Using Hypertufa to Contain Dwarf Conifer
Pinus parviflora 'Hagoromo' (Japanese White Pine) Zone 5 - blue-green, twisted needles decorate the branches of this dense, slow-growing form of Japanese White Pine
All too often container gardens include tall spindly plants surrounded by colorful annuals planted in a faded plastic container. As the season comes to an end, the plants, are sadly redirected to the compost bin, one season and gone.
After attending my first National ACS conference in Oregon a few years ago, my idea of only using one season annuals in containers changed. Our tour visited several beautiful display gardens where I saw hypertufa stone like containers packed with small conifers. I realized then that there was a new definition for container gardens. Hypertufa containers planted with colorful conifers and alpine plants in natural looking scenes. There was a new reason to buy conifers.
Conifer planted in a hypertufa trough - located in the Iseli Nursery display garden, Oregon
Carnivorous plants on display at the NY Botanical Gardens
The proverbial seed was planted. It did not take long for my Pennsylvania garden to include conifer containers of all shapes and sizes. My goal was to create and grow what I saw in Oregon. Hypertufa containers seemed to take over my garden. Conifers were the accent plants, and small alpines were the fillers and herbs were the spillers. I experimented with different plants, different soils, different locations. And after many mistake this is what I found to work best in my garden.
Hypertufa allows you to be creative, childlike , and artistic all while making your own container. Even mistakes look good. ( see picture) Instructions on how to make hypertufa containers can be found on the internet, and garden magazines, however the most complete source of information was in the book Creating and Planting Garden Troughs – Joyce Fingerrut and Rex Murfitt .
There are many ways to make Hypertufa pots, my formula starts with equal parts of Portland Cement, Peat Moss, and Perlite, then add water to form a damp but not wet mixture. Apply the mix about 1 ½ ” thick to the inside or outside of a mold, usually a large plastic container.
After a day gently remove the slightly hardened hypertufa from the mold.
Wire brush the pot to create a textured finish. Return the container to a plastic bag to keep it moist, slowly allowing it to cure for 1-2 weeks. As it cures, the mix will become stronger. After making dozens of containers, and lots of mistakes I have found that trial and error is the best teacher. And if you don’t like gray, liquid or powdered cement color can be added to the wet mix to make an even more interesting design. Once properly cured, these containers can remain intact outside for several years.
If you are interested in taking a class on how to make Hypertufa go to ---- Ashcombe Farm and Greenhouse - Events- http://www.ashcombe.com/2013hypertufa.htm