My new hypertufa troughs

leftwood(z4a MN)November 4, 2005

Early this fall, I mixed three batches of hypertufa and made troughs. All but the smallest one were made with plywood forms, each with both an outside and an inside frame. (The draditional method.) The small one was produced using the inside of a small plastic dishwashing tub (one that fits in a sink).

All three mixes were the same but with varying amounts of black concrete coloring. Even in the photo, you can pick out the three shades of gray. I used liquid coloring, mixing it in at the end so the color was not uniform throughout. The results are very pleasing, but surprisingly uniform anyway. Yet the subtle color difference is there and I'm sure contributes to the overall effect. Also surprising is the amount of coloring needed. I wish I had used more. Note to self: Even with the black coloring, remember the final hue will be MUCH lighter.

I still have to do the final torching to burn off the exposed reinforcing fibers, but hey, you can't see that anyway.

I may have gotten a bit carried away with the carving, some being too deep. I'm a little afraid that I have sacrificed too much of the strength integrity. Especially on the taller troughs, I plan to insert a couple thin sheets of styrofoam vertically in the soil that I hope will alleviate some of the freeze expansion pressure. I guess only time will tell. Comments and critiques are most appreciated.


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jspece(Josh - z4 IA)

VERY nice! I've never colored mine, but I like the darker tint.

I think your texturing looks good...a lot of work, though! I've got a couple larger ones made with the two wooden molds, but we didn't do much to add texture to the outside. They look ok, but not great.

Now the fun part...landscaping them! Any ideas?

Though not planted with conventional alpines, this is my favorite, to date...

One of my larger troughs...a little over grown...

    Bookmark   November 4, 2005 at 7:28PM
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leftwood(z4a MN)

jspece, I especially like your first photo. Make it interesting even without the plants, and the plants will blend right in - almost natural like.

I prefer climate gardens. That's fancy talk for planting plants with like requirements. It's only logical. But then you can have shade troughs, dryland troughs, always moist troughs, you get the idea. And some topography like what is evident in your first pic is nice. I finally have homes for all those plants in individual pots, like:
Orostachys spinosa
Allysum oviense (will this stays small enough?)
Escobaria viviparia
Pediocactus simpsonii
Thalictrum kiusianum
Veronica alpina
Delosperma basuticum
Hosta miniatures

Our Rock Garden Society has been asked to to a program at the Minneapolis Home and Garden Show next March. I think I will end up doing most of the program, and troughs will be part of it. How fortuitous that I now have a work in progress to show, along with planted troughs.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2005 at 7:49PM
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jspece(Josh - z4 IA)

I'm with you on the "climate gardens". They just look odd if you toss in a mix match of plants.

The two posted above are both shade troughs. It is a natural result of my hosta addiction! I really love Thalictrum is in the left corner of the second pic. Blooms forever.

Here's a more conventional planting. Unfortunately, it was one of my first and I didn't have any sort of gasp on how to winter them. Too bad...a good friend (the master!) helped me do it.

    Bookmark   November 5, 2005 at 8:37PM
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leftwood(z4a MN)

Nothing to apologize for there!
What is that very cool variegated plant in the center?

    Bookmark   November 6, 2005 at 12:21AM
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shrubs_n_bulbs(z8/9 UK)

Very nice. I think I'm going to have a play with hypertufa this winter and see what I can make for planting up in the spring.

    Bookmark   November 6, 2005 at 7:40AM
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leftwood(z4a MN)

My favorite tools for texturing and carving surfaces are a very stiff wire brush, an inside corner paint scraper and a flat paint scraper. A puddy knife works like a flat paint scraper, but isn't as rigid. Depending on your recipe, or length of curing, that extra rigidity can be a god-send.

What about you?

    Bookmark   November 6, 2005 at 9:03AM
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jspece(Josh - z4 IA)

We usually use a wire brush and a trowl to rough up the surface and round the edges. It is easier and faster if you do it before it is completely dried.

That cool little plant is Bukniczia (Aeonopsis) cabulica. Unfortunately only hardy to zone 6. I've never been able to keep one through the winter. Pretty, even if treated as an annual.

Here is a link that might be useful: Bukniczia (Aeonopsis) cabulica

    Bookmark   November 6, 2005 at 1:26PM
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sagebrushred(zone 5)

They are lovely. I do have to admit I'm partial to the darker colored troughs. Have you ever seen or made any troughs with a more reddish or brown coloration?

Buknicizia is a fun little plant. I'm hoping mine makes it through the winter. Is that Juniperus squamata 'blue star' in the upper portion of the trough?

    Bookmark   November 7, 2005 at 4:36PM
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jspece(Josh - z4 IA)

Sage...I think it is 'Blue Star'. I don't remember, exactly, but they were nothing special or unusual.

    Bookmark   November 7, 2005 at 5:19PM
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leftwood(z4a MN)

I am a conifer nut too, and that is definitely Blue Star juniper. Yes, it is rather common now, but rightly so! It's a great plant jspece, thanks for the ID of that most interesting plant.

Sagebrushred, your experience with the rising temperatures is typical. Even with established plants in pots (or in the ground), it's amazing what shade can do in the trying time of the season. I had a few trays of assorted alpines in mostly sun, and they were doing fine . . . or so I thought. Company came over, and I moved them to a very shady spot. They remained there for a week, and when I went to put them back, it was like they had been rejuvinated! I have small alpine willows that are very particular about the heat, but even my potted Pulsatilla turczaninovii benefitted from the shade.

Grandmasgarden and all, maybe we should make better use of our exchange page. Wouldn't want those excess seeds to go to waste. I have a few kinds of alpine seed, and I just put them on the page. How 'bout it, any takers?

Sagebrushred, in fact I have made troughs with powdered terra cotta coloring, sort of. I taught and supervised some GW friends on their first ventures. Julie had the coloring. I wasn't too excited about it, but they were their troughs, so I wasn't about to discourage them. And actually the results are quite pleasing.

Incidently, I guess at one point I was remiss in my supervision, as both of their troughs have a layer tufa that is not packed as well as the rest. Both at the same level. I worried the troughs might separate at that weak point, but everything seems to be fine so far. In reality, that layer adds to the beauty of the containers, giving them a natural strata quality. I just might be experimenting a bit in the future, and an incorporating a facsimile thereof.


    Bookmark   November 7, 2005 at 7:52PM
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sagebrushred(zone 5)

Hmmm, I like the idea of a multicolored trough. Perhaps in an unconventional shape as well, that would emphasize the variation in color.

Indeed 'Blue Star' is one of my favorites. As far as dwarf/miniature conifers go junipers are about the only ones that will live in my open garden conditions. This is one reason I want to get a trough or two built. Then I can try growing other conifers that need cultural conditions other than what I have now. As well as some mini Rhododendrons, Salix, etc.... the list goes on.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2005 at 12:16PM
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clovis_rdf(Inferno's zone)

Generally I makes more than one troughs at the time and use more than a batch of colored hypertuffa. I use, green, yellow, red and black pigments.
Then it's easy to makes variation in the color with each new batch.

The making of...

Here is a link that might be useful: Some of my troughs

    Bookmark   January 2, 2006 at 7:16AM
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shrubs_n_bulbs(z8/9 UK)

That's a great page. I love the way you've combined the colours.

    Bookmark   January 4, 2006 at 7:28PM
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