• Leaf casting the Indian Rhubarb

    by  • September 12, 2011 • Garden art, Projects • 12 Comments

    How to do a leaf-casting!

    A serendipitous discovery of a large leaf in a mountain stream, led me to try molding it with a concrete mix.  It was loads of fun creating a lovely molded leaf to save as a garden art piece

    Indian Rhubarb, Darmera peltata

    Indian Rhubarb, Darmera peltata

    How I happened upon the leaf

    Recently I happened to go on a drive up to the high country on an errand. It’s a great place for an errand, so I packed a dinner picnic and we packed up the dog and headed up towards Whiskey falls, a spot in the mountains near our home.

    After Tractor Man, now ‘Motorcycle Man’, had finished getting the correct mileage for a section of the dualsport ride he was planning, we were all set for dinner.

    Sitting in front of the Falls about to bite my dinner, I happened to see that the large leafed plants called Indian Rhubarb were at their peak and filling the stream banks below the falls.
    That is how it came that there were two huge leaves sitting in water bottles on my kitchen counter.

    We had Whiskey Falls to ourselves in early July.  This is how close you are while munching on a panini!

    We had Whiskey Falls to ourselves in early July. This is how close you are while munching on a panini!

    The next morning…

    Next morning,  I cast the leaf with cement mix!

    Next morning, I cast the leaf with cement mix!

    Supplies I used:

    Leaf, Rhubarb, elephant ear or any large leaf
    Sand
    Portland cement
    dry cleaning bag
    kitchen trash bag

    The recipe I used was 2 quart scoops of Portland cement and 6 quart scoops sand for two leaves. I mixed the ‘batter’ as thick as Brownie batter.

    The leaves lay out on the plastic covered mounds of sand

    The leaves laid out on the plastic covered mounds of sand

    I lay a kitchen trash bag on the table, then the mound of sand. I poured sand on the table surface about 5 inches high and placed the first leaf one arranging the leaves around.

    I placed one layer of the dry cleaning bag over the sand, BEFORE putting the leaf down. That kept the sand away from the cement.

     

    Covering the leaf with the 'batter'

    Covering the leaf with the ‘batter’

    I sprayed the leaves with Pam and carefully covered the leaf with a half inch of the cement mix, thicker in the middle and a good half inch at the edges for my first try. I patted the surface which made it nice and smooth.

    Plastic allows the concrete to dry slowly, preventing cracks

    Plastic allows the concrete to dry slowly, preventing cracks

    I covered the entire project with a kitchen trash bag finished about 10:30 or 11am so I needed to wait 24 hours to ‘unmold them.

    Now just wait 24 hours!

    Now, just wait 24 hours!

    Next day…the unveiling!

    About 23 hours later (Yes, I was excited!):

    I carefully reached under through the sand hill and lifted up the leaf casting, with the leaf still attached. I was amazed how well the leaf itself still looked, still green but looking a bit ‘cooked’

    Ta-da!

    Ta-da!

    Since I had sprayed the leaves with Pam so it came off pretty well, an astounding process, REALLY FUN!!

    Every detail shows,....how nice!

    Every detail shows,….how nice!

    See the mound of sand that the leaf was placed on before the cement was put on?

    The leaf was easy to pull off.  Isn't it neat how it worked?

    The leaf was easy to pull off. Isn’t it neat how it worked?

     

    Completely unmolded.

    Completely un-molded

    This is how thin the casting turned out. Without using a bonding agent or strengthening fibers, this thickness seemed very stable, not too fragile, although, believe me I was VERY careful.

     

    The concrete shows all the veins of the leaf.

    The concrete shows all the veins of the leaf

    See the ridges and design? You can see how the cement ran past the leaf edges at the top. I need to figure out how to stop that.

    The finished 'leaf.'

    The finished ‘leaf.’

    All finished except for paint and some kind of mounting to hold it above the ground just a bit.. A grouping of these might look nice. The instructions say use watered down paint for a ‘washed’ look.

    The leafcasting and a waterfall of 'Snow in summer.'

