However, trying to obtain one of these centuries-old planters yourself might prove expensive and tricky. Luckily we've discovered a way to create this planter all on your own with materials you can easily obtain. Here's a quick and easy way to replicate the weathered look of these hand-hewn vessels yourself.
The key is a material called hypertufa, a mix of cement, peat moss, and perlite, products readily available at any home or garden center. Just combine the ingredients, add water, pack the mixture into a handmade mold, and set it aside to cure for a couple of days. When you pop off the mold, you'll have created a bit of the Old World, right in your own backyard.
See more planter ideas from This Old House
Step 1: Overview
Supplies You Will Need:
1. Form materials: pine shelf board, plywood, foam insulation, or cardboard boxes will work. Beveled panels for decorative recess are optional. (See Overview)
2. ½-inch multi-purpose screws
3. Releasing agent. Melted paraffin or petroleum jelly will work.
4. 2½-inch-tall PVC pipe pieces. Paper towel spool pieces will also work.
5. Cement: (5-9 for hypertufa mix; See "The Recipe" in Overview)
8. Liquid acrylic
9. Nylon reinforcing fibers
10. Plastic sheeting
11. Wire mesh
Tools you will Need:
4. DUST MASK
6. BUCKET OR PAIL
7. GARDEN TROWEL
8. COARSE WIRE BRUSH
10. SMALL PIECE OF SCRAP WOOD
The amount of hypertufa mix you will need depends on the size of the trough you're making. You can stretch or shrink the recipe if you stick to these basic proportions:
• 3 parts cement
• 4 parts peat
• 4 parts perlite
• Water sufficient to make a firm, moldable mixture, plus a splash of liquid acrylic (about ¼ the amount of total liquid)
• A handful of nylon reinforcing fibers
Building the Form:
Trough forms can be made from plywood, rigid foam insulation, or two cardboard boxes, one inside the other. We used pine shelf board because it is sturdy and can be used again and again. To create the decorative recess, we glued beveled panels to the insides of the exterior form.
Our trough measured 17 inches wide by 24 inches long by 10 inches high. You can use the same method to build any size trough. For best results, the walls should be a minimum of 2¼ inches thick, and the trough should be at least 7½ inches deep.
Step 2: Apply Release Agent
Step 3: Create Drainage
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Step 4: Mix Hypertufa Materials
Step 5: Pack Hypertufa into Form
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Step 6: Tamp Down Hypertufa
Step 7: Remove Trough from Form
Step 8: Finish and Wrap
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Step 9: Start Planting
The best planting mixture for alpines is organic soil with sand, grit, and small stones. A layer of gravel at the bottom of the trough is optional but will improve drainage. Before filling the trough, put a small piece of wire mesh over each drainage hole to keep it clear. And be sure to leave space in the trough for some native rocks—in addition to looking nice, they imitate the alpine environment, protecting plants from the ravages of wind and extreme temperature swings.
Speaking of temperature swings, try to keep the trough shaded in winter to limit repeated freeze/thaw cycles, which can do damage to plants and also shorten the life of the trough.
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