Hypertufa Project – How Can I Make A Basin For A Birdbath?

A New Hypertufa Project Enthusiast
Asks For Birdbath Basin Ideas

Annie emailed me and asked:

I have recently made some minature hypertufa birdbaths and now want to try a larger project. I LOVE the idea of using large leaves with a hypertufa recipe and wondered how to go about shaping the birdbath’ s bowl and other things like that. I think I can figure out the base, but I can’t figure out how to make the bottom of the bowl.

Any creative ideas you can share with me? Annie


My reply:
Hello Annie:

Sure, I’ve got a couple ideas. To start with, take a look at this photo!

Incredible Little and Lewis gunnera leaf sculptureHow about using a very large leaf for the entire bowl?

Yes, you’d have to get your hands on a real leaf, such as a gunnera leaf which was used for the casting shown in the photo.

Gunnera leaves can get really huge. As you can imagine, they are highly desired for leaf casting projects.

Unless you know someone who will give/send you a leaf, maybe you live in a warmer cliimate and have the room to grow a gunnera plant. If you do, you’re lucky! 🙂

This photo shows an incredible concrete gunnera leaf made by the artist team of Little and Lewis. If you’re not familiar with their mind-bloggling garden art … please go and visit their website.

Or … if you can’t get your hands on a gunnera leaf, how about an elephant ear leaf?

No matter what size of leaf you end up using, if it is for making a birdbath basin, you will use a large mound of damp sand on which to lay your leaf so it will hold the shape you want in order to apply the wet (and heavy) hypertufa or concrete mixture. A bag of play sand (found at a store like Home Depot) is cheap and what many people use for leaf projects.

Lay down a piece of plastic larger than the size of the mound you will make (this helps the sand to retain the moisture); then dampen the sand so it will hold the height and shape mound you’d like; then shape your sand mound; and then lay the leaf down on the mound. Some folks will place another piece of platic on top of the damp sand before laying down their leaf. It’s up to you.

Make sure the leaf is spread out in the shape and height you want before you start applying the ‘tufa or concrete. By “height” I mean the higher you’ve mounded up the sand, the deeper the leaf basin will be to hold the water in your birdbath. Follow me here?

Also, make sure to carefully push and spread your wet mixture out to the edges of your leaf, and try to smooth off the edges, as it will be a lot easier to smooth off the edges when wet, rather than trying to do it after it is cured … though not impossible. And make sure you have enough of your mixture on the edges – don’t make it too thin or the edges could crack and break when it cures or after you move it off the sand mound.

For some helpful tips to help your project be a success, I encourage you to refer to my webpage Leaf Casting Super Tips.

Another idea … you could cast a smooth bowl by simply making a mound of sand; place a large sheet of plastic over it with as few wrinkles as possible in it (this will help the inside of your basin be “smooth”); mark off the circumference so you know you’ll end up with a perfectly “round” basin shape; and then apply your wet mixture onto the plastic surface.

For added embellishments and before your basin is totally cured, you could add partially cured little leaves all around the outside edge; or line the entire outside or inside of the bowl with the leaf decorations. You’d not want to give much curvature to the leaves, as you’d be laying them, in essence, on the basin. You’d attached with more ‘tufa or ‘crete and make sure to use bonding agent appropriately.

Since you’ve not said if you’re working in hypertufa or concrete, the only other idea would be to maybe stamp or carve in leaf decorations into very smooth ‘crete. I think this approach would be better suited for a concrete project.

I hope I’ve helped get your creative juices working! Good luck! 😉


  1. Larry Hensel says:

    Hi, thanks for posting, and there are some excellent suggestions here. However, I think most people would really appreciate some beginning tips about painting techniques. For example, did the artist use an air brush, or rag painting, or spray paint, or bruising with acrylic or . . . ? The subtly of going from one shade to another in this photo is really beautiful. Thanks for your consideration.

  2. Claudia Brownlie says:

    Hi Larry:

    I have LOTS of tips and how-tos for various painting techniques here on my site, so you must have missed the category listing in the right hand menu. Please check out all the easy to do techniques here: http://www.artistic-garden.com/category/paint-projects/painting-techniques/.

  3. DELLA PAUL says:

    what do you mix in the concrete for strength.?

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