Many years ago I remember watching the great Geoff Hamilton on Gardener’s World making “fake rocks” from something called hypertufa and even though I was too young at the time to do it myself I always recall wanting to try it when I was a grown up.
I’m not quite sure I’ve ever actually “grown up” but I do love my garden and I also love trying to be creative, successfully or otherwise, it doesn’t matter, as long as I’ve had a go!
With that in mind, a few years ago I made my first batch of hypertufa, I made pots, used boxes for moulds and actually was quite pleased with the results, I have moved a few times since then and the pots either got left behind, or broken so it was about time I made some more!
There are various mixtures all over the internet, I used 2 parts cement to 3 parts compost and 3 parts perlite, you can add some synthetic strengthening fibres to the mix but as I was only making small scale so I didn’t need them. If you are planning on making something huge then they would be a good idea to stop it breaking when you lift it.
- 2 parts cement
- 3 parts perlite
- 3 parts compost
As with any cement mix, add water and thoroughly combine the materials – the important thing with hypertufa is not to make it too wet! If your mixture is sloppy then it will crumble back to dust when it dries and all your hard work will be wasted! A consistency of clay is almost ideal, if you hold a handful, squeeze it and let go, it should hold it’s shape without falling apart or oozing between your fingers. (I should have worn gloves by the way)
Moulding and making
The mix was ready and I had found a few things to use as moulds for the first few pots, one of them was an old glass kitchen lampshade which was going to make a nice shallow bowl, I covered it with cling film – to make sure it didn’t stick later on – and started pressing handfuls of the mix inside it, starting near the middle and working my way out, I tried to make it about an inch thick all the way around until I had covered the inside completely.
I also used an old sweet tin (sprayed inside with WD40 to stop any sticking) a small cardboard box, a fruit box and, bizarrely, I decided to fill up a latex glove with the mixture too to see what it came out like and I also made a small, free-form, shallow container too
Patience is now vital, I covered over the various pots and troughs and left them for nearly a week to completely dry out, I’m not usually this patient but I knew that to interfere with them now would probably break the things I made and mess them up completely.
It was worth the wait, with only one mishap – my tub of builders PVA came in handy at this point..
Further waiting followed to let them cure even more, however, this was a good time to go out and buy lots of lovely plants to put in them!
I chose alpines including Sempervivum, saxifrage, mazus and delosperma, that will all look good in this particular setting, all being low growing ground cover type plants. They are low maintenance plants, making them ideal for a beginner too!
I planted up some of the pots I had made, using ordinary multi-purpose compost but not using any additional feeds etc, top dressing it all with a silver grit finished off the look nicely and I found a few large “rocks” to decorate the top a little.
Overall I’m very pleased with the result and the plants are already filling out nicely and looking very “natural” in their new homes.
I’ve been gardening for as long as I can remember, my first earliest memory being planting seeds in my Grandfather’s prestige flower bed and having a prize lettuce growing there, which he proudly left to show everyone.
Since then, gaining knowledge and experience from both my Grandfather and my Father, I’ve continued to garden, both as a hobby and later on as a professional gardener and landscaper for 12 years. I love all aspects of it, from the design and build, to the planting out of summer borders with plants you’ve either grown from seed or raised from plugs. Unusual varieties always catch my eye and I’m keen to try growing them, even if sometimes it means learning from my mistakes.