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Make a hypertufa or clay sculpture for the garden

by Drucilla James

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Sculptures can add extra points of interest to the garden. With simple ingredients, you can easily make your own hypertufa to produce features which are lighter in weight than concrete and easily swapped around to create a change of scene.

Things you’ll need

  • Cement
  • Moss peat
  • Vermiculite or Mica cavity wall insulation material. (The wall insulation is far less expensive, comes in large bags and what is left over can be used in the garden).
  • A spade or shovel to mix with.
  • Depending on the shape you want to make – a “mould” such as a garden container that gives a half ball shape etc.
  • A bucket of water.

Step by step

hypertufa ingredients

  1. Measure out the materials to make the “tufa”. The proportions we used were two parts mica to one of peat and one of cement. This proportion makes a strong yet light material that is easy to mould and light enough to be moved around.
  2. Mix together thoroughly until all the components are equally distributed.
  3. Add water to a well in the centre and mix with the shovel until a moist but not soggy material has been formed. The best test is to, using gardening gloves, squeeze two handfuls together and see that they hold together as a small ball shape. Add water as necessary until this is achieved.
  4. We made a toadstool ornament by making the cup top first by moulding it by hand on a plastic sheet and then making the stalk by placing the rest of the mix in a long plastic window box container as a mould. The material was then left overnight to set and then the two components were placed in position and joined together.

Hypertufa sculpture

If you don’t want to make your own moulding material then you can try using potter’s clay.

Things you’ll need

  •  A block of potter’s/modelling clay. The size of the pack you will need is determined by the final size of the feature you want.
  •  A knife.
  • A good supply of fresh green moss, kept wet.
  • A bucket of water.

Step by step

  1. Decide on the shape of your feature and the size.
  2. Most packs of potter’s clay come as rectangular blocks. We made a pyramid shape but balls or blocks are equally easy to make. The clay needs to be worked by kneading it gradually to the rough shape you want. We squeezed one end of the block until it formed a pointed end while keeping the flat sides in place. Use the knife to smooth angles so they are sharp.
  3. Stand back from the feature and view it from all sides to ensure the shape is correct and make any adjustments by working the clay with your hands. Keeping your hands moist with the water helps with working the clay.
  4. When you have achieved the correct shape and size, the surface can be moistened by hand and the wet moss applied to the surface. It will stick, but can also be pinned by thin green plastic-covered wire pins which will “disappear” as the moss becomes fully developed.
  5. Place your sculpture in a semi-shaded location and keep it moistened until well established.
  6. Try some other shapes and build up a collection of different features to make an interesting group.

potters clay

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