Garden Photo of the Day

READER PHOTO! A happy accident in hypertufa

Photo/Illustration: Mike Larkin
Photo/Illustration: Mike Larkin
Photo/Illustration: Mike Larkin

Today’s photo is from Michael Larkin in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. He says, “This container was handmade using hypertufa. I have made lots of hypertufa containers, but this is by far one of the nicest, and the best part is that its final shape resulted because of an “oops.” During the unmolding, while the tufa was still a little fragile, part of the side wall broke. Disappointed at first, I took out my trowel and started to carve up the remaining tufa to the shape it is in now. I remind myself each time I look at this container that gardening is not always perfect, that we need to work with what have, and who knows–it may just turn out to be really great.” Thanks, Michael, for sharing this with us!

The plants in this container include:
‘Elfin’ thyme (Thymus serphyllum ‘Elfin’, USDA Hardiness Zones 4-9)
Sedum (Sedum dasyphyllum, Zones 3-7)
Hens and chicks (Sempervivum spp. and cvs., Zones 4-11)
Dwarf hinoki cypress (Chamaecyparis obtusa ‘Nana’, Zones 4-8)

For an article on how to make your own simple hypertufa container, click here!
For instructions on how to make a larger hypertufa trough,
click here!

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View Comments


  1. user-7006892 07/27/2010

    Beautiful.Thanks for the various 'views' of the plantings.

  2. rwotzak 07/27/2010

    Great example of the value of serendipity in creative endeavors!

  3. arboretum 07/27/2010

    mike, I WANT ONE!!!
    this is just so exquisite. i am guessing you are a bonzai person? Looking at this photo transports me to the world of miniature landscapes, where i see a Chinese mountaintop with a tree, flowering rhododendrons,and a waterfall which pours down the rocky cliff face.

    This is truly amazing. Once cropped/edited, it just MUST go onto a Fine Gardening cover, or a calendar, so everyone can see it...
    thank you so much, mike. You just made my MONTH!
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  4. Plantman56 07/28/2010

    Thanks for you kind words.
    The success to this planting is the soil. I do not use bagged soil. I mix my own, using coarse particles, allows the water to drain well. I enjoy planting conifers. The reason I started making hypertufa containers was to have a place to plant small, mini conifers. Hypertufa works great. You are only limited by your imagination.
    The hinoki in this container will eventually get too large but it has done nicely for the last few years and with a little root pruning maybe another year or two. I appreciate you recommendations for the cover photo- I would be glad to provide FG the details on how I made this hypertufa container and how to keep plants growing well with the right soil.

    Have a great day and enjoy your garden. Mike

  5. LaFlor 07/28/2010

    That is absolutly beautiful. How big is your planter?

  6. Plantman56 07/28/2010

    LaFlor -
    This planter is about 15" wide and about 5-6" deep. Just recently I made a similar shapped container only 24"wide. I am in the process of posting pictures of it on my blog (click on my name above) Also have made several rectangular shapped troughs - using an extra large and deep kitty litter pan as the mold.
    All of these containers are able to make it through the winter without cracking. If you pick the right plants, most will weather the winter with little damage.

  7. MichelleGervais 07/28/2010

    I love the vertical stones set in the middle of the design!

  8. grizmom3 07/30/2010

    Awesome!! I have been gardening for many years. might I ask, "what is hypertufa? New one to me.


  9. Plantman56 08/01/2010

    The use of rocks in the design is my attempt at creating a scene. In this very small space there is an outcropping of rocks with the sempervirums bursting out. Maybe how it might look if you would see them naturally. I like to use rocks in my garden designs it was fun to use them here too.
    Grizmom3 - if go to my blog- ( click on my name) or click on Michelle's link ( how to make you will see how to make hypertufa. Simply put hypertufa is a mixture of portland cement, peatmoss and perlite -water- to create a container that looks somewhat like stone. It is one more way adults can have fun in the garden!

  10. Scarlett007 05/16/2011

    This is just lovely, but it's the use of the Hens & Chicks, colors chosen, that elevate it beyond just any other container and into that land of imagination and longing on my part for one just like it*!* I grow a large amount of succulents, do a bit better with true Echeveria's which are cousins to hens & chicks although they don't baby up quite as quickly, In face I've had one green one that hasn't produced an offshoot in 6 years, although I keep looking*!* I've only (NOW A DAYS) one other small echeveria that does like to pup/baby up but it's coming back as are my Aeoniums from a wicked frost. Remarkably the Aeoniums are truly coming around; growing new mutli heads on all the branches that I thought were badly damaged. Needless to say, I am ecstatic! Good Work and GOOD LUCK, REBECCA in TUCSON, AZ*!*

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  12. heceheme 08/31/2015

    this is totally awesome mike......and so I like the vertical stones set in the middle of the design!


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