Concrete leaf casting

29 05 2008

Debbi and I have been making these concrete leaf castings for several years now, and my Garden Club members have also tried their hand at it. There are many sites that show how to make them. This one has step-by-step instructions with photos: http://www.concretegardenleaves.com/concrete-leaf.htm

Since most of the leaves we create are smaller, we don’t often do the chicken wire reinforcement. Larger elephant ears do require a bit of reinforcement, though, and we have made some of those (the larger they are, the more likely you’ll need two people to move it when it’s dry!). Most of the ones we have done are made with leaves from hostas, pokeweed, grape leaves, caladium leaves, and smaller elephant ears. Leaves that have nice, deep veins work best. If you want to hang your leaf on a fence or wall, insert a curved piece of clothes hanger or thick wire (formed into a loop) into the back before the leaf is cured.

Artists Little and Lewis (http://www.littleandlewis.com/) suggest using powdered pigments to color your concrete before creating the leaves. Read more about their approach by going to www.marthastewart.com . Do a search for “concrete leaf casting” to find the segment where Little & Lewis discuss leaf casting and list supplies.

We haven’t tried the “color-in-the-concrete” approach yet. We do ours in the natural color and then paint after curing is done. Our favorite style is to paint the front and back with black acrylic paint, then rub on powdered metallic powdered pigments (the type often used in Sculpey jewelry projects). We used the Pearl Ex powdered pigment series, and we find silver, gold, bronze, blues, greens, and purples work much better than the pastel colors. We only apply the additional coloring and metallic powder to the front. The back remains black only.

This is the product we use: http://www.jacquardproducts.com/products/pearlex/sets.php.

I buy my pigments from Michael’s or A.C. Moore Craft Store. They sell them in sets of 12 different colors, or you can buy a larger bottle of one color. It doesn’t take much to cover the leaf. We use a soft cloth to rub in the pigments, which are very concentrated and go a long way. It is necessary to paint the leaf black (or a dark brown) in order for the metallic pigments to be intense in color.

If you try this style, you’ll need to seal your leaf with an outdoor spray sealant to keep the pigment from rubbing off. The metallic pigments are stunning! Don’t expect them to hold up 100% in direct sunlight over a few years, though. The paint will chip a little but you can always paint over it and do it again to freshen it up. They still look good chipped and faded, though…sort of a shabby chic, relic-look! And you can try a new color scheme the next time around. If you hang or display yours indoors, you’ll still need to seal the pieces so they can be handled. And they certainly won’t fade as soon if they’re used as indoor art.

Here’s another posting I found that lists supplies, steps, and shows leaves painted with acrylic or latex paint.

http://www.garden.org/regional/report/arch/inmygarden/2527

The good news: supplies for this project are CHEAP, CHEAP, CHEAP and the results are incredible! The downside? Those bags of cement/quickrete, etc. are HEAVY!

UPDATE: Thanks to Kim, a fellow garden blogger, for this link to Craig Cramer’s blog, “Ellis Hollow.” Check out his advice here: http://www.remarc.com/craig/?p=391

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Then on to craft project #823

25 05 2008

Okay, I’m not really keeping track of how many craft projects I’ve done in my lifetime. This is my latest one for the garden—a “bell” tower wind chime, of sorts. You can get all of the supplies from your local craft store.

Step 1: Using cheap craft paint, I painted each miniature pot a different color. I recommend sealing the pots after painting with a spray on or brush on outdoor sealant to keep the paint from peeling or fading too soon. I haven’t sealed these yet.

Step 2: I measured out how long I wanted my tower/chime and cut a piece of rusty wire to fit. I threaded the wire through a rusty implement that had broken off an old wind chime (it’s a garden tool), thus forming the foundation or bottom of my bell tower.

