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Guys,

We're all here because we have some sort of train inflicted illness.  I am one of those people who will build the railroad, but let the gardening go.  

I am getting tired of having mulch as my main scenicing device.  See below:




So... my question is this.  How do you select plants to make your railroad more interesting?  I would like to have ground cover that will require little maintenace, but provide lots of scenery. Do these kinds of things actually exist?  

Maybe we could have some kind of horticulture for dummies and beginners MasterCLass? I know Doug has answered these kinds of questions before.  

I am in south central PA.  My soil tends to be kind of clay-ish, but was at one time a farm, so I know I can grow more than grass.  The area picture above gets shade at mid day from that huge tree, but the branches are really 20' off the ground, and we get a lot of morning sun here.  In the afternoon, this area is shaded by this tree and the other Hemlocks alongside it.  I know MB will help me water, but she has as little gardening experience as I do.  We've planted Impatients in the front yard and this is how they turned out:


Ok, they needed some water that day, but they started out as tiny plants.  That yellow thing at the top is Lucia when she was 9 weeks old. 

So, where do I start?  My local garden center is great, but overwhelmingly big.  I know the impatients will grow well, and spread, but they are only seasonal.  I'd like to have something that will come back year after year.  Any ideas or suggestions?  

Mark
 

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Mark

First off I would recommend posting this in the Gardening and Landscaping Forum.

In terms of the specifics to your questions ... and I am sure that others closer to your climate zone may be able to give much better answers than I can ...

I would divide your question into two ... what general approach do you want to your garden (besides low maintenance/cover the ground) and then what plants will grow well

In terms of garden philosophy, do you want to "miniscape" ie must the plants look like models of real ones? or are you more in the school of the "realists" ie your train, though a model, runs in a real world where the plants are plants and don't necessarily resembe a model of anything? A decision on this will govern your choice of plantings and how you go about your garden.

I will leave the design question out here. But you will need to spend some times as it is just like planning scenic elements on an indoor model railroad.

For specific plants, morning sun only counts as shade to very ight sun for most plants. You will I think need to pick from shade loving to shade tolerant plants for your location. While shade loving plants often are large leaved (to make use of the available light) there are some that have fine structures and foliage. The annuall impatiens is one of these. There are also a number of mosses and pseudo-mosses (like scotch) which will do well in shady conditions as will a number of aggessive ground covers. Once you reach the stage of knowing what colour, leave structure and size of planting you desire in various locations, your local nursery can usually help with specific suggestions.

My own garden is built in shade, but I am in the bottom of USDA Zone 4 so my planting choices are much more restricted than yours will be.

Regards ... Doug
 

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Doug, 

I thought about posting this there, but figured I would catch more attention here.  Maybe I can post a link over there.

I think scale is out the window.  I tried planting shade loving ground cover with terrible results.  MB won't know what she likes until it is planted and growing.  She's just that way.  I don't know whether she just can't picture how she wants something or what, so it gets left to me.  Since my mindreading skills are pretty bad, its usually not whatever she wanted. 

Pakisandra (sp?) grows well in the area, but MB hates it.  I don't know why.  Doesn't matter, its out.   Scale plants would be OK, I have two dwarf alberta spruce on the line, and they seem to be thriving.  I could plant more of them, but I think the yard would look better with color, if possible.

I guess I could have been clearer about the sunlight,  this area gets full sun until about noon, then partial sun in the afternoon.  In this area, we are USDA Zone 6a.  It gets very hot in the afternoon hours, and as you saw in the impatients photo, witheringly hot! 

I appreciate  your comments!  I guess I need to start doing some research on Zone 6a plants...

Mark
 

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Waht does Lucia like? and the baby? They are to be consdiered too now. BAbay will eat anyhting right? YIKES! Does Lucia do much digging? I've got that to look forward to. We'll likely be getting a puppy this weekend. (sigh)

Chas
 

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Chas,

Lucia contains herself to wherever the ball goes. Which means that I have some pretty well worn areas.  Those are getting overseeded with grass as we speak.  Despite her 55 lbs, she can really tear up the yard when running at a full sprint to get the squeaky football. She tends to stay out of the landscaped areas, unless the ball ends up there. 
Here;s the latest picture of Lucia:


Luke  doesn't eat much except soy and breast milk right now.  Soybeans grow across the street, but they look like a lot of work and plus, they would really make the railroad look like Jurassic Park.  I might have to put in a pool after last weekend's trial at the gym's pool:
 

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Mark,

There are a lot of thymes that are good ground covers as well as having little pink, red, or white flowers in the spring and summer. However, I don't know what grows in PA since I live in CA. But, I think thymes grow everywhere.

