The Dirt

And the winner of the June Photo Challenge is…

Congratulations to Michael Larkin (plantman56) of Harrisburg, PA for his winning entry to the June Photo Challenge:

To see more of Michael’s hypertufa containers, visit his webshots album:

We asked Michael to tell us a little about his experience as a gardener, and specifically about his alpine container garden:

“I have been gardening for more than 30 years. My home gardens are filled with all shapes and sizes of conifers: weeping, upright, prostrate and miniature. As I ran out of space in my yard, container gardening was a way to continue with my compulsion to have more plants.

I started making containers about 15 years ago after visiting large display garden at a Nursery in Oregon. I was on a garden tour with the American Conifer Society, and saw some unusually stone-like containers that were planted with some really spectacular miniature conifers and alpine plants.  I was hooked.  I  found out that the containers were made of hypertufa (Portland cement, peat and perlite)  After a little research and some trial and error I was able to create these stone like containers for my garden.  My current garden now contains a variety of different size hypertufa containers, filled with conifers and alpines. 

My alpine container garden was created quite by accident.  I was trying to make a hollow concrete sphere but it never made it to completion.  To make the sphere (eventually this container), I used a small child’s rubber ball and covered it with a mixture of Portland cement, sand and a little terracotta cement dye.  About half way around the ball I stopped applying the mixture.  I should have finished making the sphere, but it was my first attempt and I gave up too early.  I removed the ball and the result was this container.

I enjoy easy care containers. The plants in this container require little maintenance. Sedum sieboldii ‘Variegatum’  is planted in the upper center,  a variety of Sempervivums and Sedum dasyphyllum in the lower center.  The container requires well-drained soil. I make my own container soil using pine park fines, grit, peat, perlite and Turface. Sounds like a lot of work but it works great, for this and just about any container garden.”

Congratulations, Michael!

View Comments


  1. rotubre 07/23/2009

    I love it!! What about drainage? Did you drill a hole at the bottom of this hypertufa container, as these succulents cannot stand in water.

  2. Plantman56 07/23/2009

    Your are right drainage for these plants is critical. One reason why I make my own container soil. To answer you question YES there are drainage holes. It is very easy to drill through the cement/sand mixture.

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  3. philclarkson 01/12/2010

    Please tell me how you make your mix for the flower post.
    What amout of portland cement to the perlite and peat.
    Thank you

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