Papercrete for Fairy Gardens

Many of you may have heard of hypertufa, a mixture comprised usually of perlite, sand, peat moss and portland cement. Used first by alpine gardeners to emulate the natural tufa rock often associated with alpine plants (plants that grow above the treeline), the hypertufa mixture is used to free form artificial rock or in forms to produce gardening containers. It has a very beautiful and natural look and the peat moss and pearlite make them light weight. It has, in my opinion, three draw backs. It’s mucky to work with and it needs to be cured (dried) and leached out in water or rain for several weeks before use. In cold climates it also has a tendency to crack or deteriorate over the winter if left out doors.

Fairy Garden in a Papercrete Container made at  Papercrete Class from Lee Coates (http://thepapercretepotter.blogspot.com)

Fairy Garden in a Papercrete Container made at Papercrete Class from Lee Coates (http://thepapercretepotter.blogspot.com)

Enter papercrete! Papercrete is a mixture of paper pulp, perlite or vermiculite, and portland cement. Fillers such as sand are optional to produce different effects and textures. The paper pulp is produced by shredding any used paper you have, soaking it for a day or two in water and then pulping it with a paint mixer attachment on a drill. Lee Coates, papercreter extraordinaire, says various papers produce unique results  but his preference is good old newspaper as it is readily available in large quantities, it has a long fiber for strength and is easy to shred and pulp .

papercreteP1-scalloped-bowl-half-done

Newspaper and water pulped into an ‘oatmeal’ consistency.

How does it hold up? From Lee Coates’ Papercrete Blog : The most frequently asked question is, “How do they hold up in the water?” After shoppers find that paper is one of the ingredients in the recipe of our product I find that it is a fair question. The paper is just a fiber source that is encased by portland cement… I cannot say how long the product will hold up but we have had some of the pots in ground contact for several years without any deterioration. What we build each year once dry gets placed outside on pallets to suffer whatever Mother Nature throws at them. Containers built in the Fall are built for sale the following year so they are subjected to rain, snow, sleet, hail, and ice throughout the Winter. How do they hold up? About the same as the sidewalk in front of the house!

papercrete-in-the-snowThe basic recipe for papercrete is approximately 3 parts paper pulp, 2 parts portland cement and 1 part perlite and other optional fillers. Getting the paperpulp made to the right consistency is key. Too wet and the mixture is slumpy and if too dry – crumbly. Make small batches to experiment and get your mixture to your liking.

papercreteP1-scalloped-bowl-part-done

Hand application of papercrete in a dollar store scalloped edge salad bowl mold

To make containers  you can use anything fairly smooth coated with a bit of vegetable oil to allow easy release. Ideally, the container should be shaped in a somewhat tapering shape in such a way as to make the finished product easy to remove once dry. For an 18″ container the thickness of the papercrete should be about 3/4″. Just take handfulls of your mixture and hand form it and pat it to compact it into your mold of choice. Allow it to dry for 24 to 48 hours and remove from mold. Drainage hole can be made during by finger poking or after with a drill.

first-planters-out-of the mold

Newly released from their molds after 24 hours these containers were purposely made and left with rough top edges.

Papercrete can easily be sanded, drilled, and sawed after it is thoroughly dry. Cement dyes can be used to color it or thinned paint can be used to stain it afterwards. Adding a small amount of latex paint during mixing adds even more durability and resiliency to the end product and also acts to neutralize alkalinity.  When can you use it. Right away!

Papercrete can also be used to make fairy houses and in some places in the United States it is being used in large scale projects to build real houses!

Papercrete miniature house and molds by Lee Coates

Papercrete miniature house and molds by Lee Coates

An experiment of my own using a one part mold for the house and a one part mold for the roof of a papercrete fairy house needs some refinement although the basic idea seems to work.

Papercrete miniature house newly released from one piece mold

Papercrete miniature house newly released from one piece mold

In the final analysis, having played with both hypertufa and papercrete I find several advantages to papercrete. First it’s ‘greener’- I love the idea that it uses a resource that would otherwise be filling our landfills. It is also so clean and easy to work with , can be used right away, and appears to stand up well to freeze and thaw conditions. It’s versatile – it can be easily cut, drilled, sanded, colored , screwed and glued! What more could you want?

 

Many thanks to Lee Coates for introducing me to the wonderful world of papercrete and allowing me to use information and pictures from his blog.

Papercrete Pots by Lee Coates

Papercrete Pots by Lee Coates

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Fairy Garden Containers

The ingenuity of fairy gardeners in choosing containers for their gardens never ceases to amaze me. Wheelbarrows, logs, crates, shoes…just about anything goes. It’s all part of the fun.

pink-vintage-tub-gardenThis week at The Fairy Garden I’ve been very busy getting ready for an arts and craft show. My first. I’ve been rushing about gathering items to help me prepare. I spent a whole day scouring the second hand shops for likely containers for my fairy gardens. I poked through  my own collection of things I’ve dragged home – including one item that I filched from someones garbage – yes I’m one of those.  A pink enamelware wash tub.