Tom Rey
 

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Well, I had a nice long post with pictures and links.... But this placed barfed on me again..... Maybe this weekend...
 

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The server apparently "times out" after a couple of minutes and you lose your place. So if you take too long typing you run the risk of losing everything you entered.

I have begun to highlight and copy everything in my missive to the clipboard before I try either to "Preview" or "Submit" it and then if things go awry all I have to do is refresh the page and paste my message back in and then do the "Preview" or "Submit". Sometimes (all too often) it saves me a lot of frustration!!!!
 

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Should not have to do that...... This is not a chat room..... This dawg is more than a little ticked.
 

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Maybe best thing is to find a garden center or vendor with miniature plants in your area.  Chances are  if he's from your area, they'll work.  When I started 11 years ago I went to Miniature Plant Kingdom and asked Don what would work.  Most of his recommendations that we bought are still doing well.  I'm in Southern California so what works for me may not work for you.

We use lots of types of thyme for ground cover. 



We also have good luck with chammomele, and dymondia, 





and baby tears.  Most of our mosses (Irish and Scotch) died off long ago.

For a good hearty tree (i.e., can't kill) that is green all year and in scale is the dwarft crepe myrtle (next to the school house).



But the dwarft elms are also very robust (aka hard to kill) (behind rock)



The dwarft pomegranates are also right in scale and easy to grow.



The latter two types of trees are deciduous and go bare in the winter even in Southern California

Most of these plant are now about 10 years old.



 

 
 

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Every time I find a plant that does great in the shade ( my layout is in the deep woods) they turn out to be deer candy.  Oh well year 5 and a new set of plants.  Never say die.
 

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Try Turkish Veronica. I've found it to be shade tolerant, and is a rather nice groundcover. It's the green patch in the middle of the shot. The tree is Winter Gem Boxwood.



Sedum is another one to try. TONS of varieties, most are somewhat shade tolerant, though things like Dragon's Blood sedum may tend to get a touch leggy.



Creeping Thyme is another good alternative, though "creeping" isn't exactly the best description for the speed at which it sometimes wants to spread



That started out as a few small patches of the stuff 4" from the edge of the track. Three months later, that's what it looked like--after it was trimmed back.

Later,

K

PS - the "Quick Reply" feature does bounce you if someone else posts while you're typing. I've found I can generally hit the back button and submit again if that happens. (It's actually a blessing in disguise, as sometimes someone posts what I was typing, so it saves the redundancy.) Using the regular reply window shouldn't give you any trouble like that. Unfortunately, the regular reply window doesn't like Safari, so I use the Quick Reply most of the time. Like Charles, I just do a ctrl-A, ctrl-C (command-a, command-c on a Mac) before hitting "Submit." Think of it as saving your file.
 

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All,

Thanks for your suggestions and help!! I'm really clueless when it comes to plants.  I will talk to my local garden shop.  They have been helpful in the past.  I like the way the thymes look, and I really like how the smaller trees look, too. 

Good news!  I have actually gotten MB interested.  Although she was talking more about a vegetable garden.  That's OK.  She has tomato seeds she wants to plant.  We grew tomatoes a few years ago with some success.  I think I will be able to get a few plants here and there.  I may also transplant some spearmint that overran the front garden last summer.  Has anyone tried growing herbs in their garden railroad?  Cammomile - I know I have tea with some of that in it. 

Todd and Kevin- the trees on your railroads look great with the trains.  I think you have convinced me to go with more scale sized trees.  

I am sure there are more good ideas out there, too.  Pictures are very helpful, too. 

Mark
 

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Galloping Thyme?

Beautiful photos of your beautiful garden.
 

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Most of the small ground covers, e.g., thyme, chamomilie, etc. are herbs and that's the garden section that you should be looking in.

BTW, here in California food that is not pre-prepared is not taxable.  When I would buy herbs, I would ask that they not charge tax..., and they didn't.
 

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Posted By Dougald on 03/12/2008 1:10 PM
I am in the bottom of USDA Zone 4 so my planting choices are much more restricted than yours will be.

Regards ... Doug
After checking the zone map, I fall into ZONE ONE !  --the frigid zone. Because of that I can't really have a garden railway in the way it is portrayed in Garden Railways magazine--or anything even close. 
 
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