If you've been reading my blog for a while, you know my pet peeve. I've always been frustrated that there aren't enough model railroad structures and scenery products that are appropriate for California. You can buy brick downtown buildings appropriate for New York and short trees suitable for Arkansas, but finding appropriate Coast Live Oaks or Mission-style downtown storefronts is more of a challenge.
Scenic Express might have cabbage fields and flowers, California Natural Scenery is going for the California plants we're most likely to see along the railroad tracks. I just bought their Scotch Broom (HO-303) (which looks more like Spanish Broom, in my opinion), and Pampas Grass (HO-302) - both very common plants near disturbed soil or abandoned areas, and perfect near a railroad line.
Toxicodendron diversilobum (HO-301). T. diversilobum is great for a model railroad - often seen in disturbed and unkept soil, and great from a model perspective because it can be a bush, a small tree, or a vine, and is equally suitable in woodlands, on hillsides, and in sunny patches near the tracks. California Natural Scenery captures the reddish leaves that are so representative of the plant in the late summer. Even though my layout is probably more an early-summer layout, I'll deal with the slight anachronism.
Best of all, California Natural Scenery is using the actual plants to make their T. diversilobum, so it's not only realistic, it's real and certified organic. That'll require a bit of care when putting in the scenery and working near the tracks (and they do explicitly warn on the package that you really should use gloves when handling it), but I'm willing to go through the effort to really make some great scenery. I suspect it'll also be a great way to encourage visitors not to touch the layout!
I'm really happy with California Natural Scenery's new product line, and I can hardly wait to see what they come up with next! (My wish-list would be thistles and ice-plant.) California Natural Scenery Co. doesn't appear to have a website yet; check with your hobby shop to see if they'll carry the brand, or drop the company a note at P.O. Box 7325, San Narciso, CA 92011-7325.
And don't forget to keep your elbows off my layout from now on!