Hypertufa Garden Sphere-DIY Tutorial

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Stone in a garden just does something to me.  I love the patina, texture and architectural interest it weaves  into a natural setting. Its earthy color makes it easy to incorporate into any garden for a rich yet subtle sculptural effect.  It whispers of antiquity and timelessness.  Stone spheres as garden ornamentation in particular, imparts a quiet serenity in the space.

Three orbs sit among a perennial bed of bluebells, enhancing but not detracting from the beauty of the flowers.

An added bonus of stone garden ornamentation, is that it can be mobile and moved around the garden at a whim if it is not too heavy.

Stone spheres are usually expensive and finding one, often a random lucky discovery on one’s travels.  Good places to search are in architectural salvage stores.

Two of my spheres invite attention on a garden wall alongside an antique olive oil urn.  The brand new spheres have an ancient looking patina that blends perfectly with the old urn.

For many years I have been making hypertufa containers for my garden.  It never occured to me to try making garden spheres.  After some research I found instructions on how to make them and they were quite easy.  I played around with 3 techniques and all of them yielded beautiful spheres. All the orbs I created were solid.  In the first technique, I used an inflated ball as the mold.  In the second technique, 2 round soup bowls without any rims were sandwiched together to serve as a sort of hinged mold.  In the third technique, I shaped a small orb free hand.  For all methods, I used the standard ratio of 1 part Portland cement, 1 part perlite and 1 part peat moss with just enough water to create a thick mixture.   I just adjusted the quantity of the mixture to fill the molds.

Materials needed:

You will need a large bucket, a mask to protect you from the cement dust, rubber gloves, kitchen scissors to cut the top of the ball, a rubber ball to use as a mold, water, equal measures of Portland cement, perlite and peat moss and a box to secure the sphere as it cures.  You will need a plastic bag large enough to hold the sphere as it cures.

Cut a small opening on the top of the ball large enough to get your hand through. The ball will deflate a bit but don’t worry. When you add the cement, it will regain its shape.

Add enough water to your mixture, and using your gloved hands, work it until it forms a thick paste. Start filling the ball with the hypertufa mixture until full.  You will need to get your hand inside the ball often to really pack the stone into  every nook and cranny.  You will know you have it full when the surface of the ball is restored to its original shape.  I was surprised at how much stone was needed to fill the mold and had not mixed enough the first time.  I simply mixed a second batch and continuted filling the ball.  Once it is full, place the ball in a plastic bag, tie it and secure it in a box to keep it immobile while it is setting.  Cure an initial 48 hours in the mold.

After 48 hours of initial curing: Using kitchen shears and working on newspaper, cut away the rubber ball and discard. Your sphere will have some markings at the top where the cut-out hole is. Mine also had a horizontal striation where I had run out of hypertufa stone and had to mix a second batch. At this stage, the cement is still pretty soft. So take a paring knife and gently scrape away to remove any lines you don’t esthetically like.

The markings on my sphere before I remove them.

The surface of my sphere after I carved away the unsightly markings. You could use sandpaper to achieve a similar result.  At this stage, rebag the sphere in the plastic bag and cure for a week, securing the sphere in a box to stabilize it.

The second technique I developed was to use 2 rimless soup bowls from my kitchen that that a perfect rounded shape.  For this technique, you must generously spray the inside of the bowl with cooking spray to be sure you can separate the mold.  The rest of the technique is exactly as described above.  I liked this technique as I could lift the mold and look at my mixture once it was packed in tight and use my hand to smooth any air bubbles.  I also liked that I could reuse these soup bowls as subsequent molds.  Because I only had 3 molds and I made 2 spheres at the same time, I let one half of the first one dry outside the mold.  Both spheres cured the same way.

The third way I created hypertufa spheres was free hand.  With some left over material I created a finial for an antique cloche(Eastcote Lane, Devon, PA).  I really like the organic texture of the finial against the glass.  When the material was still soft, I notched the bottom with the rim of the cloche by spinning it on the rim a few times so it would lock into place once dry.  I let it cure in a plastic bag for a week like with all the other spheres.  I just love the way this little finial turned out.

My friend Inta is perhaps the gardener I admire the most for her expert eye at integrating architectural elements masterfully in the garden landscape.  Plants remain the focal point in her garden while architectural salvage and other sculptures provide unique punctuations of texture and interest.  You can visit Inta’s incredible garden here to be inspired and mesmerized!