Step 3: I threaded cheap multi-colored beads (from my brief jewelry-making phase) onto thick, flexible craft wire, followed by the first pot. I arranged them by color, grouping dark to light and warm to cool. I added more beads, then the next pot, and so on. I used the less colorful beads in the area inside each pot because those beads wouldn’t be visible. The prettiest beads were saved for the display area peeking out below each pot. Remember, if you’re using the thicker wire, you’ll need beads with larger openings for threading.

Step 4: When all the pots (I used eight in total) were threaded onto the wire, I finished off the top with a large loop. You can hang this on virtually anything: a trellis, from a tree branch, dangle from a shepherd’s hook, etc.

I also made simple “garden jewelry” (sans the little pots) with the same rusty craft wire, multi-colored beads, and another garden tool at the bottom. Both projects were cheap, easy, and fast to make—a great project for a garden club or summer project for kids.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved. www.cindydyer.wordpress.com





And now, back to those flowers…

25 05 2008

You should have known I wouldn’t stray away too far from the garden this time of the year, shouldn’t you?

I shot these Friday afternoon. Below: Rock Penstemon, Campanula ‘Wedding Bells’, Yellow Yarrow, Hot Pink Ice Plant, Rose Campion ‘Angel’s Blush’ (in bloom and foliage only photos), coral-colored Begonias (I think), unknown Allium (I think), Lamb’s Ear and Johnny-Jump-ups, and a yet identified Clematis.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.  www.cindydyer.wordpress.com





Step away from the flowers…

25 05 2008

Garden lovers: lest you think I have no other life other than gardening (it would appear so), I do. See my main blog here: www.cindydyer.wordpress.com

Check it out from time to time—I post things other than gardening, believe it or not!

Here’s the latest posting on my main blog:

So I don’t completely overload my viewers with too many green things (what did you expect? I’m a gardener and we’re knee deep into the growing season right now!), I’ve prepared a few more images from the Bladder Cancer Advocacy Network (BCAN) “Inside Politics 2008” fundraiser I attended a few weeks ago at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C. (I do this to remind you all that I can and do shoot other subjects!)

To refresh your memory (in case you don’t recognize these prominent folks), the panel included journalist David Gregory (NBC News), David Brooks (author and columnist with The New York Times), Gwen Ifill (moderator and managing editor of Washington Week in Review on PBS), and author and journalist/anchorman Bob Schieffer (CBS Evening News). For more information about BCAN and bladder cancer, visit www.bcan.org.

Contrary to recent postings, I do find other subjects to shoot when I’m not being lured into the world of flowers!

For more information about the panelists, see this posting:

http://cindydyer.wordpress.com/2008/05/15/bladder-cancer-and-inside-politics-2008/

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved.





Duh…more plants, of course!

25 05 2008

Yesterday was so balmy/beautiful/blue-skied that Michael and I decided to hit Green Spring Gardens again to see if there were any (new) photographic opportunities. Here are my results from our hour+ adventure.

Green Spring Gardens: http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/parks/gsgp/

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved. www.cindydyer.wordpress.com





Debbi’s garden

24 05 2008

…a profusion of purple, a smattering of orange, a touch of white, a swaft of blue, and green everywhere. But overwhelmingly and undeniably red, red, red—her favorite color.

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved. www.cindydyer.wordpress.com





Organized chaos vs. needs medication

24 05 2008

“Organized chaos,” was Michael’s response yesterday when I asked him to describe the front yard garden. I also asked him to guess what passersby might be thinking. I’m thinking they think I have too much time on my hands…or perhaps I have an illness that could be regulated with medication. I must say that when I’m in the kitchen, near the windows overlooking the two sides of the garden, and someone goes by—I try to catch their expressions and see how long their eyes linger over the garden. So many just pass by without even a glance to their right. How in the world can they do that? Those that take time to pause from their running, walking, jogging, baby-stroller-pushing, dog-walking jaunts get a silent stamp of approval from me. Aside from my own visual gratification, I create this “organized chaos” for them, too.

