Sep 4, 2015

Creating Hypertufa Pots

There are many blogs and websites on making Hypertufa but I feel many leave off important information and details. We have been doing Hypertufa and Sand-cast leaf workshops at Cypress Garden for about 15 years. The 2 day workshop is usually given in July or August. 



Aggregates are generally peat moss, coco peat, and perlite or vermiculite. I do not like perlite because it is white. Perlite does not look natural to me but it will make a light weight pot. 
The peat moss or cocoa peat must be sifted through ¼ inch hardware cloth to remove lumps and sticks.

Hypertufa made with the classic proportions for mortar (1 part cement: 3 parts aggregate) has a composition of
·         3 parts Type I Portland cement
·         4 parts peat sifted
·         5 parts vermiculite or perlite
For pots 1 parts cement: 3 parts aggregate
For stepping stones & bird baths 1 parts cement: 2 parts aggregate
To increase strength, polymer fibers, liquid acrylic fortifier, and fiberglass fibers may be incorporated into the mixture. Add the fibers to a quart of water and mix thoroughly and add to the mix. 
 Other aggregate like sand, pebbles, sea glass and crushed oyster shells can be added though they increase the pots weight. Powdered or liquid concrete dyes can be added to the water first to tint the hypertufa to resemble natural rock. Buff, red and brown are the best colors to use. Fibers that protrude from the pot after it is finished can be burned off with a lighter.
How much water depends, less water or a dry mix will make a lightweight pot but it will need to cure longer or it will break easily. Shaking or vibrating the mold will make a heaver pot because the air has been forced out but it will be stronger.
Molds should be coated with oil for easy release. 
Old nursery pots make great molds. Duct tape the holes on the outside. You will  need  two pots, one larger than the other there must be at least 2  inches between the pots. The inside pot should be filled with wet sand to keep it from floating up. You might need to cut the pot the next day to get them out. 
 Cheap or broken foam coolers can be used but they must be reinforced with duct tape or they can split. Foam blocks cut with an electric knife can be used for the inside mold. 
Foam molds need to be cut to get the hypertufa out, but they can be duct taped back together and used again. 
Stepping stones can be made out the bottoms of 5 gallon buckets, Pizza boxes and heart shapes candy boxes  covered with plasticOr  made from 5/8 plywood and aluminum flashing attached with flat head screws. Use cookie cutters for patterns and enlarge the design. Minimum thickness is 3 inches. 
Hardware cloth and chicken wire can be sandwiched in between for reinforcement. Sea glass, broken pottery, tiles, marbles can be placed on the bottom or top of stones when molding.  Press them in deep or they will pop out later. Unmold the next day and bevel the edges with an old file or rasp so water can flow off the stone  freely.  Brush with a wire brush. Use an old nail or ice pick to dig around the pottery and other stuff. After the stone has cured, wash with vinegar to remove any cement film from glass, tiles and pottery. 

 Home made molds made with 5/8 plywood and aluminum flashing attached with flat head screws. Only about 1/2 of the mold needs to be unscrewed to take out stone. Just like taking a cake out of the pan. Use a 5 in-1 tool lift the stone off the board. 
You only need to remove about the flashing to get the stone out.Use the 5 in 1 tool to lift it out of the mold. 
Use a wire brush to clean the surface of the tufa this will help expose the peat and vermiculite . Brush the stones until smooth. If you not not brush it your pot will just look like a concrete pot. 

Use a drill to make the hole in the bottom of your pot.
use an old bit 

Drill the holes 1-3 days later, large pots may need more than 1 hole.

Foam coolers from the Dollar Store make great molds
 Add duct tape for support
 Inside block form covered with plastic and oil. weighted down with  sand or a brick or it will float up

 Feet were made with blocks of foam placed in the bottom of the cooler before tufa cement was added.
 ( this pot is upside down)

oops

we made 2 batches to fill this mold the first pour was too wet and the second too dry.

finished pot
Edges were filed down  to give the pot an old worn look.


Adding Feet on the Bottom of your Pots

I like to add feet to the bottom of my pots. Feet help improve drainage by raising the pot up. Also I think they look look smart.  
I use wet sand to make these feet. This is called sand-casting
Make a raised cross shape in the bottom of your mold.
 shape tufa mix in a ball and add in the empty space between the sand 
add more tufa about 2 inches thick for the bottom of the pot


Next add a ring of tufa mix around the edge 
Add the inside pot, this should be weighted down with wet sand. This is important because the pot will float up as you add the tufa mix. Keep add the mix until you reach the top. 
Pick the pot up and drop it on the table a few times to settle the tufa mix.
 sand on the bottom also helps the mold come free more easily. Next step is to wash away the sand - usually the next day.




Decorating Your Pot

be sure to press the decoration in deep while the tufa mix is still damp, 


the fluting on this pot was from the fluted nursery pot used as a mold


After the pot has cured for a few weeks the decorations can be cleaned with vinegar to remove any cement film.


To make sea glass: add broken glass to a rock tumbler with a hand full of sand with water and tumble for about 3 days. 


