Cement Leaf Workshop

At first glance, it appears that we did not have enough sandbox time when we were kids, however, these cement forms evolve into bird baths, leaf sculptures and water features for several enthusiastic garden club members. Hosta, rhubarb, maple and canna leaves were gathered and toted from our gardens. Redmond Garden Club's long time member, SM hosted and instructed October's 2021 Sculpture Leaf Workshop in her driveway and garage. 

Our patient mentor imparted her time tested ``How To" recipe. After a month of curing and final embellishments, our efforts magically turn into coveted garden art treasures. 

The tools

  • Supplies
  • Portland Cement
  • Play Sand
  • Cement Bonder & Fortifier
  • Inhalant mask, waterproof gloves
  • Water
  • File, Wire brush
  • Leaf (heavy texture on back) i.e.: Hosta, Rhubarb
  • Mixing Pan, Measuring Cup
  • Plastic wrap (optional)
  • Spray bottle with water
  • