Introduction: Concrete Leaves for Gardens or Fountains

Kindly vote for this in the Concrete Casting Contest!  Thanks ever so much. ( :

This instructable is on behalf of Madeline Werner, the caster of these lovely leaves.  Being inbetween jobs, I have the time (and inclination) to do it!   This is an easy, cheap, and fun way to make a lasting addition to any landscape. We hope you enjoy our first instructable.  Feedback welcome. ( :

Materials needed:

-Large, fresh, veiny leaves such as rhubarb (don't worry if they have a few holes) or smaller like hosta
-50 lbs. Play Sand for forming
-Plastic wrap, food storage type
-50--80 lb. Bag of Concrete (sand aggregate only)
 -Nitrile gloves
-Spray and hand paints, brushes, etc.
-Water sealer for concrete

Optional: Portland Cement, concrete colorant, wire to coil and set for hanging, chicken wire or drywall mesh joint tape for more strength

Step 1: Gather Leaves

Put the shout out to all you know, we offer a free finished leaf to anyone who donates to the cause.  I've even stopped by a commercial farm, and they were happy to oblige.

Keep in water until ready to use, but no more than a couple of days.

Step 2: Prep the Casting Area

Maddie started off doing them on the ground in the carport, then I built her a table in her shop.  (Much easier on the back!)  Extra large are still done on the ground.

Press the leaf on a pile of sand to desired shape, mounding or flatening. Remove the leaf, then cover the sand with plastic wrap.  Return the leaf to its original spot.  Prep all leaves to be cast before the next step.

Step 3: Mix the Concrete

Maddie has found that adding Portland cement (Up to a coffee can per 40 lbs.) makes a stronger leaf, and is the easiest way to get the water/concrete to the nice pasty consistancy if you've added too much water. A 1/2 bag (about 40 lbs,) of concrete will do 5 medium sized leaves.  We call approx. 18" across the widest point "medium" sized.  12" and 24" would be small and large.

Step 4: Pile It On

Still talking about a medium leaf, it is about 3/4  to 1" thick along the rib, tapering to about 3/8" thick at the edges. Rolling the wrap can neaten up the edges.  Do the thickness in two steps if you plan to add the hanging wire, or mesh tape/chicken wire.  The latter advised if hanging, and for large to monster leaves. 

Step 5: Let It Be for at Least a Day, 2 Is Better

2 is better!  (Water bottle is for scale)

Step 6: Pealing Takes the Most Time!

We've tried compressed air, and a jet of water (from garden hose sprayer).  It seems that patience works best.  The first one still needs work. Needle nose pliers, picks, and stiff brushes can help. 

Step 7: Painting

No holds barred here, whatever you want goes.  We've been liking the metalic look lately, with some accent color in the veins. A sponge for blending works nicely.  Finish with the water seal front and back after the paint has dried and you're done!  Resealing once a year is highly recommended.  One warning, if you bring one to work or a gathering to give to somebody...you will be making more!

Comments

author
Sumethat (author)2016-08-23

I want to make 5 of these beautiful pieces of art this weekend and want to make a tall fountain. I don't know how to mount them. Please share your ideas on how to support/mount these leafs on to a metal stand

author
sharonnah59 (author)Sumethat2016-08-24

Without seeing the stand...hard to say! Assuming there is a flat surface on it, you could use concrete to make a small "stand" for the leaf, perhaps using a plastic coffee can cut down to a desired tipping angle as a mold. (Then let it harden on the concrete leaf, then remove the can.)

author
CorryD (author)2016-07-14

Love these. Thank you for the tutorial. I shared on my Pinterest and Facebook page.

author
littlehoneybunny (author)2016-06-04

Swallowtail seeds sells dinosaur food seed (giant rhubarb leaves) n going to grow my plant and harvest leaves for fountaiin. Am unsure about how to stack secure leaves for fountai . . . . Any suggestions

author
LaurieK3 (author)2015-06-30

I made a elephant ear leaf and It has cracked on one of the side veins. Is there any way to fit it?

