Over the past two days, I’ve written articles about growing hostas in containers, and what to do if your hostas develop crown rot. Now seems like a good time to write about casting leaves in concrete.
Hosta leaves are a popular type of leaf for casting in concrete, although any large leave with deep veins will work well for casting. The leaves can be used for a variety of different projects depending on the leaf size ranging from flower pot decorations and garden art to stepping stones and birdbaths.
For a leaf casting project you will need:
- Play sand
- Garden hose
- Concrete mix
- Concrete dyes
- Stirring rod
- A mixing bucket
- Thick plastic such as a dry cleaning bag
- Chicken wire
- Wire nippers
- Water bottle
- Wire brush
Start by wetting play sand with a garden hose until it sticks together. You want the sand to be the same dampness as if you were building a sand castle. Then mound the sand into a pile large enough to support your leaf. The sand should be in the shape of the final project that you want to make. If you want to make a bowl-shaped leaf, make sure that the sand is bowl-shaped. If you want a flat project, make the sand flat. The leaf shouldn’t wrinkle when it is put onto the sand.
Cover the damp sand with the plastic bag. This will keep the sand from sticking to the concrete. Put the leaf onto the plastic with the vein side sticking up.
Now mix the concrete in a mixing bucket with water until it is the consistency of a mud pie. Concrete is slightly different than cement in that it already has sand mixed in with it. If you use Portland cement, you will need to add sand or other aggregates at a ratio recommended on the package of the cement. If you want to use hypertufa, mix 1/3 cement, 1/3 sand and 1/3 organics such as peat moss.
Add cement dye to the cement as you mix it. Then tap the bucket on the ground to dislodge any air bubbles in the mix.
Press a layer of cement into the surface of the leaf until the leaf is completely coated pat the cement to dislodge any air bubbles. Make sure not to tear the leaf. For larger leaves, cut a layer of chicken wire so that the wire is slightly smaller but in the same shape as the leaf. Press the wire into the leaf and cover with another layer of cement. Pat the cement in order to remove air bubbles again.
If you are going to build up a base for a birdbath pedestal or a wire stem, now is the time to do this. One way to build up a base is to place a 2 inch wide tube such as a cross-section of an oatmeal box to the bottom of the leaf and then fill it with concrete.
Allow the leaf casting to cure and harden over several days. In order to make the concrete harder, mist with a water bottle and wrap the plastic around the leaf. Unwrap and mist the leaf again every few days until the casting is hard.
Once the cement leaf is firm, turn it over carefully. Remove the organic leaf by brushing it with a wire bristled brush.