Thursday, April 28, 2011

Spring bits

 Arabis sturii blooming, with white thrift on left and a dwarf chamaecyapris at back.
The one true shade trough that we have.  Dwarf bergenia blooming, with mini-hostas emerging in each corner.
Lilac Wonder tulips in the rock garden.

I must admit that I giddily ran around the garden in yesterday's overcast weather, snapping away at all of the spring delights in bloom.  At no other time does our garden have so many pastels out at once.  Everything looked so good in the viewfinder, from all angles, that I had a weird deja vu moment.  I realized the feeling was similar to photographing our kids as newborns, that "Oh my god you are so beautiful I am so lucky what did I do to deserve this" feeling.  I got over it pretty quickly.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Scary stuff

Tassel fern polystichum polyblepharum

I love to tease the kids about the monster emerging from the muck as the tassel fern wakes up each spring.  I grow it in a wet, shady, mucky spot with skimmia, japanese primroses, iris cristata, cardinal flowers and such.  

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Yum. Spring.

lowest branch of viburnum plicatum tomentosum 'Mariesii' outlined against patio stones

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Sometimes I get It Right

Arabis alp. caucasica 'Snowball' in a trough
Trough with Tulipa humilis 'Odalisque', chamaecyparis obtusa 'Golden Sprite' on right, asperula gussonii behind, and aubrieta 'argenteovariegata' just coming into lavender bloom on left.  Narcissus 'Baby Moon' were supposed to be in the blank gravel spot but they never came up in this, their first year.  A little digging will provide some answers soon.
Entrance into the back garden: my lovely wife's lovely peonies coming on fast, mixed daffs under the bare ninebark, a nice purple helleborus orientalis, hellebore 'White Beauty' in front, a couple pink ericas in the back bed.  I can't do much about the neighbors' houses, but wait for the trees to leaf out.

Monday, April 11, 2011

That Coveted Mossy Look

Mossy patina on a planter in part shade
Arabis sturii, armeria maritima (white) and chamaecyparis obtusa 'Nana'

One of the things that everyone loves about hypertufa, including me, is the "instant aged" look of worn edges and bits of moss in the crevices.  The worn edges can be accomplished rather quickly by working a rough stone (or chipping hammer) over the square edges of a new container, but the moss is harder to come by.  The first hypertufa containers that I made for my current garden are 4 years old and sit in full sun.  They aren't mossy at all on the parts that face the hot summer sun, but show some interesting green on their shady sides.  The container pictured above sits on my deck and gets only morning sun.  It's a few years old, but the moss grew effortlessly in the small holes left behind after the exposed peat moss in the original mix gradually rotted away.  Same goes for the round shrub container below, which is in shade for most of the hot sun of the summer afternoons.

Kolkwitzia amabilis 'Maradco'

I've tried mixing moss with buttermilk and painting the slurry onto fully cured containers but the results were pretty poor.  In the sunny spots where the moss got started, it held on only until the next bout of sun and heat killed it for good.  In the shady areas moss grew whether I introduced it or not.  I've given up trying to control the patination of my planters and left nature to take care of it.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Stewart Trough

While flipping through a magazine a couple years ago I came across a photo of an eight-cornered tea tray and quickly made a drawing of an eight-cornered trough in my sketchbook.  I forgot about it for awhile but kept pausing to look at the drawing as I flipped through my sketchbook.  About a year ago I made a cut list and began to make the plywood mold to cast the trough.  It was an instant headache, with overlaps and two rims and four corner voids to take into account.  The mold ended up being made of 24 pieces of wood.  I cast it successfully once last year, and promptly planted up the trough in my driveway.  The couple other times that I cast it last year, the trough didn't come cleanly out of the mold and the rims were very fragile when they did cast.  This year I modified the mold by routing a cove into the rim edges, which casts as a bead and helps strengthen the rim.  I found that I needed to add more sand to the mix and less perlite and peat moss in order to add strength and ensure that the details cast.  I also added a gallon of acrylic fortifier to the hypertufa (reducing the water in the mix), giving up some of the trough's porosity in exchange for strength.

I cast it a couple times this spring and I think that I'm happy with it.  I cast separate ingot-shaped feet for the trough because the mold is complex enough already.

Stewart trough 22 x 19 x 14"H (including feet)

Family Portrait

Looking back at the previous few posts I realized that it was hard to see the scale of the troughs in relation to each other.  I staged a family photo recently to remedy that problem.

Friday, April 1, 2011

Small round planter

I love making these small planters for cacti and succulents since they are small enough to pick up and move inside for the winter.  I think they'd look great with dwarf conifers too.
Small round planter 12" diameter x 9" high


Last fall when we went to Ikea I found a huge stainless steel bowl in the kitchenware section.  My wife saw me holding it (as I considered its possibilities for hypertufa) and said something like "Oh, that would be nice for salads when we have dinner parties".  I raised an eyebrow and smiled and she knew what I was thinking.  I've made about ten hypertufa bowls with it so far.  I wrap it in plastic, turn it upside down and use it as a kind of slump mold.  It's never seen a salad.  We had to get a second stainless steel bowl for that.
Medium bowl 20" diameter x 9" high