Friday, February 27, 2015


Our concept, BREATH OF FRESH AIR, has been accepted for the 2015 Designer's Showhouse and we have begun in earnest to prepare the containers, stakes and sculptures that will make up the display on the back patio of the home.  First thing to make are three 6-foot diameter shallow water basins that will serve as a mosaic birdbath, a shallow planter and a fountain base, respectively.  This is a first for us- making hypertufa outside in the winter.  Because of the size of the basins, a sculpted pile of garden soil  serves as our hump mold.
First the dirt is shaped into a shallow mound.
Then a sheet of plastic is placed over the dirt.  This serves as a pattern and keeps the soil from sticking to the surface of the future basin.
Finally we made a huge batch of hypertufa and formed a thick layer, shaping it to the mound.This was covered with another sheet of plastic and will stay there for an indefinite period of time due to the cold. 
When all is said and done, the final basins should look something like this.

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.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

2015 Designer's Shophouse Submission

It's that time of year for design concepts to be submitted for the 2015 Designer's Showhouse. Halings Greenhouse and FTSG are parterning again this year. Here is our concept submission.
Breath of Fresh Air….
Our world today is full of all kinds of tensions. We would like to create a stress free environment as a balance, particularly because we are all connected around the clock, 24/7. We would like to provide a space to disconnect for a while taking a cue from nature, turning down the volume…taking time for a breath of fresh air.
We begin the patio setting with soft calming natural colors, titanium and aluminum, as our base colors. The planting containers, water basins and sculptures made of concrete and hypertufa will carry these hues. Colored glass mosaics will add sparkle and interest running a range of soothing blues, calming greens and sparkling mirror. Still water in shallow basins will invite birds to add animation and natural entertainment to the setting.
The simplicity of the hardscape will provide a stage for a mixture of annuals and grasses designed to provide controlled thrillers for height, fillers for color and spillers to soften and enliven. New low-maintenance annuals featuring Marsala, the color of the year for 2015, will take the lead accented with greens, whites and deep blues.
The patio is an unusual shape in that it is rectilinear on one side combined with a curve on the other. This uniqueness will be enhanced and reiterated by the angles and curves of the containers and sculptures. Indeed, the nesting cone planters will follow the curve of the patio.
The patio features a wide ledged low wall surround which we will use to feature the containers, placing these pieces to the sides and edges of the patio so there is plenty of room for an al fresco dining table, grill and seating areas.
The homeowner and her guests can step outside for a time out from the busy day, to disconnect, to pause, to take…a Breath of Fresh Air.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Tuesday, February 3, 2015


Two-hour Thursday evening sessions provide creative fun once each month through the summer and you can pick what you want  from a list of pretty cool activities.

Choose one of these to make:
-Cast Initials & Numbers Workshop  
Make 4 numbers or letters.  Additonal: $10 per letter/Number
Make them to hang, put in the garden or fit onto a stake. You can even take your molds home to make more, they are reusable
-Happy Hearts Cast Heart Workshop 
We’ll help you design and create 3 coordinated heart designs, make molds and cast them in concrete.  Use them to hang as plaques or as garden stepping stones.
-Mini Message Garden Stake Workshop
Design and create a set of two mini-garden stakes in simple shapes with fun words or short phrases.  You’ll make reusable molds and cast them in concrete.
-Stones with Holes Workshop 
Design a large and small set of garden stones with holes.  You can plant small  “steppable”plants in these holes to accent your garden pathway.  You’ll make
reusable molds for these stones and cast them in concrete.
-Mosaic Bird Puddler Workshop
Use hypertufa and concrete to cast leaves into a puddler for birds to bathe and spa away the day.  Add sparkle with glass mosaics if you like.


Open Project Studio

The Open Project Studio offers workspace and materials to those who have their own idea in mind of what they wish to create.   We’ll help you fine tune your thinking and turn it into reality.  The open time is schedule for two consecutive Saturday and Sunday mornings.  *Base studio fee is $65 and will be adjusted according to the materials needed to complete the project.
Studio Fee:  $65*


2015 Creative Workshops and Studios

Our 2015 Creative Workshops and Studios are now open for enrollment. Check out our line-up for this winter and spring and join us for some creative fun!
For class descriptions, times, dates and to enroll please visit:


 Funny Joepot Workshop
 Mini Stake Workshop
 Mosaic Bird Puddler Workshop
 Stones with Holes Workshop
 Garden Angel Studio
 Handmade Paper Studio
Hypertua Studio