her defense, her models are for display, not for columns of troops and armor to march through, so hers is a good choice after all. This is typical in this book; these projects are easily convertible to accommodate your materials-at-hand. In fact, most modelers will find ways to personalize and adapt these techniques and materials, potentially taking them to the next level.
Ms. Gray is also an advocate of a modeling axiom that is also one of my personal modeling mantras, namely "Use nature to model nature". This means that if you are trying to make something that looks like a small plant, use something that looks plant-like and nothing looks more plant-like than plants. Humorous generalization aside, Ms. Gray particularly recommends sea lavender and statice along with reindeer moss as must-haves, and I agree wholeheartedly. She goes on to provide tips on preparing dried flowers and grasses to make various scale plants and surprisingly to me, a tree. The author's use of natural materials along with her use of familiar modeling staples makes for a complete formula and repertoire.
At first glance, it may seem as if this book may not pertain to making wargaming terrain, and for the most part this is true. Although written for 1:12 scale applications, there are some processes in the book that can be scaled down to common wargaming scales, and there is plenty of inspiration for developing your own pieces. Should this be your first wargaming terrain book? Probably not, but keep in mind that a common flower in 1:12 sale would be man-sized or larger (and probably carnivorous) at a typical 25mm gaming scale, so if your Space Orcs are fighting on a jungle planet with hostile flora, this book is very appropriate. Wargamers may notice that the projects in the book are not realistic in the sense that items aren't weathered or broken or dirty, but that's the nature of the hyper-realistic doll house style. Besides, wargamers shouldn't have any problems 'ruining' and weathering any of the projects; for some that's the best part!
"Making Miniature Gardens" by Freida Gray is a fantastic book; it's thoroughness makes it usable as a textbook. From choosing tools and supplies to making pea pods and cabbage rows, this is a mandatory resource for anyone building in the 1:12 scale. Written for the complete beginner, even an old jaded wargamer can find pearls in its pages. Five (out of five) stars.
With the exception of the wishing well, all of the plants shown in this review were made by me using techniques from the book alone and combined with personal modifications. The photo below includes an American quarter dollar and a one Euro coin for scale and some Caleb Conifers in the back. The ladybug is 2mm dia and has antennae made from human hair that can't be seen in the photo. Grid is 1cm squares.
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