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Hypertufa Grots Method Use large plastic planter pots as moulds. Place a supermarket plastic carrier bag inside the pot and drape the top and handles over the outside of the planter. Smooth out the worst of the folds. Mix. You will probably want to experiment by first making just one. Later you may possibly make them in batches. My experience is that seven heaped digging shovels of cement, an equal amount of sand and ten or eleven shovels of peat ( sieved to avoid lumps) will make between five to seven grots. This is a rough guide only. The planter pots I use are 280 mm high and 220 mm across the top. Always mix the dry contents thoroughly before adding the water. Mix up the hypertufa mixture (1 part cement 1 part sand 1 ½ parts peat by volume with enough water to give a sloppy homogenous mix. Moulding. Place the mix into the pot with a small shovel filling it up gradually and tamping down as you go ( a piece of wood 50mm by 50mm across is fine ). Occasionally give the top of the shopping bag a bit of a tug to prevent the mix flowing into any folds. Fill to 1cm from the top - this makes them much easier to turn out when set. Turning out and preparation for faces. Leave the newly poured heads for 24 hours and then carefully turn them out (the pot will be upsidedown) onto a surface where you can continue to work on them. At this stage they must be handled very carefully. Avoid putting any stress or weight on the edges particularly. Using a wire brush round off the top corners to eliminate the flat flower pot shape unless of course you want the Bart Simpson look. Remove with the brush all smooth surfaces and plastic bag fold marks. Leave for a further 24 hours. Moulding the faces. Using one part cement and one part sharp coarse sand carefully mix and slowly add water until the mix is plastic, slightly stiff but workable (not wet enough to run over the place and not dry enough to crumble. If it is mixed properly and you work fast enough and you give it an occasional stir you should be able to finish 5 or 6 heads. So experiment initially on one head and then estimate how much you need to mix, related to how fast you work. Wet the face surface and with gloved hands mould the faces on. Eyebrows first then the nose and lastly the mounds for the eyes into which you press the glass eyes (large marbles are good). Make sure the eyes are embedded more than half way into the eye mounds and mould over for good retention. You can, I suppose make the facial components in any order. I find it less stressful the way I've described. You can of course give them mouths. I don't want that for my faces (makes them look too human) but I've tried it and it's possible. When placing the facial features make sure the mix is firmly pressed onto the surface of the head. Smooth off round the edges of the eye mounds etc. Lightly sprinkle with water after 4 or 5 hours and once or twice over the next couple of days while they are curing. After four days they can be placed into the garden where they will continue to harden for some time. Colouring The heads can be coloured. I tint mine by painting with a very, very watery coat of green acrylic paint which appears to lighten as the concrete dries and is absorbed into the material as it is curing. Grots really resent being painted white or bright colours. Grots pay you back if you don't use natural colours. Grots at Play Concrete leaves as a fruit bowl decoration This method is suitable to duplicate interesting leaves of all sizes in a medium which is inexpensive and simple to use. The principle can be used for all leaves which have a well defined veining and interesting characteristics. Painting them is fun and they are great as fruit bowl decoration or ornament in their own right. Method Place the leaf face down on fine dry loose sand and press gently to a natural curvature. Over the leaf place a smooth layer of glad-wrap thin plastic film. Mix one part sand and one part cement with water to a smooth biddable plastic consistency free from air bubbles. With a small spatula carefully but firmly smooth a 5mm to 7mm layer of the mix over the leaf surface avoiding air bubbles. Define the leaf outline and taper the mix on the leaf edges. Leave to cure for at least 48 hours but after 2 or 3 hours have elapsed give them a light spray of water and repeat this a couple of times during the curing process. When the leaf is dry the edges and back of the leaf can be carefully sand papered in a manner that retains the true shape of the original. The top surface of the leaf should not require any finishing although small voids may require filling with something like "No-more-gaps". You can use Artist Oil colour or acrylic to paint them but the gloss oil colour surface is preferable. Suitable deciduous leaves can be painted in bright autumn colours. This principle can be used for larger leaves such as Gunnera, rhubarb etc. although rhubarb stems need to be sealed with a little plastic film to prevent the cut exuding the sweet juice which inhibits the concrete setting. A thicker layer of cement and the addition of chicken wire or other reinforcing material is essential. Consider the thickness required in the light of strength, size, aesthetics and intended purpose. You may wish to use your Gunnera or rhubarb leaves for seats, stepping stones, garden features, for water to trickle down into a pond or cemented to the surface of a hypertufa tub. Remember that you are duplicating the reverse side of the leaf and a well defined veining and characteristics are preferable. Rhododendron Grande Spec leaves. The leaf in the centre is almost true to actual colour. L. leaf is unpainted R. colour imagined. Grots Totem Pole    

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Grots inhabit only dark forest floors and gloomy garden corners. They are seldom seen individually or even in small groups. The are all quite deficient in social skills. It is best not to disturb them. 
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