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Hybridtufa: Background and History

WARNING!

Be forewarned that working with hybridtufa can become an addictive hobby.

Sure it starts out innocently enough with a small traditional English Trough Garden (the usual way people are first introduced to hypertufa). But then, you discover how easy and fun it is to work with this material, so you create a larger trough garden. From there it’s a slippery slope to Free-Form Planters and garden statuary like birdbaths and Japanese garden lanterns.

Eventually, when you are really hooked, you will probably begin to formulate your own hybridtufa recipes and work on complex projects like a papercrete doghouse, or even a small garden shed!

Yes it can be an addictive hobby, but the joy and reward of making one of a kind items and the enjoyment that you will get from seeing and sharing items you have created is well worth it.

The history of hypertufa begins a few million years ago with the formation of Tufa Rock, a type magnesium limestone that occurs in nature. Tufa is a soft, porous rock that is both easy to mine and carve.  Historically, farmers throughout Europe used it to make livestock water and feed troughs.  - I mean it was cheap and easy to work with, so why not use it?

Around the mid 1800‘s, it became very fashionable in England to collect plants from around the world. People (those who could afford it) would spend small fortunes launching international expeditions to collect rare plant specimens from around the world. They also discovered that one of the best containers for planting and displaying their new-found (and often quite valuable) plant specimens was - you guessed it, the old livestock watering troughs made from tufa.

Did I mention this fad happened in England? It should then come as no surprise to know that we commonly refer to trough gardens as “Old English Trough Gardens.”

Life was good for these English Trough Garden enthusiasts for many decades.  But then, around the 1920’s and 1930’s, two things happened in quick succession that changed all that forever. First, the demand for tufa troughs went up (outpacing the supply) and second, farmers turned to alternate, more modern materials, for their livestock feed and water troughs. The effect was that tufa troughs became so rare that troughs cost about as much as financing a plant collecting expedition to Mt. Everest. So an alternative just had to be found - enter hypertufa or “man-made tufa.”  Hypertufa has the same properties and appearance of the natural tufa rock, and because it is man made, there is an endless supply of it.

Around this same 1920 - 1930 time period, another amazing material, “papercrete“, was invented - probably by someone that had started out playing with hypertufa and became addicted. Important note: please read the warning at the top of this page.

Both hypertufa and papercrete are basically cementitious building materials made from organic aggregate and a cement binding agent.  Collectively, any material that fits this description can be called “hybridtufa.” For example, let’s say that instead of the traditional peat moss used in hypertufa, you decide to use sawdust, or that instead of the traditional Perlite or Vermiculite, you decide to use cat litter or Styrofoam beads - well, you would not call that hypertufa in the traditional sense of the word, but you could call it hybridtufa. As you work more and more with hypertufa and papercrete, you will probably get the urge to experiment and try your own mixtures of hybridtufa this is a wide open area of exploration where everyone can participate and no one is an absolute expert. By the way, did I already warn you that that working with hypertufa and papercrete can be quite addictive?

 
 


 
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