Recently my friend Gina spent an entire afternoon helping us clean up the backyard and plant those last few bulbs and impromptu plant purchases from the Green Springs Garden plant sale last weekend. I cajoled her into taking leftover bulbs, excess plants, garden ornaments, an old table, empty pots, etc…anything to just get my backyard looking like paradise again. She and Michael kept shaking their heads every time I came up with a statement like, “oh…um… I forgot about the free sundrops someone abandoned in the parking lot. Where should we (shove) those?” Or, “if we just stake up that bunch of plants, I’m sure we can find several inches of valuable real estate in which to plant these lily bulbs I forgot about.” Or, “we’re almost done, guys, just six more things to plant. Okay…I forgot about those, okay, eight more things, and then we’re definitely done.” I confess. I’ve never met a plant I didn’t like. I take great comfort in knowing that I am far from alone with my disease. I’m in such good company with other plantaholics!

The front part is about half in bloom. Right now, the penstemon, beard’s tongue, sweet william, catmint, yellow yarrow, sweet william, coreopsis, thyme, veronica, rose campion, salvia, ice plants, and sedums are in various stages of bloom. My ‘Purple sensation’ alliums are past their prime, now in their architecturally-interesting “koosh ball” stage. The multitude of lilies are just starting to form buds. Tiny blue forget-me-nots, a gift from Peggy’s garden, are still flowering. The bearded iris (a gift from my friend Karen’s garden several years ago) are almost done with their show. The false sunflower plant surrounding the iris is about halfway to its height and will reach 8-9 feet before bursting with small yellow flowers against the blue summer sky. (Insert amusing sidebar here: I bought this plant a few years ago when my friend Debbi took me onto base at Fort Belvoir. The tag on the plant read, “sun-loving perennial, reaches 4 ft., profusion of yellow flowers throughout summer.” The plant proceeded to reach “Jack-in-the-beanstalk” proportions—9 feet the first year—forming a swaying canopy over the steps before it finally spewed forth beautiful miniature sunflowers! Several friends asked if we were growing corn that year.)

The liatris, a favorite of bees, are just a quarter of the way to their height. A bank of lovely lamb’s ears, started with cuttings from Karen’s garden, offsets the other plants with their silvery green hue. The Autumn joy sedums are puffing out, waiting until everything else steps out of the spotlight for it to shine in the fall. Michael’s olfactory favorite, the moonflower, is slowly making its way up a trellis on the front of the house.

Yesterday, I planted mina lobata (firecracker vine/Spanish flag) in a pot at the bottom of the steps (just so I could get more photographs like this beautiful one I shot last summer: http://cindydyer.wordpress.com/2007/09/03/mina-lobata/. In front of the pot I planted three new coneflowers and another shasta daisy. We added another hellebore to the large bank (another offering from Karen) in the shade. On the front porch, there are two topiary frames planted with hyacinth vines. My beautiful (and very photogenic) stargazer lilies have returned, making their way upwards from a terracotta pot. Three baskets hang over the railing, filled with verbena, sweet potato vine, allysum, marigolds, and marguerite daisies.

Farther up, in front of the morning glory trellises, everything is verdant. When that area begins to peak this summer, there will be a profusion of lavender, multi colored lilies, silvery purple thistle, yellow black-eyed susans and sundrops, take-your-breath-away Heavenly Blue morning glories, red bee balm, deep pink butterfly bush blooms, blue-eyed grasses, shasta daisies, various other sedums, and white, purple and orange coneflowers….I’m sure I’m forgetting something.

I replied to Michael, “Organized chaos presumes I did not have a plan.” To which he countered, “There was a plan?” Of course there was a plan. My plan incorporates textures, scents, colors, varying heights, creepers, crawlers, climbers, and a botanical variation of Noah’s Ark—two of everything, please. How is that not a plan?

I’ll accept “organized chaos.” It’s preferable to “needs medication.”

© Cindy Dyer. All rights reserved. www.cindydyer.wordpress.com