Today was plant day (the first of many I'm sure). Here is where I'm at so far. I'm pleased as punch with a few of my plants, and quite underwhelmed by others. I'm finding getting realistic leaf colours difficult (mind you the lighting... once I FINALLY get to it) might help out here.
So how do you make a distribution of plants like this. Well you can either manually duplicate and place every single plant, or take a short cut. With about 600 plants in here (most of them the shrubs) I took the short cut.
This time saver is a surface replicator. Though after I take your through the process it turns out to almost be more work :P
I have plenty of experience with replicators as they are how I make my feather setups. Plants are quite different though. To get better result you need to target where your plants pop up.
To line up your rough target I suggest setting up an Isometric camera directly above your landscape. Render out a map of your scene like this. Keep your subjects in view, so you know where you need to place your plants around.
Next in your photoshopish program draw out the plots for your plant layout. Each of those painted areas is the portions of my landscape where certain plants are allowed to replicate within the replicator. The Green is the large trees, red the medium ferns, blue is the shrubs and smaller plants.
Depending on the topography of your landscape, your deployment pattern might or might not line up with your isometric map. In this case I was lucky, and it was about 95% on the spot.
You can see the 5%ish miss with this attempt to line the pattern up with the plants themselves.
So from here I will probably expand the 3D plants one more layer. From there I'll set up some 2D proxies to make the rest of the forest. While the replicator procedure is the same (simpler in fact!), I'm not sure how to approach creating the pictures for the proxies. Do I wait till I get the lighting right to render these, or do I do that now in this current light, and hope the new lighting effects a picture the same way it does the 3D plant.