author
LilaB5 (author)LaurieK32016-05-26

Gorilla glue

author
sharonnah59 (author)LaurieK32015-07-01

Gorilla Glue works great for this. Just remember it expands, so don't use too much on the top side.

author
TedN6 (author)2016-05-25

would it be possible to use varnish or fiberglass for the project

author
bricky62 (author)2015-11-23

when buying Portland cement ask for the back saver bags. only 47 lbs. and half the weight of a big bag. don't ask for concrete. concrete has stone for aggregate. you want to mix Portland with fine sand.

author
SuzanneK6 (author)2015-08-30

I love these! Can you tell me How you make them into a three tier fountain?

author
chickenleg12 (author)2015-07-19

How do you get the edges of the leaf to look so neat? Also I found that spraying the leaf with Pam helps with removal.

author
sharonnah59 (author)chickenleg122015-07-19

Pulling the plastic wrap up and molding with your hand helps the edges look neat. We've tried Pam, but then the paint runs. Washing/blow drying seems just as much of a pain as peeling.

author
sharonnah59 (author)2013-10-19

By the way, we did try using a cooking spray on the back of of the leaf to hopefully help its removal after the concrete set. Not only did it not help, but made the surface resistant to the paint! Fail.

author

I use cooking spray, works great you just have to do a quick scrub with a soft brush and a little dish soap, let completely dry and your ready to paint. Also works great if your adding color to the cement (no paint needed) You can also try mixing 2-3 different colors, pouring them at the same time in a swirling fashion. Different every time.

author

Will try the dish soap, thanks! And would love to see a picture of your swirling colored leaves.

author
annie.treiber (author)2015-01-28

Beautiful! I made several last year myself, but seemed to get stuck in a rut with painting them...no fresh ideas! Love these. Do you seal them/prime them before applying the paint and exactly what kind of paint do you buy? Any tips would be appreciated! Thanks a bunch!

author

I have done quite a few of these awesome leaves and I use cooking spray, works great. With cement colorant no problem, if I want to paint after, I just do a quick scrub with a brush and a little dish soap. Good luck.

author

Hi Annie,

Maddie does not prime them, and uses Thompson water seal after. (The unpainted bottom as well.) She uses rustolium mostly, with some acrylic craft paints for accents and sponging. Thanks for liking!

Sharon

author
LoriR3 (author)2015-05-19

What type of framework did you use for mounting the leaves for the water feature? Was the weight of the concrete a problem?

author
sherry.draper.374 (author)2014-09-02

I used an elephant ear leaf. It comes right off. I never had to peal it

Now I can't wait to paint it

author

I read somewhere to use vasoline on the mold/leaf for easy removal....don't know if that would work because then you would have a new problem getting the vasoline off off in order to paint/seal it.....just say'in...

author
saosport (author)2014-05-22

I tried adding photos but am not having any luck from Ipad I will have to wait to do it via desktop. But I started taking the leaf off last night and it looks nice. I am going to make some more this weekend.

author
saosport (author)2014-05-21

I just made mine last night can't wait to see them thanks for the great instructable

author
sharonnah59 (author)saosport2014-05-21

Great Saosport! Feel free to add a picture here when you're done. ( :

author
lryder1 (author)2014-04-07

I've found that WD 40 works well to remove cast when sprayed before you fill.

author
sharonnah59 (author)lryder12014-04-07

Have you had success painting the surface after using WD 40?

author
fretted (author)2014-01-03

But what you could uses on the back of the leaf is this you would only need one thin coat and quite possibly you could coat both sides and use the leaf twice

http://shop.hobbylobby.com/products/mold-builder-liquid-latex-30452/

I
 use this to make concrete molds it stinks like cat pee it has a lot of ammonia in it but it's natural latex  if you brush on a very thin coat you should have no problem peeling the leaf back off the back of the concrete ! 

author
sharonnah59 (author)fretted2014-01-03

Now that's an interesting product! I don't think we'd get the deep veins we like from the top side...but it is worth experimenting with. Thanks a bunch Fretted!

