Write on Saturday – Making a Leaf Casting – March 23, 2019

On Wednesday things had dried out enough that I was able to get out in the yard for a couple of hours. I was thrilled to be able to cut back the Knock-out roses in the back and cut back some of the perennials that I leave through the winter. Then on Thursday it rained. Again. All day! And now at 5 on Friday morning I can hear it raining. Hard. Yesterday the back yard was as wet as I’d ever seen it. It’s too dark yet to see how big the lake is this morning. I’m not going out to try and take pictures, so will do a post on something a couple of you have asked for — how to make a cement leaf casting.

When going through my photos I found some which show the process. The pictures don’t quite show all the steps, but it should be enough if you want to give this a shot. I’ll explain what’s missing. I wasn’t thinking about doing a post about the process at that time. There are lots of YouTube videos, too.

  1. Don’t make the mistake I made the first time when I put my work board on the ground. Very hard on my back. The next time I put an old slab door on saw horses and covered it with plastic so I could work at waist height.

I used large leaves from my elephant ear bulbs. I’ve also done hostas.

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2. Make a mound of sand that is a little larger than the leaf you are casting. I used builders sand because it was what I had. When I needed more I got play sand. I thought it was a little fine. You have to dampen the sand to get it to retain the mound shape.

In the photo below (with the hands) the sand mound should be bigger to support the pointed part of the leaf. You aren’t trying to make a flat casting and you won’t need gloves until you get to the concrete.

3. I used Quickcrete Vinyl concrete patcher that I got at Lowe’s. I mixed the concrete in my wheelbarrow with a hoe and at the end used my hands to get into the corners. Put on rubber gloves or you may burn your hands. I think you could mix the concrete in the plastic bucket it comes in but I didn’t try that. One bucket made two medium sized castings. It needs to be the consistency of peanut butter. If it’s too dry it will crack and if it’s too wet it will slump. Don’t forget to hose out your barrow,  hoe  and any other tools you’ve used when you are finished.

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Take handsful of concrete and pat it over the leaf all the way to the edge. You can cut the stem off close to the leaf or leave it and have a hole in your casting. If you are making a bird bath you don’t want a hole. You want the thickness of the cement to be half an inch or less. Don’t make it too thin. Make the edges smooth with a putty knife. You can see that we made flat spots on the casting bottom so they would be more stable.

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4. If your work area is in the sun, cover with some plastic while the concrete dries. In a couple of hours when the concrete begins to solidify you can do some more smoothing on the edges before the cement gets too hard.  After a day or two (when the concrete seems dry enough), lift the castings off the sand and remove the leaf. You’ll be able to tell when the casting is hard enough to move. On smaller castings it might just be a day. Sometimes I just turned them over and left the leaf on for awhile before pulling it off. If it dries in the veins use a small screwdriver or a wire brush to clean the casting.

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5. I made the first ones in the fall and left them to cure in my garden shed through the winter because I wanted to use some craft paint on them to give them a little color and enhance the vein definition. You can use a file to smooth the edges if you want. As I went along I got better at smoothing the edges while the cement was still soft and since my work surface was waist height I could lift the plastic and check every couple of hours.

On the casting below you can see (left side) where I should have taken some of the overlap off before the concrete dried. Sometimes it’s hard to tell where the leaf stops. You don’t want the edges to be too thin.

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6. Below my writing partner, Laura Ambler, is holding the casting I made for her after I had painted it. It filled the trunk of my honda. The other photo is my yoga buddy, Gail, who made the largest leaf casting of the bunch. It was forty inches long and took two bags of Quikcrete. It sat on the table for a week before we lifted it off the sand. On somthing this size you want the concrete (except for the edges) to be thicker. You don’t want it to break.

The past several years I’ve put my castings in the shed for the winter. This year I left a couple out to see what would happen. I made sure they were sitting off the ground and turned so water wouldn’t freeze in them.

Two years ago I taught thirteen women friends (one or two at a time) how to make leaf castings. Last year my workshop was closed! But I might get the itch again this year. If I do, I’ll take better photos of the process.

That’s my Six on Saturday, photos this week of making cement leaf castings.This meme was started by The Propogator, a UK gardener.  This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.

Six on Saturday – September 1, 2018 – Dominoes

I’m in a hurry this morning. And all because I want to put a small freezer in our garage. That required getting some electrical work done. And the freezer would displace one of two tall filing cabinets. I could use that second one in my office, I thought. To ready the garage for the work, things had to be moved away from the wall. Everything is now piled in the middle of the garage but the electrical work has been completed. Finding a small freezer is not so easy.

And in order to put the filing cabinet into my office I needed to reconfigure the furniture. That involved moving a ceiling height bookcase full of ten years worth of stuff that needs to be sorted and pitched. And what was on top and underneath of another table. All of that is now in my dining room. I discovered that the place I wanted to put the bookcase is where an old HVAC outlet is. It’s ancient and stuck out from the wall so I removed it and placed a cover on the floor. Not as easy as that sounds, but it is ready for a piece of baseboard. All this had to be done before I could think about moving the bookcase — just to see if I liked it in the new position. That will happen this morning. Hence the hurry with my Six on Saturday.

