Thursday, September 8, 2011

Class preview: Create stone leaves or planters

Cast stone leaf by Duke Gardens student Lu Howard

Gardeners are inventive people and always look for new methods to display their favorite plants. Creating a stone casting from a beautiful leaf or building your own rustic stone planter is one way to preserve or display a grouping of plants.

Stone leaves, cast directly from a leaf set in concrete, may be displayed as sculpture or functional art, such as a birdbath. Whether rustic or painted, the casting can be displayed indoors or out in your garden.

Rustic stone planters, cast from a lightweight concrete mix called hypertufa, resemble the antique stone sinks that are used so effectively as planters in England.

Hypertufa is a mix of sand, peat moss and other elements, says Beth Jimenez, of Lasting Impressions Concrete Sculptures.
Hypertufa planter by Lu Howard

Jimenez will teach two hands-on classes with business partner Amelia Lane on Saturday, Sept. 17, at Duke Gardens. “Cast Stone Leaves” will be from 10 a.m. to noon, followed by “Artificial Stone Sculptures and Pots: Hypertufa” from 1 to 4 p.m. The classes are for students at all ability levels.

You don’t need a large garden to incorporate hypertufa, Jimenez says. “Creating and gardening in hypertufa trough containers allows those with limited space to garden on a small scale and those with larger spaces to use the trough as the perfect planting container for a special plant or collection of small plants.”

For the cast stone leaves, large leaves such as hosta, colocasia and alocasia work especially well.

“Big is good when it comes to this,” Jimenez says, noting that narrow, pointy leaf tips can break easily when molded. “You wouldn’t want to use a fern or anything that is too finely textured.”

Cast stone leaves by Lu Howard

Students need not have special artistic abilities to create a leaf or hypertufa container. Everyone has ideas that Jimenez can help them realize.

“Everybody works differently and everybody has a unique way of showing their own way of creativity,” Jimenez says. “We love the process of watching people be creative. … There’s an excitement that builds during the workshop when the participants begin to share their thoughts and ideas about how the finished piece of art should look.”

Students especially enjoy imagining the plants they’ll put in their containers once they’re cured and ready to use.

“There are so many different options for shade plants, sun plants, little trees, little bitty shrubs, mosses, you can do sedums – the sky’s the limit,” Jimenez says. “It’s so much fun thinking about what you want it to look like when it’s fully planted.”

INFO: For more information or to register, please call 668-1707 or email You can also read about this class and others in our full education and events program guide at

Sarah P. Duke Gardens creates and nurtures an environment in the heart of Duke University for learning, inspiration and enjoyment through excellence in horticulture. The Gardens is at 420 Anderson St. Crystal Cotton, a junior at N.C. Central University and summer intern at Duke Gardens, contributed to this column. Photos by Lu Howard. This column first appeared in the Durham Herald-Sun.

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