author
sclayman (author)sharonnah592014-02-21

Sharonnah59, 2questions... Can it be made strong enough to walk on? And you stated you wanted a shout out to people to donate to the cause... Can you explain?

author
sharonnah59 (author)sclayman2014-02-22

Hi sclayman, I would not use these as pavers. But if you build a wood form (at least 1.5" thick) and use mostly sidewalk concrete for the base, you can make a good 2 dimensional impression in a top layer of the above patching concrete mix. The "donation" refers to finding people willing to give their large rhubarb or other leaves, if you do not grow your own.

author
sclayman (author)sharonnah592014-02-22

well, if someone makes me two... I can use one of them as a mold for glass and I can send them one back out of glass..

author
sclayman (author)sharonnah592014-02-22

thanks

author
cgurlz (author)2013-10-04

Those are awesome! You should sell those!

author
diy_bloke (author)2013-09-25

gorgeous

author
Quizicat (author)2013-08-25

What is the purpose of taking the leaf up and putting plastic wrap down? Why not just put the plastic down at first. (maybe I'm missing something)

author
sharonnah59 (author)Quizicat2013-08-25

Quizicat and the bigkeger, there is some shaping of the sand being done at this step. Maddie says she often removes/replaces the leaf a couple of times before being satisfied with the shape. Why wrestle with wrap if you don't have to, right? And yes, it is casting the back of the leaf.

author
antioch (author)sharonnah592013-09-16

Aaah, that had me puzzled, too. Might want to add it to the instructions to save dummies like me some headache in the future, teehee!
I'm still lost on the use of the plastic wrap though! Halp!

author
Toffy (author)2013-09-01

These are so terrific......job well done.

author
sharonnah59 (author)2013-09-01

Sure appreciate all the support, thank you, thank you!

author
poofrabbit (author)2013-08-31

Just wanted to say congratulations on being a finalists in the Concrete & Casting Contest! This was such a great idea, every time I see it I smile. Good luck!

author
TeemoSto (author)2013-08-28

Super cool; you got my vote!

author
tim_n (author)2013-08-28

I did the same a while back (https://www.instructables.com/id/Ornamental-paving-slabs/) however came to the conclusion it needed wire embedded otherwise it cracks.

Found peeling worked better than any other method too.

author
woodpuppy (author)2013-08-27

I love the porjeckt. Spray the leaf with cookingspray (pam) or hairspray befor casting, comes out like a charm then

author
MisrerRoberts (author)2013-08-26

Wow, going to have to try that!!

Wonder if a very fine sand and a sand blaster would remove the leaf without damaging the concrete.

Or maybe put it out in the sun until the leaf dries up and crumbles?

author
11Brenda (author)2013-08-26

Absolutely beautiful !!!

author
kjackman1 (author)2013-08-26

Very creative and interesting project! My question is what kind of paint did you use for the metallic finish?

author
sharonnah59 (author)kjackman12013-08-26

Rustoleum. (Gold, silver, copper, & brass)

author
velcro2 (author)2013-08-25

I give this project high marks for imagination and creativity. I wonder if you coated the leaf with a "parting wax" then wouldn't that make it easier to remove the leaf from the mold? I was also thinking of how you could make a large rubber mold out of your original and then duplicate the best leaves. I also was thinking of making them into stepping stones by adding some steel mesh and another 1" to 2" layer to the underside. Thanks for sharing. This is a great project.

author
zacker (author)velcro22013-08-26

for a stepping stone you could always dig a 2 or 3 inch hole in the shape you want, fill it with concrete and either drop one of these into the wet concrete or better yet, press the leaves in from the top to imprint or stamp the pattern into your step stone. the best part of pouring the concrete into a hole in the ground is you don't have to try and level it off later so it doesn't rock or wobble and they should pretty much be all the same height when done!!

author
sharonnah59 (author)velcro22013-08-25

We love all of your ideas velcro2, thank you too!

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