Monday, June 18, 2012

Concrete Leaf Castings

A couple of weeks ago, a friend and I learned how to make concrete leaf castings to put in our gardens.  Our instructor was Roberta Palmer, who sells her leaves all over Portland and also holds little how-to workshops in her own backyard.
Roberta has her castings tucked throughout her garden.
Some of them are left natural concrete, and allowed to weather and collect moss.
Others are beautifully painted in gradated colors.  This leaf is approximately 15" across.
Her yard is lush with big-leafed plants grown specifically to use in her castings.  She grows varieties that are quite large, heavily veined, and highly textured.

Her garden plots are framed with wonderful arbors and collected treasures.
She tucks old ladders and tools among the plants-- so charming!
Here the rungs act as shelves for her handmade concrete planters.
Roberta walked us through the steps involved in making the concrete leaves, including mixing the concrete, adding colorant, mounding sand, choosing leaves, working with the underside of the leaf, building up the concrete, smoothing the bottom with a brush, and adding a copper fitting (if we wanted to put our cast leaf on a copper pipe pedestal, for a raised bird bath or feeder).

Finally, I got to try my hand at it.  Here I am, hard at work on my leaf (sorry, can't recall the name of it):
Roberta suggested not going all the way to the leaf's edge, but rather making a scalloped finish with small adjacent balls of concrete.  (Oh my, I do believe it's time to touch up my roots...)
We took our leaves (I made three) home, still on their sand mounds in the sturdy cardboard boxes, covered in plastic, where we are to allow them to 'cure' for several weeks.  I peeled away the green leaves a few days ago, and this is what they now look like:
Here's the same leaf, with its scalloped edge.

That same leaf.  I built up the pile of sand so it came out deep and cone-shaped.  Notice the copper fitting inserted at the bottom; I think this will be a little bird feeder on a pedestal.

My second leaf (rhubarb), just a small little guy to tuck in my yard somewhere.  We added a reddish colorant to the concrete to give it a slight terra cotta tint.

This was my third leaf, a hosta.  Roberta helped me curl the tip over an extra lump of sand to add an 'elfin' feel to this casting.
Again, fitted for a copper-pipe pedestal.  Love that cute curled tip!
And there you have it: my adventures in the garden of concrete leaf castings.  When they are fully cured, I'll show you their final resting spots out in the yard.  Added bonus:  I don't need a green thumb to keep them looking pretty!