Who made the first hypertufa?
I guess we won’t ever know, but it seems it was first made in the early 1800s in Europe and England. And I can only assume it was a stone lover who either couldn’t find any of the original stone troughs made of the real tufa, or couldn’t move the “real thing” to where he wanted it.
There is such a thing as real tufa stone which is a variety of limestone formed by the precipitation of carbonate minerals. There is a porous volcanic rock called tuff which is sometimes mistakenly referred to as tufa, but it is not formed in the same way. Our tufa is NOT formed by volcanic action.
The tufa that we are imitating when we make hypertufa is a rock-like formation.” Tufa is a variety of limestone, formed by the precipitation of carbonate minerals from ambient temperature water bodies.” Ref from Wiki.
There are real tufa formations located in Pyramid Lake, Nevada and Mono Lake, California and many more including UK, Australia, and South Africa, among others.
The Real Tufa is a soft and porous rock that is easy to carve which is why it was used to make watering troughs, not to mention caves and living places, etc.
Apparently in old times, farmers had access to the tufa rock which they could carve and form large watering troughs and feed troughs. This is only my guess, but was it used because it could not easily be kicked over by the animals etc?
These troughs were useful and easily available. Maybe there were certain people who specialized in making them for friends. Hopefully that tufa rock was easy to transport to the place it was needed!
How Tufa Came to Be Used in Gardening
When bringing home small plants from far away countries became the thing to do, filling your conservatory with plants that a gardener had found in the mountains of Turkey or Greece, the natural conditions were best mimicked by a tufa watering trough, porous, well draining, and deep enough to plant inside. Otherwise these tiny plants might be just lost in the large garden.
So gardeners hauled the tufa troughs to their gardens and I am sure had such beautiful mini-gardens which they could tailor to any plant’s requirements. Aren’t these called Old English Garden Troughs?
But when all the old troughs started to get scarce, gardeners had to come up with something to replace these tufa rock troughs, so some wonderful imaginative person came up with a formula to make his own from other materials, hence we have hypertufa!
Some genius came up with the idea to mix peat, cement, and maybe sand to make an artificial stone trough, and it worked! You could have the trough you wanted and didn’t have to find an old abandoned tufa watering trough. And as these became more and more scarce and this was all you could find, the hypertufa makers now had a new industry.
These days we have vermiculite and perlite as our aggregate for hypertufa, so our product is lighter than the older hypertufa. If you haven’t tried it, make just one trough for yourself and you will love it.
Probably all those created in those old days are now probably so ancient looking that you would have a hard time knowing the difference without actually trying to pick them up and weigh the thing!
I don’t have any “real” tufa but I have seen it on display. But I love mine anyway. It is ancient to me! And I can hand it down to my family.