Making a Hypertufa Garden Sculpture: Leaf Project

 

I like to work in different media– sometimes drawing, sometimes painting, wood, metal, and now, a cement-based sculptural form called hypertufa.

After 24 hours, I took a look at the finished hypertufa leaf

After 24 hours, I took a look at the finished hypertufa leaf

I first experimented in it with my planter trough project, and I decided I would try to create a more sculptural element after visiting the gardenweb hypertufa forum and watching a couple youtube videos based around this topic.

In this post, I’ll explore creating a hypertufa leaf garden ornament, which will add a decorative drip pan under a rain-gutter downspout, or as a component for a water feature for a garden or back yard.

I used a similar recipe for mixing the hypertufa as for the trough, but this time, I made it roughly 1:1:1 cement, perlite, and peat moss.

 

 

First, I gathered some semi-moist sand and created a mound for the leaf.  Next, I cut a large Calla Lily leaf from our back flower bed (don’t tell my girlfriend).  I chose one with very distinct stems and veins that I felt would be prominent enough to register in as a mold for the hypertufa.  I sprayed the leaf with PAM cooking spray to act as a mold release.

I placed the leaf face down into the sand, and started troweling the mixture onto the bakc of the leaf, careful to keep the relative shape of the leaf and not get too thin–or risk creating a fragile cast.

After I loaded all of the mix onto the leaf, I smoothed it out and placed a plastic bag over it and let it sit in a shady spot for 24 hours.

After the allotted time, I carefully flipped the cast over and removed the leaf mold.  The photos show the result.

Pretty cool!  I’m going to let it sit for another couple days to cure a bit more before adding it under our rainspout.

 

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Making a Hypertufa Planter Box (part 3)

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Demolded the hypertufa planter

Demolded the hypertufa planter

After about 24 hours of sitting in the shade with a plastic bag over it, my little hypertufa trough is ready to be de-molded.  Now, some hypertufa experts will be quick to point out that 24 hours might be the BARE MINIMUM of time before de-molding.  I would also agree, but I’m also REALLY EXCITED to see how it turned out and I’m willing to take the risk of completely destroying it.

Here are some photos of what it looks like right now at this point.  I took an old grill cleaning brush and proceeded to clean up the little notches and tabs left by the box molds.

I also used the scraper part of the tool to dig some gouges into the trough, to give it a weathered, dilapidated look.

I then put the plastic bag back on it and put it back in the shade to cure for another week before anxiously getting it back out to revel in.

I also made a hypertufa calla lily leaf drip tray.

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How to Make Hypertufa Planter Pots (Part 2)

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Once I mixed the hypertufa recipe up, I let it sit for about 5 minutes as the components sucked up the water.  At this point, I grabbed two boxes I had lying around.  One was kind of big and long, so I figured I’d make a trough planter using this box as a simple mold.  The second box would then be placed inside to act as the inner mold (where the potting soil and plants would eventually go).

I sprayed the inside of the larger box and the outside of the smaller box with Pam cooking spray, to act as a mold release once I am ready to de-mold the pot.  I then took a shovel full of the hypertufa gunk and placed it in the bottom of the big box–careful to pack it about one inch thick and place a small hole at the bottom for drainage.

After that, I placed the smaller box inside the larger one, and proceeded to fill all four side of the space with hypertufa.  At the end, I used the end of a 2×4 to tamp the mixture down and level it all within the space.

Then, I place a plastic bag over the top and set it in a shady spot to dry for 24 hours.

Next, I’ll post some photos of the finished planter trough.

> Go to Part 3

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How to Make Hypertufa Planters (part 1)

De-molded the hypertufa planter

De-molded the hypertufa planter

I try to be a person who isn’t afraid to try new things– except mayonnaise–so, after lurking for several years on various sculpture forums, I discovered a form of outdoor cement-based building material called hypertufa that I wanted to try.

Cement hypertufa was developed to resemble real tufa limestone formations, found mainly near water sources.  It’s pretty neat-looking and I think the artificially-created type looks almost as cool.  It is also much much lighter than concrete (please, don’t confuse cement with concrete.  All concrete requires cement, and Portland Cement is the standard type used in both concrete and in hypertufa).

After reading about this fun craft and looking at some really cool photos of different folks’ projects, I decided to give it a whirl.  I made my projects yesterday, and they aren’t quite ready to show you, but I will post a follow up soon.  Hypertufa requires time for its components to dry, and then also require a considerable amount of time for it to cure before it reaches its maximum strength and hardness.

> QUICK COMMENT:  Don’t ever be afraid to try something like this!  If you mess up, big deal!  Start with a small project and work your way up to something bigger.

If you are going to create planters, troughs, sculptures and pots out of hypertufa, you will need to also let them leach out their lime, or else it might kill the plants which you put inside of them.  I’ll go into this later.

Bottom line is, you need to be patient with the finished product.

Hypertufa recipes abound in various ratios on the internet, but the consensus that I’ve aggregated from reading many of them is that you need four main components: Portland Cement, Perlite (or vermiculite), Peat Moss (or sawdust), and Water.

Here is the recipe I decided to use.  Keep in mind, a part can be a small bucket or a large cup–just make sure you use the same container for all of the dry components:

  • 2 parts Portland Cement (Don’t get Concrete!)  This stuff is really heavy–sold in 90 pound bags here in the United States.  It is very inexpensive
  • 3 parts Perlite. These are those lightweight white things you find in a lot of potting soil mixtures.  It give the hypertufa a pitted look, kind of acts as a form of gravel, like in concrete, and keeps the weight of the finished product very light.
  • 3 parts Peat Moss. Peta moss is also very lightweight.  It is spaghnum and is dug from the earth.  It can be broken up to a fine powder and will eventually decay from inside the hypertufa structure, causing voids that help offer great drainage potential for whatever you have planted inside the pot or trough.
  • Just enough Water. This is the final ingredient to the mix.  You will add a small amount of this and gradually mix it all together until it has the consistency of a mud pie or cottage cheese.  If you can form a solid ball and it stays exactly the way you form it, you’ve added enough water.  Add too much?  Your hypertufa might not come out.

As far as cost so far, I am out about $50, but I have TONS of material to make lots of different projects.  That’s not too bad for starting a new hobby!

> Go to part 2 of Making a Hypertufa Planter Trough

 

 

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