I hope you have enjoyed learning how to make hypertufa garden spheres with me today.  These examples were my very first attempts at making them and I assure you they are easy to make.  In a future post I will share how to grow moss on these hypertufa spheres.  One of the deterrent to making hypertufa projects is that Portland cement is sold in 96 lb bags.  My awesome local hardware, Do It Best in Wayne, PA, repackages broken bags into 10 lbs bags for small projects which they sell for a few dollars. It’s worth asking if you can purchase a smaller amount.  I made all 4 sheres with just one 10 lb bag of cement.

Happy gardening!

Terrarium Gardening

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Terrarium:  a glass container, chiefly or wholly enclosed, for growing and displaying plants.

Terrariums provide a wonderful indoor gardening activity  and are easy to make. The materials needed to create a terrarium such as drainage pebbles, soil and small plants are readily available and virtually any container can be repurposed into a terrarium.  Having greenery around during the winter months is a surefire way to beat the blues and terrarium gardening is a fun creative outlet. Low maintenance needs make terrariums very appealing.

To prepare this post I visited my local Terrain at Styers store for inspiration and to purchase plants. They have a whole section of ready made terrariums or all plants and materials to build your own. I created my own closed container terrarium and documented the process to walk  you through the step-by-step construction.  Then I met with my talented gardening friend  Missy who sells terrariums she creates, to have her share her best tips for successful terrarium construction and to teach us all her creative design secrets. You are in for a treat!

Terrain at Styers creation

Terrain at Styers creation

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Christmas Brunch Among the Wrappings

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“Man cannot live on presents alone.” NYTimes

I love that quote!  After the last present has been opened, your loved ones will be famished.  Many of these brunch recipes can be made ahead, leaving you to savor the magic of the season too.  From sweet to savory, all of these recipes are delicious and sure to please your peeps as you break the fast together on Christmas morn.

Cranberry Orange Scones

Festive with a wonderful orange glaze.

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Candy Cane Poinsettia Centerpiece-DIY

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Did you know December 12th is National Poinsettia Day in the US?  To celebrate, I’ve got a tutorial for creating a fun candy cane covered vase for a small poinsettia.  The poinsettia is a member of the spurge family and is indigenous to Mexico.  Its English name originated from the first US minister to Mexico, Joel Roberts Poinsett, who introduced the plant to the US in 1825.  In Mexico the plant is called Flor de Noche Buena or Christmas Eve Flower, which is such a pretty name.  The Aztecs used the plant to produce red dye and as an anti pyretic.  Today, the plant is mostly ornamental and beloved around the world.  Did you know that the flowers of the poinsettia are really small and grouped in the yellowish center of the colored bracts?  That’s right.  The bright red “flowers” of the classic poinsettia are actually its leaves.  The bracts can also be pink, cream, orange, pale green or marbled.  Now let’s get to this fun project!

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Christmas Evergreen Front Door Swag

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This year our front entrance is showing some swagger for the holidays.  Instead of a wreath, I made a large swag with evergreens cut from around my garden then adorned it with ribbons, pine cones, pheasant feathers, ornaments in gold and burgundy and even some jingle bells.  I love the scent of fresh greens to greet one and all at the holidays.  Take a look at how it came together.

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A Handmade Christmas

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There is something about the holidays that brings out the creativity in me.  I enjoy making gifts for loved ones.  It slows the holiday frenzy down and I can savor time at home instead of rushing around. It’s fun to gather a group of friends to create together over a glass of warm cider, hot chocolate or wine.   Most of these ideas from the archives can come together in very little time and are easy on the budget.  Click on the highlighted link to get the instructions.   I hope you will find a spark of inspiration to create handmade gifts for everyone on your list.   Priceless.

Hot Chocolate On a Stick

The best hot chocolate ever and so adorable to wrap!

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7 Fall Decor DIY’s

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“Autumn binds poetry in its own withered leaves. “~Terri Guillemets

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When fall arrives, does your nesting instincts  go into full gear?  Mine sure do!  Here are some easy DIY fall decor projects you can create at home to celebrate autumn and get the creativity juices flowing.  My favorites are the botanical pumpkins and the no-water fall window box.  I have even included one that I wanted to love but struggled with, the Mason jar leaf hurricanes, so you can avoid the same mistakes I made.  Happy fall! Continue reading