MY FIRST HYPERTUFA TRIAL

By John "Jay" Borcyzko, Journal contributing editor (Farmington Hills, Michigan)

                   After getting past the fear of sculpting rocks, my challenge was how to make the rocks taller so they would dominate the scene.  David suggested using plastic pipes to raise the height.  Then the issue was to find an adhesive that would dry quickly holding the plastic pipes to the bottoms of the stones. 

                  Our long-term thinking is that these stones may one day be re-used in another planting.  The adhesive used must be strong enough to hold the stone to the pipe extension, but not so strong it damages the stone when removing the pipes.  David told of Toshio Kawamoto and Tom Yamamoto of Japan who taught “Saikei” classes and brought the supplies for the classes in boxes.  They would teach the class with each student creating a miniature landscape including plants.  After the critique and pictures, everything would be disassembled and returned to the boxes for the next class.  David suggested we take the same approach which would greatly improve our skills by repetition. I will feature more about this in coming issues of this journal. 

                  My article this month will chronicle using hypertufa to extend the height of my rocks, but also using hypertufa for a Hawaiian root-over-rock planting. 

                  See George McLean’s article (www.fukubonsai.com/1a104b.html) on hypertufa in the February 2014 Journal issue.   I used George’s formula but added a little cement dye to color the mixture so it closely matches the rocks for my 360-degree rock project.  Since the extensions require so little of the 80-pound bag of cement, I got an idea.  I stuck two rocks together and I thought its shape was pleasing.  Now how was I going to duplicate this shape quickly?  I was not worried about faithfully duplicating all of the contours of my rock combination.

     

            I wanted something quick and easy, the solution was some spray foam insulation and a cardboard box.   I first taped the two rocks together and wrapped them in aluminum foil.  I lined the box with a plastic garbage bag and suspended the rock in the middle of the box using wire and a piece of wood.  I slowly added the spray foam over the course of a couple of hours filling from the bottom up.  Adding the spray foam too quickly will keep it from drying completely, creating a huge mess when you try to remove the mold from the box.

           Allow the foam is completely dry --- mine took a weekend.  Then remove the rocks by cutting the mold into two.   Clean out the pieces of foil that stick to the foam and you are ready to cast your first mold.  Time for a disclaimer here, if you are trying to faithfully reproduce an object or want to make more than one or two molded rocks, this is not the method for you to use.  There are better methods for creating molds than the one I am presenting.  This was an experiment and an inexpensive method to produce a molded hypertufa rock.  After cleaning out most of the foil, I sprayed the inside with a non-stick cooking spray to help release the mold from the cement.

   

                 Do not forget to cut a hole in the top of the mold to pour the cement through.  I added a cement dye to the mix so my hypertufa will come out black. After a few days, it was time to release my new hypertufa stone from its mold.  You will notice some foil stuck to my new stone.  That is what you get when you do not remove all of the foil from the mold prior to casting. I now know better, and you do too.  When the stone was released from the mold, it was obvious it needed more time to dry.  I was leaving for a weeklong vacation and that kept me from carving right away. When I returned home with the foil still attached, I went to work on preparing the stone for planting.   It took 30 seconds of sanding on my driveway to flatten the bottom of the stone so it can stand up on its own.  Notice the snow in the background.

 

                      The right photo above shows the crevasses I created for the tree roots to grow into.  I thought the stone was too easy to sculpt. Therefore, I applied a brick paver/cement sealer to help toughen the exterior and add a little luster.  I am not worried if the tree eventually crushes this stone because I think it could create a very interesting planting.  I might try separating the tree from this stone in a few years, just to see what happens.   From this point, the planting of my Hypertufa is straightforward for a root over rock planting.  For a more in-depth look at root-over-rock plantings, I highly recommend that you to look over the past issues of this journal. 

 

                 I used a round 8" diameter plastic pot for this one and it is ready to accept the stone.  Notice the wire run through the drainage holes to anchor the stone so it does not topple over.  A course/drainage layer of media topped with body media and nutrient granules finishes the preparation of the pot.  I put holes in the bottom  of the rock (highlighted in red), so the wire in the pot could be used to anchor the stone.