Ihandcrafted -fairy-garden-in-a-chestAt the shops I found a little chest, a miniature suitcase, an attractive wooden salad bowl and various pieces of glassware suitable for miniature garden terrariums. My rule is to pay no more than five dollars.

The hunt  is all part of the fun of fairy gardening and it allows me to make some little gardens with attractively low prices. My goal was to have at least two miniature gardens that I could sell for under twenty five dollars. By using my re-purposed containers and decorating with  handcrafted items I manged to accomplish this.

mini-suitcase-fairy-gardenNow if only that snow storm that’s threatening to arrive will just hold it’s horses –

Happy hunting…and, as always…have a fairy good time.

Marthe

FB Group Rescues the Stone Fairy House

In December 2013, along with picture below, I wrote a post on building a stone fairy house for your fairy garden. The instructions included using a technique for the main part of the house that I described in another post. Well , the main part of the house has worked out fabulous. Not so the roof!

I admit I am a little clumsy and I dropped it on a cement patio stone – the first time – and it hit the edge of a counter the second time. Still, I like to be able to put my fairy houses outdoors. I worried that the roof being on a different kind of plastic base than the bottom, was more brittle and determined that I would find a fix.

DIY Stone Fairy

DIY Stone Fairy House

After trying some silicone suggested in an online article and not being happy with the mess and difficulty of working with it, I decided to turn to the experts. People who do these kinds of crafts all the time. Namely, the members of a great group on Facebook called Miniature and Fairy Garden Chat. I posted my pic, expressed my frustrations and not very long afterwards I had a wealth of great tips, suggestions and information.

Nanci Z-S thought I was on the right track with the silicone and offered a great tip to make it easier to work with. She says she squeezes her silicone into a dish of water with plenty of dish soap and pulls out what she needs with soapy hands. The silicone will not stick to your hands but will stick to everything else. I’ll bet this extends the working time too.

Several people suggested using a sealant of some sort and Melinda T said she uses mortar after gluing the stone down. She added  that using cheese cloth to wipe the excess mortar away does a good job of cleaning all the residue from the stone. Gluing something to the plastic before the stone was also suggested, such as plastic mesh…I tried burlap and it does seem to be helping make the stone adhere easier.

The first suggestion made was jewelery glue, and the discussion came full circle back to this when  Debbie G mentioned E6000 and Jill A-H and Colleen F started to sing the praises of this apparently very useful adhesiveE6000-adhesive- product.

The product description found on Home Depot says  “Amazing E6000 Craft is a unique adhesive formulated to meet high performance industrial requirements, thus making it an excellent crafting tool. Amazing E6000 has exceptional adhesion to wood, metal, glass, fiberglass, ceramics, and concrete. It also adheres strongly to leather, rubber, vinyl and many plastics. Amazing E6000 dries clear and once cured, it’s waterproof, washer/dryer safe, can be painted and is safe for photographs.”

Sounds like ‘amazing’ stuff. What do you use for difficult fastening jobs?

Keep crafting, and, as always…have a fairy good time.

Marthe

 

 

 

 

Fairy Garden Supplies – A Unique Source

I wonder if many fairy gardeners also have fish? If you don’t keep fish, then you probably haven’t discovered that the aquarium store is a surprisingly great place to get DIY fairy garden supplies!

mushroom-log-aquarium-decoration

Mushroom Log Aquarium Decoration

The aquarium decoration isle will yield some interesting results.  This mushroom log is 8″ x 4″x 7″ and sells (in Canada) for $15. It just needs a little DIY fairy door to make it a wonderful fairy house for your miniature garden. Bonus – aquarium decor is non-toxic.

aquasand

‘Aqua Sand’ Aquarium Substrate

Now for landscaping your fairy abode. The substrate section alone can fascinate me for an hour. The unbelievable variety of stone, gravel, and course sands- aka miniature landscaping aggregates- comes in quantities that are ideal for various sized fairy gardening projects. Many of the substrates are coated with 100% environmentally friendly resin, – no dust. The coating also keeps them looking pretty and prevents any undesirable elements leaching into your garden when you water. A 5lb bag runs around $7. Next, take a look over in the reptile section.

small reptile feeder

Small Reptile Feeder

Reptile feeders are designed to blend in with a rock, stone and wood environment and need to have uneven surfaces for reptiles to crawl on. This makes them ideal for use as a miniature fairy garden ponds! Add a little acrylic water and decorate with  some miniature lily pads, a frog or some fish. This feeder measures 4.5″ x 4″ x 1″ and retails for just  $4.

While you’re in the reptile department also take a look at some of the bedding. You can find some nice sized bags of bark chips for your garden or DIY fairy house project. They also have some reptile carpets that make nice lawns that are meant to get wet.

As always- have a fairy good time…this time at the aquarium store! Let me know how you make out…

 

 

Fairy Garden Fun With Polymer Clay

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woodsy-fairy-door-in-tree

Polymer Clay Fairy Door

I don’t know about where you are, but here in Kingsville Ontario, which touts itself as the most southerly town in Canada, the snow is up to my knees. The wind is howling and blowing snow about with a vengeance I almost take personally. At this time of year when my gardening activities are confined to the indoors I take solace in my indoor fairy garden adventures.