Aug 30, 2015

Late Summer Surprises #Lycoris


By Kathy Woolsey
Late summer thunderstorms often bring unexpected color to the garden.  Summer blooming bulbs seem to pop up overnight with names like Surprise Lily, Magic Lily, Spider Lily, Naked Lady and Rain Lily.

Lycoris are members of the Amaryllis family and are reliable bulbs here in the south (USA). The red Lycoris radiate, by far the most popular, is often called the red spider lily along with a host of other common names. These heirloom plants are originally from China and can be found in many old gardens. They pop up in September and October so they are sometimes called Hurricane lilies too. After the flowers die, the foliage comes up and will stay green most of the winter. The foliage looks very much like Liriope foliage with a faint white line running down the center.  It is important to recognize the foliage and not cut it down.  All bulbs need to have the foliage actively growing in order to bloom again. Red Lycoris foliage will die down in spring and this is a good time to dig and divide the bulbs.  You will be surprised how many bulbs will be in one clump.  The bulbs should be replanted soon after digging.  The red spider lily is very tolerant of wet soils and can be planted next to ponds or in rain gardens.
The Pink Lycoris squamigera is another old garden favorite. It is often called Resurrection Lily because the flower pops up almost overnight after the foliage dies. These flowers are larger than the red spider lilies. The pink flowers are blushed with a faint lavender color and have a soft fragrance. The best time to divide these bulbs is just after the flowers fade in the early fall. Be sure to be plant them before spring arrives. The Pink Lycoris is sometimes confused with Amaryllis Belladonna; however the Belladonna lily often fails to bloom around here.  I have had some Belladonna lilies now for 3 years and still no blooms.

There is a yellow spider lily too. Lycoris aurea looks like a yellow form of the red spider lily but it is a different species.  The golden yellow blooms will brighten any shady spot in the late summer garden.  Lycoris aurea are larger than the red spider lily and bloom over a longer time.
Lycoris are members of the Amaryllis family and there are over 20 species, all of them native to eastern Asia. There are some interesting Japanese Hybrids available on the on the internet. One of these days I am going to try some of these when the price drops. 
All Lycoris have very few pests and are not eaten by deer. They should be planted in part shade with a little organic or slow release fertilizer. Once planted, they will last for years and the only reason to divide them is to share with friends.  Lycoris also make great cut flowers and will last a long time in the vase. #bulbs, #Lycoris, # Surprise Lily, #Magic Lily, #Spider Lily



Jul 23, 2015

The Summer Time Blues


I probable spend more time than most people thinking about color in the garden.  When I shop for plants, I notice what other people have in their cart.  I usually observe a riot of colors.  I wonder if all those flowers are going in the same bed.  Impulse buying is rampant in garden centers.  We all know that when you go shopping for groceries you should plan your menu before you go to avoid impulse buys.  Gardeners need to have a plan before shopping too.  In many ways, interior design and landscaping have much in common.  After all, good design is good design.  In your house you picked a style or theme along with a color palette.  You should do the same in your garden.  In the front garden, you might want bold colors that contrast with you house colors.  In the back yard you might want soft and cool colors for a relaxing escape.  
Think of a theme for your garden.  Do you want a formal garden or a whimsical garden? Perhaps you would like your garden to be a tropical paradise or Asian inspired.  Then there are wildlife gardens for birds, butterflies and bees. 
Early this spring I was standing next to my front flower bed trying to come up with a plan. I looked over to my blue bottle tree surrounded by blue hydrangeas.  It was then I decided to plant blue flowers in my front bed.  Now blue is not the usual color for a garden on the street.  Highway colors like red, orange and yellow are good choices to show up from the road.  But since this garden would be viewed from a sidewalk, I thought blue would work.
Blue flowers that thrive in our area are few, but I thought I would have fun hunting for them.  For the sake of argument, I will include purple in with blue.  After all purple is a rather new color. It appears that our ancestors did not distinguish purple from blue, so it was all blue.  That may explain why so many plants that have blue in their name look purple to us.  
Salvias, or sages as they are commonly called, come in many colors and there’s plenty of blue ones that will stand up to our hot summers.  Mexican Sage Salvia leucantha, Bog Sage Salvia uliginosa, Anise-scented sage Salvia guaranitica and Blue Sage Salvia farinacea  are just a few of the perennial sages that do well in our gardens. 
The Mexican Sage blooms in late summer and fall but has attractive grey green foliage during the summer.  Be careful with the bog sage.  This South American plant will overrun a flower bed.  There are many cultivars of Salvia guaranitica available such as 'Argentine Skies' with pale blue flowers, 'Black and Blue' almost black calyx and deep blue flowers, and 'Purple Splendor' with purple flowers. ‘Mystic Spires’ is a new hybrid of Salvia longispicata x farinacea that blooms heavily all summer till frost.   All of these Salvias are perennials, need full sun and all except the bog sage need well drained soil.

