Make Your Own Hypertufa ContainerHypertufa looks like stone but weighs less and takes whatever shape you want
by Michelle Gervais
Containers made from hypertufa are wonderful for displaying rock-garden plants or succulents.Over time, the hypertufa ages gracefully, collecting a patina of mosses and lichens. In this articleyou will find the recipe and instructions for making hypertufa.
The process I use to mold containers is much simpler that the usual box-in-box method thatsandwiches hypertufa and some metal mesh in a frame. Instead, I simply pack hypertufa around anoverturned plastic pot or planter. And because it's so easy to work with, hypertufa can be molded
mixing tub container for measuring peat moss perlite Portland cement concrete reinforcing fibers dust mask rubber gloves trowel plastic drop cloth plastic container for a mold wire brush
1 part Portland cement1 112parts sphagnum peat mossI 112parts perlite
To add strength, I add a small handful of fibermesh, a synthetic concrete reinforcing fiber, to eachbatch, which is easier to work with than sheets of wire mesh embedded in the hypertufa. You canfind fibermesh at masonry-supply stores or online.
Five easy steps
Measure and mix the peat moss, perlite, cement, and a small handful of reinforcingfibers in your tub. You'll kick up plenty of dust at this stage, so be sure to wear yourdust mask.
Add the water while stirring with your trowel. Test the consistency frequently, as it'smuch easier to add water than it is to readjust the dry ingredients. When a squeezedhandful retains its shape and doesn't release more than a few drops of water, the mix isready.
Mold the mixture around the chosen object, which has been placed upside down on theplastic drop cloth. Avoid objects with a pronounced lip since it would make the objectdifficult to remove from the finished container.
Pack the mixture up around the sides of the object, tamping it down firmly to bond thehypertufa to itself and to avoid a crumbly texture. A 1- to 2-inch layer on all sides willcreate strong walls.
Flatten the intended bottom of the completely covered object for stability, and shapethe sides to a desired form. Then poke your finger through the bottom to create adrainage hole.
Wrap the container in the plastic sheeting, and place it in a shady spot for about a dayto let it harden.
Remove the wrapping after the hypertufa has had a day to harden. The mixture will befirm but still soft enough to work with. Turn the container over, and remove the mold.
Brush the sharp edges and the smooth top, if desired, to give a rougher, more naturallook to the container.
Rewrap your container, and place it in a shady place for another two days. Thenunwrap it, and soak it with a hose periodically over the period of a few weeks to leachout the residual lime from the cement, which would harm plants.
To dress up your container, place evergreen sprigs or thick leaves around the rim of the mold beforeyou start building the sides of your container. Lift them gently from the rim when you remove themold.
4 Proven Hypertufa Recipes
Basic Hypertufa Recipe A
1 part Portland cement
1112 parts peat
1112 parts perlite
Basic Hypertufa Recipe B
1 part Portland cement
1112 parts peat
1112 parts vermiculite
Vermiculite, instead of perlite, will add a little extra weight to your object.
Hypertufa Recipe For Added Strength
1 part Portland cement
1 part sand
1 part peat
1 part perlite or vermiculite
Hypertufa Recipe With Fiber Mesh For Added Strength
2 parts Portland cement
2 parts perlite
1112 parts peat moss
112 part coarse sand
1 large handful nylon fiber mesh
Concrete Leaf Sculptures
.:. Masonry Sand - usually sold in 60 pound bags, or sold loose from Concrete supplier, 5 gallonplastic buckets work well for transporting sand
.:. Portland Cement - Type II usually sold in 80 or 90 pound bags
+!+ Strong Boxes with low sides - may reinforce inside bottom with extra cardboard, particle boardor plywood cut to fit size of box .
:. Plastic garbage bags to line the cardboard box
+::+ Thin plastic to cover sand mound and curing leaf (produce bags or dry cleaning bags are good)
.:. Plastic dish pan for mixing
.:. Hand trowel for mixing
.:. Three 32 ounce plastic yogurt containers - I for scooping cement.I for scooping sand, 1 forwater
.:. Plastic gloves - this is a must, cement contains lime and is very drying to your skin
.:. Dust mask to cover nose and mouth - wear this when scooping and stirring the dry cementpowder
.:. Metal hangers or copper pipe fittings fOT mounting on pole. On very large leaves a cast ironthreaded floor flange may be used in lieu of the copper fitting .
:.. Sheet rock taping mesh or metal wire mesh for reinforcing the backs on large leaves
When selecting the leaf to use for your mold, focus on the veins on the backside of the leaf.Prominent veins are what you want. It is only the back of the leaf that you will be using for yourimpression. Choose a good strong leaf with no holes, if possible. If you do have a few small holesthese may be patched with duct tape. If you do this make sure your patches are applied to the frontside of the leaf (the side facing down on the sand mound).
Prepare your Box
Line your cardboard box with a plastic garbage bag and lay in a mound of damp sand. On top of thesand you will place clear plastic, such as produce bags which have been slit open to lay flat. Fit theleaf face down on the plastic covered sand mound. Spend some time shaping the sand mound,ensuring that your leaf is well supported. Decide ifyou want your leaf tips to angle up or down,allow for dips and wavy edges, building sand up for support where needed. The idea is not to makethe leaf flatten out, but make it wavy and crinkly, just at it looks while growing on the plant.
Prepare your Mix
In a dish pan, use l'iPart,: sand &,rpart cement. After mixing the dry ingredients together, slowlyadd water mixing as you go. You are looking for a stiff mix the consistency of bread dough.
Apply your mix
Form little patty cakes in your hands and press onto the leaf back starting at the base of the leaf andworking towards the edges. Be careful not to let your mix Spread out past the leaf edges. Theconcrete mix should be about 12inch thick towards the center of the l~~~ring to ~J!.tt!_e_t~jIl!!.er3:Syou go toward the edges. If your leaf is large, you may want to embed wire mesh reinforcementtoward the center of the leaf, especially under where your fittings or brackets will be placed. Addyour mounting brackets or pipe fittings last, taking care to place extra material around the insertedobjects for strength.
Cover the finished work with thin plastic and allow the concrete to set up for 24 to 36 hours beforehandling. At this point you may carefullyturn the leaf over on the mound and if the leaf gives way, itmay be peeled off at this point. You might want to scrape away any rough edges during this greencure' period. After the leaf is unmolded, the piece is still curing and should be spray misted foranother day or two. '
Painting or Decorating
Once the leaf is completely dry, it is ready to be painted. A primer may be used for extra durability.If you use a primer, choose a grey auto body type, or any water base primer that says it works onmetal or concrete. To color the leafuse acrylic paint such as Delta Ceramcoat. Try applying severaldifferent colors sequentially, wiping away the excess of one before applying the next. This gives theleaf a rich looking layered affect. The backside of the leaf can be painted dark green. After the paintis totally dry, seal the leafwith an exterior polyurethane aerosol spray. Two or three coats are good.Avoid marine type varnish as water tends to turn it white.
If you prefer the unpainted look and would like to encourage moss growth, mix a handful ofsphagnum moss or other moss with plain yogurt. Coat the leaf with this mixture and let it sit in amoist shady spot to age. If you know that you will not be painting your leaf, you will want to paintthe backside of the leafwith liquid concrete fortifier, such as the "pakmix' brand. Paint the fortifier(full strength) onto the freshly molded leaf just as it starts to set up (about 10 minutes after you finishmolding).