About the SFMGA

Wednesday, April 29, 2009

HYPERTUFA PLANTERS – Stone look alikes you can make yourself


  • Plastic sheeting or trash bags
  • Molds – plastic or ceramic bowls/tubs, foam coolers or nested cardboard boxes lined with plastic. Stainless steel is not easy to unmold.
  • Rubber gloves and dust mask
  • Large mixing tub or pail and trowel
  • Measuring container
  • Sifted peat moss
  • Vermiculite or perlite
  • Portland cement (must be Portland, not a quickcrete product)
  • Fibermesh reinforcing material (optional)
  • Cement coloring agent (optional: add ½ cup per quart of cement; add more if desired)
  • Water
  • Wire brush
  • Wood dowels, ½ to 1" or drill for drainage holes


Determine if you want to use the inside or outside of mold to shape your piece. For beginners, using the inside is easiest; your planter will have smooth sides. (See notes below.) You can line the inside of the mold with plastic if desired to facilitate release. Finished planter should be 5-6" deep for best results.

Cover work area with plastic; work out of direct sunlight in a place you can leave your planter for a week or more to cure undisturbed. Do not allow planter to freeze during curing time. Large planters will be heavy, so you may wish to make them where they will be placed in your garden.

Put on your mask and gloves and mix one part vermiculite or perlite with one part peat in your tub. Blend in one part cement. Mix well. Add a handful of fibermesh, if using. Reserve a cup or so of the mixture. Begin to add water slowly, blending well. Add enough water to create a damp mixture that sticks together when you squeeze it. It should hold its shape. If mixture is too wet, you will need to quickly add some of your reserve dry mixture. It is much better to get your mixture right the first time as your planter will be stronger.

Beginning at the bottom, press handfuls of the tufa mixture into the mold so it's at least 1" thick. The larger the mold, the thicker the tufa should be. 2" is best for large molds. Too thick is better than too thin. Pat and tamp well to remove air bubbles and bond the tufa. Work your way up the sides of the mold, keeping consistent thickness on the sides. You can make the top edge smooth or textured. At this point, press a piece of dowel into the bottom to create drainage hole(s); leave in place as planter cures. You can also drill drainage holes once trough is dry.

Loosely wrap the mold in plastic for drying. Periodically uncover and mist the mold with water so it cures slowly. After 2-7 days, the tufa will be firm enough to remove it from the mold. Keep the planter covered loosely with plastic and allow it to cure another 1-3 weeks until completely dry. The longer the cure, the stronger the piece.

When the planter is dry, use the wire brush to do any additional shaping or texturing you desire. Any visible fibermesh fibers can be burned off with a small torch at this point. Because concrete is highly alkaline, it is best to let the planter weather a few more weeks, uncovered, before planting. Rinse it frequently with water to allow the lime to leach out.

To plant your planter, cover drainage holes with landscape fabric or plastic screening to prevent soil from blocking holes and leaking out. Fill with soil and plants as desired. Your planter should last for many years outside.


  • You can choose to form your planter on the outside of your mold. With this technique you can create a textured outside surface. It is important with this method to make the top surface (which will be the bottom of your planter) level so your planter is stable on a hard surface.

  • Other molds to use for larger containers include nested cardboard boxes lined with plastic, or a Styrofoam cooler with a smaller box inside. These large molds will take a long time to cure.

Harvey Cornell Rose Garden Pruning with Jack Ortega – April 26, 2009

There are no mistakes in pruning!

How to work with climbers, hybrids & teas.

You must discipline your children & your roses!

Tools & Supplies

Felco & Corona are the best pruners. If you prune every year you will not need loppers. A little saw is useful too, a drywall saw is o.k.
Scissors for miniature bushes and to get into tight spots without damaging around them.
Get a little sharpener for pruners, Newman’s has them.
After every bush spray with pruners with alcohol and wipe them off with an old towel. Roses have sugars that accumulate on the blades so it keeps the blades cleaner as well as helping to prevent the spread of diseases.
Elmer’s Glue

Climbing Roses

Climbers are unique but you can use these same rules on other kinds of cascading bushes.
Balance the shape of the bush by spreading canes to both sides but do not force too much change in one season.
Old canes will be blackish & gray, middle aged canes will be green and new canes will be green and smooth. Regenerate with the new canes, older canes are more susceptible to disease.
You can take out a third of canes, take out as low as possible on older canes, help generate new canes.

Feed 1 cup Epsom salts (magnesium) spread around, scratch in, water in. Epsom salts also helps generate new canes & greens up the leaves. O.K. on any kind of roses.

Remove one third of the old canes yearly. If it only has 3 canes leave it alone.
Bud eyes are the new shoots starting on canes.
End of April is good for pruning because you can see the bud eyes
on a long lateral cane do not prune, cut end where it is getting spindly, about a foot or less. Clean up. Conservative pruning for climbers.

