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

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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…

 

 

Easy DIY Stone Veneer for Fairy Garden Houses

Stone House Bothwell, Ontario http://www.museevirtuel-virtualmuseum.ca/sgc-cms/histoires_de_chez_nous-community_memories/pm_v2.php?id=record_detail&fl=0&lg=English&ex=380&hs=0&rd=97925

Stone House Bothwell, Ontario

I’ve always been fascinated and drawn to those beautiful field stone homes that look so cozy and inviting. Like real life fairy houses. Stone houses, bridges, and pathways find a perfect home in a fairy garden. Good news. After many experiments I stumbled on a quick and easy way to get that tiny stone house look using DIY veneer. Here’s how.

What You’ll Need

  • Wood glue
  • Ziplock bag
  • A form – bird house, old margarine container, gourd or other item
  • Some small stones
  • Tweezers
  • Shellac or urethane

Optional – Laundry Bad/ Plastic berry box

Materials

Materials

Getting Ready

I live near a lake so I just gather handfuls (and buckets full) of beach pebbles. I’ve also used crushed stone that’s commonly used on gravel roads and driveways. This can be purchased in large bags at places like Lowe’s and Home Depot. Smaller packs of stones can sometimes be found at craft and dollar stores. Any stone will work that is small and has some flat-ish surfaces.I’ve applied stone this way to gourds, wood, and even glass. This time I am experimenting with a plastic juice bottle and a plastic salad bowl.

EasyStoneWork2The plastic berry box comes in handy to sift out  the tiniest of stones and some of the sand. Remove any stones that are larger than a 1/4″ and set them aside. I now have some fairly uniform sized pebbles. Next,  put them in a mesh laundry bag and give them a good shaking around out doors. This gets rid of most of the sand and the rest disappears when I give the stones a rinse while still in the bag.

What to Do

First squeeze some wood glue onto the Ziploc baggie and spread it around making  several small square areas up to 4 inches square. Then take some stones and arrange them on the glue. I like working with beach pebble. You can more or less just dump them on the glue, pat them down and do just a little adjusting to get them into a nice little square. The crushed stone takes a little more fussing, so just start with one or two glue squares. The tweezers come in handy for adding the tiniest of stones to fill in any spaces.

Wait about half an hour and check your squares. Try lifting the stone from the corner. When its ready you will be able to lift the square of stone without the stones separating. EastStineWork4The trick is, you need to lift the square while the glue is still tacky on the under side and the square is still flexible.  This allows you to apply it on rounded areas. If it dries out completely, no worries. You will still be able to lift it from the plastic and you can add some glue to the back.

Next

Now you can apply the stone to whatever form you have chosen for your project. Cut out any windows or doors you want before applying the stone. You should still be able to pull individual stones away from the veneer if your square overlaps any cut out areas.  Wood glue works well for gluing stone to stone as well. Using the same methods you can make small rectangles or lines of layered stones and apply them around doors and windows or corners. Or, make stone garden walls. To finish off add dots of glue and use the tweezers to add little stones into any areas that need it. Two or three coats of shellac or urethane will help keep the glue from degrading in the outdoors. How easy is that?

EasyStoneWorkDoneHave a very fairy good time!