Monday, February 23, 2015


Hypertufa is an old material originating in the peat bog regions of England and Ireland. It is a man-made substitute for Tufa rock.  It’s a funny word and I get a kick out of the many ways people try to pronounce it, “Hypertooba” , being one of my favorites. Hypertufa roughly translated  means “false earth”.  Real tufa rock is found in limestone country especially where water has been involved in the wearing and leaching out of the original materials to affect a porous spongy consistency. In many countries throughout the world this natural stone has been hollowed out and carved for tubs and planters.  You may find it at a lansdcape store at a handsome price.  It is also very limiting in terms of what can be planted in it because it is very alkaline and shallow.  It is good for plants that can take dryness and little soil such as sedums and alpines. 

One of the obvious advantages of HYPERTUFA is its versatility.  It can be used for tubs, pots, troughs, benches, sculptures, seats, and birdbaths.  Anything will grow in a hypertufa container. When surface treated, it gives the appearance of great age and ruggedness. Mud-coating is my favorite. It is traditionally made from a mixture of Portland cement, perlite, peat moss and sand.  The resulting stone-like material is porous and lighter in weight than pure concrete and is a versatile casting and sculpting medium.  It can also be carved.  In short, I find it a fantastic material for garden projects.

I have experimented with different combinations of aggregates to develop a greener recipe for hypertufa that replaces the expensive, non-renewable resources; vermiculite, peat moss and perlite, with shredded office copier paper and paper pulp. With rising costs, these are a creative and effective low-cost alternative. You can experiment with other dry additives to add texture and strength to your hypertufa mixture including dried grass, shredded leaves, sawdust, even Styrofoam peanuts!  Whatever you add, remember that it must serve the role of an aggregate, helping to bind the mixture together adding necessary structure and strength to the mix.
Hypertufa continues to grow in strength the longer it cures.

The making of hypertufa is a physical activity and can be even more fun as a group activity, one that brings enthusiasts together for a bit of effort and lots of laughter. Many combinations of friends and family take our Hypertufa studios together.  Grandparents love to take the studio with their grandchildren.  Who’d have thought that “false earth” would offer a chance for people to have fun creating together!
If you'd like to learn more and gets some "hands-on" experience wit making hypertufa, join us in one of our HYPERTUFA  STUDIOS  this summer.

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