Another good flower that comes in many shades of blue is the Wishbone Flower or Torenia. This low growing annual is a native of Vietnam and no stranger to heat and humidity. It will thrive in sun and part shade.  Torenia is also a good plant for baskets and window boxes and will creep nicely over the edges.

Evolvulus glomeratus whose common name is Blue Daze is a wonderful short perennial with many sky blue flowers. The flowers are about the size of a nickel and last for only one day, opening in the morning and closing by afternoon.  This neat compact plant is perfect in the front border and in formal gardens.  It rarely gets over 6 inches high and about 1 foot in diameter.  Blue Daze grows best in well-drained soil and full sun but will take a little shade in the afternoon.  I have lost this Brazilian native during cold wet winters but it is worth replanting in the spring.

Liriope or border grass is a common plant in our gardens but is often over looked as a flowering plant. In fact this plant is not a grass but a member of the lily family and some folks call it Lilytuft.  In July liriope has spikes of pale blue flowers.  I think it does best in shade and part shade with average garden soil.

I planted a blue Plumbago but I afraid it will not get enough sun to bloom well. This South African plant thrives in the heat, needs full sun and good drainage.  Dead heading the flowers and occasional fertilizing will keep it  blooming till frost.

Although it is July there is still plenty of time to add blue flowers to the garden.  After all, we usually don’t get a killing frost till after Thanksgiving. 

Other blue flowering plants that I have found: Blue Passion Flower, Stokes Aster, Althea, Hydrangea, Spiderwort, Vitex, Butterfly Bush, Blue Porterweed, Liatris, Lobelia, Iris, Blue Mistflower, Borage and Cardoon. When winter comes, I will search for blue pansies and violas to add to my blue garden. Looks like I am going to have the blues for a while.
African Basil


Vitex
Iris Versicolor
Blue Daze

Spiderwort
blue salvia

cardoon

Borage

lemon balm






Jun 11, 2015

Sumertime and the Basil is Easy


While watering my tomato plants. I daydream about food. My mouth waters for that first BLT sandwich of the summer.  What could be better than a home grown tomato slices on top of hickory smoked bacon, iceberg lettuce and, of course, Dukes mayonnaise.  I always think it is important to sprinkle the salt and pepper on top of the tomato slices and the Dukes needs to be on both slices of the toasted bread. 
But crispy bacon is not the only food that pairs well with home grown tomatoes.  I also look forward to a little snack I call Italian toast.  I slice up fresh basil and mix it in olive oil in a shallow dish. Then I slice up a baguette and dip the bread in the oil and basil. I top these with fresh made mozzarella cheese and a slice of tomato.  The bread is placed on a baking sheet.  I pour the remaining oil mix over the tomatoes.  Pop this in a hot oven until the cheese melts and serve.  Good summer eats.
Basil is a very versatile and easy to grow herb if done right. I think the biggest mistake gardeners make is planting too early. Basil, like its ornamental cousin the Coleus, hates the cold. Basil will suffer if the soil is cold and wet. Planting in early spring can lead to root rot especially if we get amply rain.  Basil will languish in the cool spring nights we all enjoy and thrive in the heat.  Tomatoes, on the other hand, do better with cool night temperatures and languish in the heat.  I usually plant my tomatoes about a month before the basil. This spring, I waited till May to plant the Basil because of the unusually cool temperatures.  It is not too late to plant basil, because we have 3 to 4 months of hot weatherstill ahead of us.
Basil was originally thought to come from India and spread east and west.  Southeast Asia is known for several types of basil each with its unique favor. Siam Queen and Thai Basil are popular varieties that can easily be found here.  To the west, Italians developed Basil with a slight licorice flavor.  Basil can be found in pizzas and pasta dishes and is the main ingredient for pesto.   If you love Italian cuisine, then you should grow Italian Large Leaf Basil or Genovese.  The most common Basil found in stores around here is Sweet Basil. It is good all-purpose basil but the flavor is mild and the plants have a lower yield than Italian Large Leaf Basil and Genovese.  All three basils make a good pesto. If you like milder flavors in your pesto, try Lemon Basil.  To keep your basil productive, pinch off any flower heads.  Once basil starts to bloom it will stop growing.
There are ornamental basils that are worth trying too.  Dark Opal, Purple Ruffles, Red Rubin and African Blue are just a few.  I like to grow African Blue as a pollinator plant for bees and butterflies.  It is a sterile hybrid that will bloom all summer with spikes of lavender flowers. These plants have purple stems and veins. The leaves have a camphor scent which I do not think would be a good flavor in any dish.  
Local Herbalist Vivian Whorley (Graham’s mom) sends her pesto recipe which can be easily made in a food processor.  Add each ingredient one at the time and pulse the machine a few times between each ingredient.  Serve on pasta hot or cold.
Vivian’s Southern Pesto
2 cups of Big Leaf Basil or Genovese.
½ cup pecans
½ freshly grated parmesan
2 cloves of garlic
2/3 cup olive oil
A little salt and pepper.
thanks for reading -Kathy
#Basil, #Tomatoes, #pesto