by Grace Chapman, Director of Horticulture, Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden
The Conservatory model train display is a visitor favorite at Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden’s Dominion Garden Festival of Lights. What makes our display unique is that the horticulture staff create miniature “fairy houses” out of dried botanical materials. The detail on the houses is amazing. Ginkgo leaves turn into wallpaper, an acorn cap will be a porch light, and a small seed might be a tiny door knocker.
This year, the houses will replicate the animals’ homes in the book, The Wind in the Willows. To highlight the theme, we also decided to replicate the actual animals. Debbie, one of our great volunteers, made the animal’s heads out of clay. which she painted. Then, I created bodies out of foam, wire, bubble rap, and pipe cleaners and made clothing.
I was also tasked with making a row boat for Ratty and Mr. Toad. I started with a foam core frame and I covered it with river birch bark. I then added details of bright green dried cattail leaves and deep red Japanese maple leaves. The oars were made from twigs and river birch bark.