Lately I’ve discovered polymer clay and I am enjoying a return to my youth happily kneading and forming little objects to fit in my little fairy gardens tucked into my indoor plants.  Its surprisingly calming. I’ve made a little work station of my keyboard drawer and fiddle with the clay while I catch up on my mail and social sites.

fairy-vs-gnome-tic-tac-toe- garden

Fairy Vs Gnome Tic Tac Toe Garden

Lets face it, I’ll never be the artist some are in this medium. Thats ok. I’ve managed to make a few little things that please me none the less.Fairy doors and gnomes and even cutesy fairies.

A bit of clay, a few simple tools and a few Youtube videos got me started – but I have to admit to buying a clay machine ( to soften and condition the clay) and a lot more clay shortly after my first sojourn into this fun and easy play activity for almost grownups:)

Fantasy Gourd Fairy House 2"

Fantasy Gourd Fairy House 2″

Fantasy Gourd Fairy House 2" Back

Fantasy Gourd Fairy House 2″ Back

Micro Fairy Gardens in Miniature Fairy Gardens

It’s no secret to those who know me – I have an obsession with micro-mini fairy gardens. I enjoy making micro versions of what other people do in miniature. Wheelbarrow_2605

When I saw all the fairy gardens in a wheelbarrow on one of my favorite pic sites, I just had to grab a miniature wheelbarrow and give it a try – tiny style.

micro-terrarium=blog-pic

 

 

Miniature terrarium moss garden? Love them.

So next, I made a 2″x3″ terrarium using dollhouse picture frames. Rolled a few gluey stones around in some artificial moss,  added one of my signature 1/2″ scale fairy houses – and tada.  Well..it wasn’t quite that easy:)

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From there it was a natural progression.  The very next table top fairy garden I was asked to make ended up with a micro-fairy garden in it! Well. Not precisely a fairy garden.

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My fascination with moss, fairy doors and gnarly trees all came together while shopping for plants for my tabletop project. I spotted a rugged looking bonsai and inspiration struck.  What if I made a little fairy door to snuggle up to that bonsai? I could pull out my teeny clay gnome buddy and  have a photo shoot.

 

And that’s how it happened. I really get a kick out of the reaction  people have when they are checking out their new fairy garden only to discover that their fairy garden… has a micro fairy garden! IMG_2829

So, next time you’re playing with your  fairy garden, why not give your fairies a fairy garden.  As always – have a fairy good time!   Marthe

How to Make a Fairy House

Fairy Gardens are all the rage right now and what’s a fairy garden without a fairy house?  Of course you can buy fairy houses, and there are some very unique and whimsical ones available at my store located on www.fairygarden.ca (Gotta plug me right?). However………fairy gardening is a DIY activity and so – no surprise – fairy gardeners want to know – How do I make my own fairy houses?

WFG2001

Buy at fairygarden.ca

There are as many ways to make fairy houses as there are people who want to make them! Imagination is key. Here are some ideas to get you inspired and start your creative juices flowing.

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Gourd Fairy House

Making a Gourd Fairy House

This is the perfect time of year to start this project. You will need a dried gourd. There may be garden markets, farms or friends that have some left from the fall season. Gourds take about 2 to 3 months to dry. Remove any dirt or debris and hang them in a dark dry area for drying. When they are properly dried they will sound hollow when you tap on them and you may hear dried seeds and such rattling about when you shake them. Clean the dried gourd with a stiff brush and some mild soap. (Use a little bleach if your gourd shows signs of mold). Now you can leave it as is and paint it and glue or mold things to it. You can also cut out doorways and windows. To cut into the gourd mark the area you want to cut out and use a utility knife to make an incision. A scroll saw works very well to do the rest of the cutting. Clean the seeds and pulp out of the gourd with a spoon, melon baller or what ever comes to hand. Decorate and finish off by sealing the project with white shellac or varnish.

FlowerPotFairyHouse

Flower Pot fairy Houses

More Fairy House Ideas

Decorating flower pots, ready made bird houses or rocks are all great ways to create your one of a kind fairy house. You can also experiment with hypertufa and other building materials.There is no wrong way to make a fairy house. Let your imagination go wild!

Living Roof Bird House

Living Roof Bird House

 

Suggestions

Some inexpensive materials you can use for modeling or decorating are mortar, drywall compound or stipple, wood fill, plaster of paris, pebbles and stones, twigs, miniatures and of course, paint. TIP: A cake decorating kit can be used with soft modeling materials to fashion creative details.

Painted Rock fairy House

Painted Rock Fairy House

A cost effective way to build a terrarium for a fairy garden or a frame for your fairy house is to use inexpensive picture frames for construction. They can be glued or tacked together at the edges and hinged to each other.

pictureframeterrarium

Picture Frame Terrarium

Hypertufa is a material made of cement, sand and peat moss or perlite. Using boxes, sand, plastic and other containers any number of shapes and items can be molded. You can find many websites dedicated to this subject. You can find a quick video here to get get started.

However you go about it, building your own fairy house is a fun and creative DIY project.

Hypertufa Fairy Houses

Hypertufa Fairy Houses

We have a home on Pinterest too!