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!

34 comments:

  1. These are fabulous! Wow, what an interesting idea, I've never seen anything quite like them. Such an interesting process, thank you for sharing these.

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    1. Was the mixture just cement and water & how much cement was needed for all your leaves please. Live in NZ and don't know of anything like it over here

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    2. Hi Marcia. I live in Nelson NZ and want the same info. Did you get a response yet?

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    3. Mix concrete with water to make brownie mix it drys fast so keep working needs to be thicker in the middle and work out to 1/4 in aprox at edge also use a paint brush to smoth the back side and let set for 48 hours before moving. Hope this helps. Good info on you tube also. I just did one this past weekend came out great but have not found good painting ideas. Good luck Ladies.

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    4. Dear Readers,
      It has been so long since I wrote this blog post, and my memory fails me with specific products and amounts. I never intended this to be a tutorial; merely a posting about a class I purchased and a desire to share my results-- trying not to divulge all the 'trade secrets' developed by my instructor.

      In the meantime, I came across this tutorial some might find helpful:
      https://www.littlethings.com/cement-rhubarb-leaf-ornament/

      Thanks for visiting-
      Maggie

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    5. ***UPDATE***

      I recently found the scrap of paper that had the cement 'recipe' that I used in this class, and answered a question on another blog post with this:

      "My mixture of 1 part Portland Cement plus 1 part Play Sand worked great for these smaller leaves. Some have been in my yard for 5 years with no breaking. No sealant on the plain concrete leaves outside, just left them natural, and there has been no breakage. I have a few painted ones outside as well, and I sprayed them with several coats of sealer/poly-varnish so the paint would last.

      From what I've read, if you were making a very large leaf casting, you would probably want to mix in some concrete reinforce (an acrylic additive) to your cement + sand mixture, plus maybe a wire mesh layered inside the concrete. I haven't made a really large casting (like from a Gunnera leaf, a couple feet across); mine have all been less than a foot across."

      Hope you find this helpful. Thanks again for visiting--
      Maggie

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  2. Omygoodness...each one you've made is just gorgeous!!!! I've always seen these around the internet but never with so much detail ~ beautiful job Maggie! and btw, your hair is beautiful too! hugs and love, Dawn

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  3. Wowza! I live here in Portland and would love to learn more about her workshop. Do you have contact into or does she have a website or something? I grow a HUGE gunnera in my backyard and have always dreamed of making something like that. Thank you for sharing. Yours came out just beautiful!

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  4. Can't wait to see these in our yard! Love you sweetheart! -Dan

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  5. Wow, those castings look so good! What a fun workshop that must've been!

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  6. Chris told me about your latest adventure and I'm stoked to give them a try. I'm guessin' they won't look quite like yours, however!

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  7. updates, margo, we need updates!

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  8. Hi Maggie!
    What a fun project. They're beautiful. Just checking in to see what you've been up too lately. Looks like a lot of wonderful things. :) Love the bird nests!!

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  9. Roberta's a great teacher, and you'll have fun if you take her class.

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  10. What kind of concrete do you use?

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  11. https://www.etsy.com/shop/ConcreteImpressions?ref=shopsection_shophome_leftnav

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  12. I use cement All, rapid set cement. It is by far the best cement for making leaves. I make most of my leaves for indoors. Been making them for a long time. Sometimes I use a sculpting compound for the little leaves that have a lot of minute details.

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  13. Отличная работа.Привет из России!

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  14. Do you have the recipe for the cement?

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  15. Replies
    1. Hi Amy--
      No, neither the copper pipe nor the coupling are threaded. I bought a long pipe and cut it into 2 - 3' lengths. The end of the pipe just slips snugly into the coupling attached to leaf bottom.
      I've just stuck the pipe into my garden, but one could have a piece of rebar in place and then slip the pipe over it, for more stability.

      -Maggie

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    2. For more pictures of finished leaves, and a look at them on pipes in my yard, see this post:

      http://www.themagrag.com/2012/10/concrete-leavesin-living-color.html

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  16. Great pictures, incomplete instructions.

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    1. Glad you stopped by. Sorry these are incomplete instructions; my post was not intended to be a tutorial. Just wanted to share a bit of the process of a workshop that I purchased. Perhaps you can attend one in your area.

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  17. Lovely job!!! Just beautiful! Wonder if you know what paint was used on gradated color leaf?

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  18. This is so pretty. Love those colors. Great job. Makes me want to try one again.

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  19. Thank you for the idea. She is a talented artist.

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  20. This is beautiful. I live in India but I have never seen such kind of art.

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  21. thank you so much for sharing your "recipe" am definitely going to have a go.

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