Friday, February 6, 2015

Cement draping planters, Draped hypertufa

I prepared this as a speech that I have given to a couple garden clubs,  these are essentially my speech notes.  Feel free to let me know if any part is not making sense to you.  I tried to get it as organized as possible.  

I  have been asked to describe a container creation method I have been using for making planters for my succulents.  It is a fun and inexpensive way to make containers and requires no special equipment. 
I found some info online about it but really just tried something and it worked for me.  You can look for cement draping and draped hypertufa instructions. 

Cement draping is fun and easy, and costs very little in materials.

Once you start looking you will find molds everywhere. 
Smooth flexible plastic is best, metal works, but you may have to fight to get it free of the piece.  If you have something that is not ideal you may want to wrap it in a plastic bag. 
Mismatched Tupperware works great, so do plastic planters.  You may want an item to use as a stand if your fabric exceeds the side of the mold.  Do not use oil to release the planter from the mold, it will prevent you from adding additional layers to the interior of your planter. 

You need:

One bag of Portland cement, (be real clear about this at the building yard, some "boys" seem to think that we know nothing and will give you concrete mix)

You may also want a texturing material to mix with the initial cement slurry.  A handful of peat moss, coir, vermiculite or fine perlite can give an interesting texture to the finished planter.

A dish pan or shallow bucket

Fleece or other material that is thick and fabric scissors.

A paint brush, not a fancy one, because it will be essentially ruined by the cement.

Something to store the left over dry cement in. 

With the cement, you must be aware of how caustic the wet material is.  Gloves are an absolute necessity.  You need chemical resistant gloves, I use heavy duty ones, but disposable nitrile ones will work as well.  You should wear glasses, sunglasses or safety glasses. A dust mask is also highly recommended for the initial mixing. 

This is the method I use:

I first scout out a mold, there are molds everywhere, just look.   I tend to have the mold kicking around so I can look at it to decide how I am going to cover it. 

I then take my fabric and loosely cut it to size.  I then play with the fabric a little to decide where I want the high and low points to be. 

Cut it to shape you want.  You can do squares, rectangles or any other conceivable shape. I usually go ahead and make a couple copies of the same basic shape so it takes less time later.


You don’t want to try to cut them later and it allows you to have an alignment point on the mold. 

Get a measuring cup, or something to use for estimating the amount of cement used.

I use about two cups of cement and approximately equal amounts of water per batch, ( I use a used 16 oz water bottle) this is enough to do a few planter’s first layer, or put a subsequent layer on several planters.  If you want to add a texture material like vermiculite do it in the first layer.

Soak the fabric in the slurry and align it on your mold set the folds how you want them to dry.  If it is warm you should be able to add a second coat in a few hours.  Within the next couple of days, once it is firmed up I carefully remove it from the mold, so it sits loosely on it and I then paint the inside of the piece.  You continue to add layers until it reaches the desired thickness that you want. 
I usually have several pieces in different stages of the process, and keep adding layers as I go.  It takes about a half an hour or so at a time to do a batch of planters.

Clean up!
Rinse everything when cement is wet, you may have to scrub it to get it to loosen off of the dish pan. 

I paint my planters, but you could also add a colorant to the cement slurry, or leave them natural. 

Planting is my favorite part!  I tend to cram the succulents in but you could use the same planter for other perennials and design the planters for the plant individual needs.

I almost always have planters in some stage of production, feel free to set up an appointment or come during one of my open sales to get a better idea of how to do the method.  (if you are local)

I hope I have inspired you to try a new, fun, and forgiving method for home-made planters. 

This is the planter that started it all.  It is actually hypertufa and I tried several times to get it to work again and I just kept having failures with the hypertufa method.  I fell in love with the design and had to come up with a way to get it to work.