When a gardener is cruising down the isle at the local Big Box store, hardware store, lumber supply center, or other type of store, she will eventually come across an aisle that has bags and bags of stacked cement products. With so many different bags and types, which are you going to choose if you want to make hypertufa?
Over on our Facebook group, The Hypertufa Gardener Group, we come across questions all the time about what product are we using when we want to make a hypertufa project. From what people describe, it seems as if so many choices in the Cement Aisle make it hard to choose exactly what you need to make hypertufa.
I thought I could make a post about choosing the right product so that you may have the best outcome for a project. After all, if you try a project and it flops, you might never try again since it is an investment to get all the materials. So many have been discouraged when the first hypertufa pot didn’t set up or harden. Sometimes it seems to just crumble for no apparent reason.
But after questioning, it seems that the most likely culprit is not starting with the main ingredient of Portland cement. For a great hypertufa project, you need Portland cement. This is the ingredient which “hardens” and forms the trough or container you are making. ( It’s really a chemical process of crystallization, but we won’t get all technical.)
Some people, of course, are going for a more smooth or even surface, but that is likely leaning toward a Cement container as opposed to a hypertufa container. And it all depends on the look you are going for.
I want real classic hypertufa. I want the rustic, bumpy, pitted, ancient-looking rocky surface which is what the hypertufa recipe and creations are mimicking. These are supposed to look like carved rocks, not concrete or cement pots. So if it is hypertufa you want, then you’ll need the ingredients to make hypertufa which includes Portland cement. If you want a smooth concrete planter, then it is really not hypertufa you are going for.
The bumpiness and pitted look of hypertufa is created by the peat moss in the mixture. It is like encasing a piece of wood inside a stone. The wood will eventually decay and leave a “hole,” so this is the pit created in hypertufa. When you have mixed your peat or coir in the mixture, all of these tiny pieces give the hypertufa its almost honeycomb texture. This honeycomb effect also contributes to the lightness and the porosity.
For instance, if you used Portland cement and perlite/vermiculite, your project would be a lighter version of a cement planter, not really hypertufa. But if that’s the look you want, then there you go!
For instance, when I make my draped hypertufa, I only use a small amount of peat moss just to give it a bumpy texture, but it is mostly cement and an aggregate ( vermiculite.) I do that as I have even stated in the original post, it to “make it hypetufa.” Regular sidewalks and driveways are cement and an aggregate ( usually sand and gravel.)
If you desire a nice smooth and slick texture on your hypertufa, maybe you are leaning toward the concrete planter as opposed to hypertufa. We each have our likes and dislikes, so whatever is making you the planter you want, then go for it!
We all just want to work in cement, right? And that is why we first need to find the Portland Cement! I hope this helps with some of the confusion, especially for the new hypertufa makers. Join us in the Facebook Group and we will be glad to help with all the questions.
And don’t forget the YouTube Channel, Kim’s Gardens. I have a lot of instruction over there, and be sure and let me know if you have any suggestions about what you’d like to see.