  1. Last fall I left Elephant ear tubers in the ground near the garage to see if they would survive the winter temperatures. They were very slow to come up in the spring, but look at the size. I will no longer spend time digging and story the tubers. These are the leaves I made my cement leaf castings from last year.

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2. The wheelbarrow is planted with mint so it won’t escape. I put one coleus plant in the front and some leftover sunpatiens in a pot next to it. Added some drip irrigation. Now I can hardly find the mint. I really do love chartreuse in my garden. The nesting box in the upper left corner hosted two hatchings of Carolina wrens this summer.

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3. This photo is just because it was so pretty this morning. We got some much needed rain last night.

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4. Two window boxes from the front of the house. I thought I had killed one of the plants by putting soapy water on it. Then I read a post by Tony Tomeo (one of the SoSers) who showed a plant with a mildew problem. He said it spread quickly. It looked very similar to the leaves on my Sunpatiens, so I took out two of the boxes that looked like they had been effected and cut the stems back. They are coming back and in a week will go back where they were. We still have two months of warmish weather so they’ll fill in. Thanks, Tony!

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5. The dry spell has done in at least five of my azaleas. The drip irrigation just wasn’t enough. I like the white repleat bloomer which seems to have survived just fine so will try to find more of those. The plants that look dead may come back from the roots but I don’t want to wait that long.

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6. I could only find three chrysalis that the black swallowtail caterpillars made. I guess the birds ate the rest. I must have had at least thirty caterpillars. Will this be a butterfly this fall or not until next year? If next year, should I try and put them in a more protected place?

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That’s my six for this week, a meme started by The Propogator, a UK gardener. This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.

Now back to sorting out my garage and office. The garden will have to wait.

Six on Saturday – June 30, 2018 Ditch Lilies Mean Summer Is Here

Summer is here. We are hot and dry. The first six cubic yards of mulch has been put down. I promptly ordered another six yards. I don’t mulch every year and I want this effort to last for awhile. We’ll take our time spreading it in the cool early morning hours. The front of the house looks dressed up now.

Lots of things are blooming now in the garden and it’s hard to choose just six. I noticed some deer damage on a couple of hostas and sprayed Deer-Away. The squirrels are busy digging up my tulip bulbs. They really went to town after I put down the mulch. Why is that?  I wonder if I will have any tulips next spring.

I am not seeing many bees in the garden. That has me worried. The first two cukes were picked two days ago and we’ve started eating beans from the garden. The sugar snap peas haven’t produced well this year and will get pulled soon to make room for another crop of something.

Here are my Six on Saturday.

  1. I always called these common orange day lilies Ditch Lilies because they filled the ditches along the sides of the roads in the rolling hills of Maryland (on the western side of the Chesapeake Bay) where I used to live. When I googled Ditch Lily it seems that is one of the names they are known by so I have to get over thinking I made that up. On a walk one day I saw a double so I dug it up and brought it home where it thrived. When we moved I carried some of the tuberous roots with me and now have a whole section blooming near Shasta daisies in some very inhospitable soil. When the ditch lilies bloom I know summer is here.

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2. This Raspberry Wine monarda was brought from a reading garden I helped install at our local library. (Those of us who weed that garden feel entitled to bring home extras.) It is a lovely berry red and the bumbles like it. It grows about 4 feet tall but is prone to mildew. Behind the monarda are elephant ear leaves from tubers I left in the ground last winter. These are the leaves that I made cement castings from last summer. Leaving them in the ground was an experiment. Now I know I don’t have to dig and store the roots over the winter.

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3. In the front of the house the cleome have been thinned and mulched and are beginning to bloom. It will grow 24 – 36″ tall and blooms all summer. The tallest can be cut back and will send out blooming side shoots. I’ve mulched very heavily so I’m wondering if this will inhibit the cleome’s self-seeding. I need to edge the beds, but that may or may not get done. Getting mulch down before the hottest summer weather was the priority. I understand commercial landscapers have a motorized tool for edging. Maybe I can find one at a tool rental company. It would look more finished if it was edged.

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4. A seating area overlooking the azaleas is ringed with a small hosta that has lovely purple flowers. It spreads even in this dry area of my garden which only gets occasional watering. Surprisingly I have seen little slug damage to my hostas this year. Maybe those ashes from the fireplace (that Fred, the French gardener, suggested) helped.

The white blooms are on a variagated leaf hosta. I just had to include the lovely photo. It makes me want to be a painter. Maybe in my next life…

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5. Butterfly weed (Asclepias tuberosa) is native to our area. I have several clumps that the Monarchs will soon be visiting.

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6.  Northern Sea Oats can easily become invasive. I am very careful to cut the seed stalks back before they ripen and fall, but I’m considering removing them because it’s another gardening chore I have to remember to do. I certainly do love they way they wave in the breeze and they are lovely in flower arrangements.

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That’s my Six on Saturday for this week. The meme was started by The Propogator, a UK gardener. This is the link to the rules if you’d like to join in.