Shrub Roses

The English just shear off the tops down about a foot, 1/3 of the height left.
Jack recommends to take off about a 1/3 at a time.
Look at canes growing toward center or crossing and remove. Leave as many straight lines as possible when done. Take out canes with thin spindly top growth, it gives small flowers.
Spray now for aphids. Jack uses Orthenex (toxic) on tops only, twice – 7 days apart. Insecticidal soap is good but it must make contact with the aphids.
Either angled or straight cuts are O.K.
Deadheading is a good practice, it regenerates the bush and creates air circulation to avoid powdery mildew which accumulates at the tips. Clip those part off and put in a plastic bag, clean pruners. Use Green Cure spray for powdery mildew, order on-line. http://www.greencure.net/

Rugosa Roses

Leave them alone – no spray, no pruning. Just fertilize and take out the dead wood. Very light pruning.

Hybrid Tea Roses

Take down at least 18” from the ground IF the plant allows you to, look for the bud eyes to guide pruning.
On these smaller plants use ½ cup Epsom salts.
Fish Emulsion is a slow starter but it is good for worms.
Use compost material when you plant them for bacteria
Compost, topsoil and sand for good drainage
You must allow air to get into the roots, roses do not like wet feet.
Feed a water soluable fertilizer (faster) or granules, which are slower
Grow Power & Yum Yum have to be added every month.
Can use Miracle Grow from time to time – cut dosage in half and use every other week, using fish emulsion on the other weeks.
Osmocote has a rose formula, use every 5 to 6 weeks.
Dave Austin has a slow release formula:
Do Epsom salts in spring only. It can create salts accumulation problems in the soil, be careful.
Fish emulsion once a month, get at Walmart.

Note: I did not find in on-line at Walmart but did find one listed at True Value Hardware:

He feeds plants from May to the end of August. Be sure to keep them hydrated so you don’t burn them when you add the fertilizers.

Once a month take a long nosed shovel, push it in about 8” and twist slightly to de-compact the soil and let air into the roots. Don’t worry about it being open, compost will sift down there. Do this about one foot out from the plant and every foot to 18” all around, perpendicular to the plant.

If not fed enough you don’t get enough bud eyes.
Be careful when pruning early that you don’t take too much in the event of a late freeze
The bud eyes are where the new leaves are coming out
Use stakes to help shape the canes and keep them from crossing, not too drastic in one season.
Use a little Elmer’s Glue on cuts to keep out bugs & diseases.
Hybrid teas only put on one bloom per stem, make it as strong as possible.
Reduce watering at the end of the season to signal to the plant to create more sugar (anti-freeze) to harden up for winter. Bud eyes need moisture to sprout, a wet winter may cause them to sprout earlier than they should. In Summer water on city schedule – 3 days a week.
Pecan mulch is good, it ages nicely and gives a good topsoil in about 3 years (and it’s fun to watch the birds go after the bits of pecan left in the mulch). In winter mound the mulch in around the bush and spread new mulch in spring. Move mulch away to feed.

Spread fish emulsion around the dripline: 1 – 2 oz per gallon water.

Alfalfa pellet tea is the best fertilizer.
½ cup alfalfa pellets per gallon water or make a large batch in a 30 gallon container with 15 cups alfalfa pellets. Do this from the 15th to the 30th of July. Put the container where it will get sun. Stir twice a day, it ferments in 3 days. Can also add ½ cup Epsom salts. Use one gallon per bush. The ground has to be warm enough when you use this. Gives especially great results in 2 to 3 years.

Planting New Rose Bushes

Raised beds & pots are best if you have caliche soil because of lack of drainage, they hate wet feet. Sandy soil is O.K. – use 1/3 top soil, 1/3 compost & 1/3 sand.
Add soil sulfur
The bottom of the crown should be at soil level, then mulch to the top of the crown (1 to 3 inches)
Mulch 4 to 6” in winter for spring protection (don’t feed after the end of August)
New basal breaks from bottom, if they are exposed to the cold they will die so the mulch protects them in spring, can use dirt too. Don’t peek and expose them. Around the 10 May you can start watering in the center and start washing the mulch away but you can keep them covered
Use a bubbler to water gently.
Where the old leaves are is where bud eyes will be, clip off old, dried, brown leaves – do not pull them off. You can also hose them off.
In February you can use a dormant spray – be sure to get around the ground in the mulch and litter where the eggs overwinter.

Other notes:

Deb says bush roses bloom 8 to 10 weeks after pruning and hybrid teas about a week after that so come back in June to see everything in bloom.

Alice recommends Heirloom Roses of Oregon, they rate rose by scent:

More info on using Epsom Salts in the garden: