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?