    The leafcasting and a waterfall of ‘Snow in summer.’

    I never painted the leaf casting but lifted it on a stump and set it in a bed of Germander (Teucrium chamaedrys) and Snow in Summer (Cerastium tomentosum). A Bird’s Nest spruce (Picea abies ‘Nidiformis’) is on the left.

    With a bit of the extra cement mix, I molded up a tiny mushroom.

    With a bit of the extra cement mix, I molded up a tiny mushroom.

    With a bit of the extra cement mix, I molded up a tiny mushroom.

    ***

    About Indian Rhubarb

    Darmera peltata is the only plant in its genus and some say the largest saxifrage in the world. A perennial grown from a rhizome, it’s found along streams in Northern California and southern Oregon. It’s native to California. It needs its feet in water and can be found at Annie’s Annuals, I was surprised to see. Pete from east bay wilds has had it in his flickr photostream as well. It has stunning fall color and in the winter droops down along Whiskey Falls looking very dejected, as shown in the photo below at the top of the falls.

    Whiskey Falls in late November

    Whiskey Falls in late November

    Maybe it would grow in our ravine where the water comes down as a trickle, even in summer.

    More on Hypertufa:

    See links below…

    About

    Sue Langley, a passionate gardener and photographer lives and gardens with her husband and Corgi, Maggie on 7 acres just south of Yosemite, Zone 7 at 3000 feet. She also manages the Flea Market Gardening Facebook page and website.

    12 Responses to Leaf casting the Indian Rhubarb

    1. September 13, 2011 at 11:06 am

      Now that looks like a fun project, Sue! I can just see these filled with rain water for birds and insects.

    2. September 13, 2011 at 8:44 pm

      Very nice! I saw a similar project on Faire Garden’s blog recently, and I really want to try this with some of our giant squash leaves. It will have to wait until next year though, as our squash is about done for the season, but it would be a great way to make some interesting stepping stones, or perhaps tray bird feeders! Love how the Indian Rhubarb leaf turned out!

    3. September 15, 2011 at 1:13 pm

      I hope you both try this,…it was so fun to unveil the leaf…I had done it early that morning and brought in to show my hubby, still in bed,…See? Guess it was pretty early for him to appreciate it, but he does like it.

    4. September 19, 2011 at 9:33 am

      Cool project–I love the results! Next casting…in bronze?

    5. September 19, 2011 at 10:04 am

      I wish, James! I have to get a forge. 😉

    6. September 21, 2011 at 12:01 pm

      What a lovely project! And a super post of a really beautiful place 🙂

    7. August 31, 2012 at 8:11 am

      I have made these for a few years and have learned to use chicken wire or hardware cloth along the main vein of the leaf. Sometines the edges are to heavy and it splits down the center vein. They look great in the garden and the birds use them as baths/feeding areas.

      • September 14, 2012 at 1:36 pm

        I’m glad to hear that you’ve enjoyed making these, Don/Donna. Mine is holding up well after one winter and I hope to find a more prominent place for it. The chicken wire is a good idea!

    8. Carolyn Smith
      September 16, 2012 at 9:52 am

      question: On the mixture that is like “brownie batter” what is the ratio of water to the cement mix and the sand? How much water?

      • September 16, 2012 at 8:39 pm

        Hi Carolyn, Thanks for writing…Cheryl and I mix the three dry ingredients first in a big tub. Then we add water with the hose until it gets to a kind of brownie batter or ‘mudpie’ consistency. When it’s right, we can squeeze some in our hand and it should stick together in a ball. That will make the mixture stack up on the sides of your mold all right. You will see what we mean when you try it. It’s super fun!

    9. roxanne
      January 17, 2013 at 11:12 pm

      I am so going to try this. I have some beautiful water lilly pads that grow every summer. They would be very cool for the birds in my garden. Thanks

      • January 18, 2013 at 4:37 am

        Youe are welcome, Roxanne,…I’m thrilled that you’ll try it,..it’s so fun. 🙂 Sue

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