My love affair with hypertufa began years ago while I worked at Martha Stewart. The magazine had a beautiful story on hypertufa planters, the how-to of their making, and, of course, seductive images of the possibilities. I was intrigued by the versatility and the many plant-friendly attributes of this material and had to find out more!
At the time I lacked the studio space, but I read all I could find about the medium, and over the years I intermittently looked for workshops where I could try it and learn new tricks in practice (I always learn better by doing, plus I like the social aspect of taking group classes).
Then in 2013 my husband and I moved from NYC to our new home in the Hudson Valley. I now had a garden AND plenty of workspace to explore some of the backlog of *messy* projects that were not as realistic in a Brooklyn apartment.
First on my list was hypertufa, and I soon found out that Stonecrop Gardens in Cold Spring, NY, offered hypertufa trough-making workshops. Their workshops are very popular, so it took some patience to secure a spot, but it paid off because I met one of my now great friends and OFFICIALLY fell in love with hypertufa all in one weekend!
My first hypertufa trough - Then and Now
On a side note, if you find yourself in the Hudson Valley, I highly recommend a visit to Stonecrop Gardens. You should set aside a few hours to explore, and you should definitely take a look at their collection of giant hypertufa troughs because they will give you tons of ideas for container gardens. AND if you plan it right, your visit might coincide with their popular and highly dangerous (because it's amazing!) annual alpines sale.
Anyway, back to the story. Over the next few years, my new friend and I would get together about once a year and play around with making small planters, always spending a considerable amount of time prepping the materials and space and trying to remember what we did the previous times.
Then last year I decided to take a more organized approach to my hypertufa obsession. I started by trying out the different formulas I found through my research and, as I learned how each ingredient contributed to the outcome, coming up with some recipes of my own while simultaneously trying out different mold materials and constructions.
During that time, I also set up a dedicated workshop, outfitted with all the tools (even a serious cement mixer!) needed to create the planters, as well as the molds that I design and build in-house.
Hypertufa is not an exact science, so the process involved lots of trial and error. But it’s that aspect of experimentation and being able to learn from each new object that makes the process so fascinating and addictive.
There is also lots of crossover between the way I develop planters and my work in other areas (like ceramics, textiles, and even furniture), and I find that I often have running themes and techniques that span several of my projects. I like having some common threads linking seemingly disparate types of objects and seeing how they translate as I work to understand each medium’s capabilities and limitations.
Having said all that, I have to confess that my plant survival stats are not excellent! But I do love creating the planters that gardeners—no matter where they fall on the green-thumb scale—can use to create lush container gardens. There is just so much promise held by an empty planter, big or small, don’t you think?