 

               I did something a little different this time I created my “cushion” for the tree on the table first.  I wanted to show you how thick it should be.  If you wet the sphagnum moss prior to planting it is less likely to fall out.  The picture on the right shows the tree planted on the stone with raffia used to hold the tree in place against the saddle.  The red line in that picture is where I placed the saddle on the stone.  I also find that after dibbling the media into the crevasses, misting it also helps keep it in place until you get the foil around it. 

 

                I wrapped a layer of foil around the upper portion to give me something to hold onto and help hold the media in place while I inserted and tied the wires.  All that is left is to wrap another layer of aluminum foil around the lower portion, poke holes for air, and soak for thirty minutes.

 

AN UPDATE ON MY 360° COMPLEX LANDSCAPE ROCKS

                      My previous article posted at www.fukubonsai.com/1a6z5.html introduced the 360° project that David, Ryan, and I are doing in different ways that is scheduled to be completed and appear in the May 2014 issue of the Journal of Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai.  As I mentioned earlier, once I got past the fear of carving, the next hurdle was to make them taller. 

   

               First drill two or three small holes in the bases of the stones.  Next glue the wire into the holes made in the bottom of the stones with construction adhesive.  The hypertufa, will bond to the wire.  If I want to re-use these stone in the future, I can shatter the hypertufa with a hammer and not damage the original stones. Once the construction adhesive is dry, gather the cardboard centers from rolls of toilet paper or paper towel.  Cut the roll to length.  Spray the inside of the roll with cooking spray to keep the hypertufa from sticking to it.  Mix the hypertufa. I added cement dye so my extensions would more closely resemble my stones.  Pack the cement into the rolls and push the wire into the cement forms all the way down to the base of the stones.  Allow a few days to dry and gently cut off the cardboard form and your extensions are complete.

                    The above is preview using my “sandbox” to show the different heights of my stones.  Since these stones are black, it is difficult to see the #6 stone is a few inches shorter than the other two rocks.   The only major hurdles left are to finalize the placement of the rocks, create the cement pancake to hold the rocks and plants in place, and the actual planting of the arrangement.  This must all be done before the May deadline and it looks like a busy month ahead!

CONCLUSION

                    It seems like it was yesterday when David asked if I could find some local rocks and participate in the 360-degree complex landscape project.  Time flies when you are having fun.  I have to say the same thing about creating my hypertufa planting.  I am uncertain how often I will actually make hypertufa rocks but this one was fun and not expensive to create.  I have tried a few times to incorporate hypertufa into upcoming projects and David reminded me that it might not be strong enough for what I was going to do.  I had to try something.  Eighty pounds of cement could take me a while to go through when I only need a pound or two at a time!

                    Please contact me at Bonsaijay@outlook.com if you want to discuss this article or if I can be of assistance!  Aloha!  ~~~ Jay

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SOME COMMENTS BY DAVID

                     Learning the basics of True Indoor Bonsai is very straightforward as you can see just by reviewing all the back issues of the Journal of Tropical and True Indoor Bonsai.  Although everyone learns at a different rate,  some will master the basics in three months,  others by six months, and everyone within a year.  The more trees and workshops you do, the faster you'll learn.

                    But at this point, the learning curves slows dramatically unless you keep enlarging your collection to keep getting more practice.  But then as you watch the trees to trim it,  it seems to take forever and the snip is done so quickly! 

                    So how to maintain interest and learning.  We began to focus on "ASSEMBLY" as a bonsai technique in which the sum of components is more impressive than each component individually.  Clearly a tree on a rock in a pot is more interesting and challenging than a tree in a pot!  So eight months into our first publication year,  we began articles on rock plantings and in each issue since,  we explored more and more variations and began to introduce complex landscapes.

                    The first one created in 1992 was named "CREATING A BONSAI WORLD" and photos were published in last month's Journal at www.fukubonsai.com/4a19.html   The second one is featured in this issue at www.fukubonsai.com/4a20.html     Jay, Ryan, and I are working on such complex landscapes to be featured in next month's Journal.  Each is different, but in helping each other,  each of us is learning!  For those who want to learn and to enjoy creating bonsai as part of a group,  you're invited to join us! Please contact me at david.f@fukubonsai.com  ~~~David

*** Return to the April 2014 issue of the Journal of Tropical & True Indoor Bonsai
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© Mid-Pacific Bonsai Foundation and Fuku-Bonsai, 2014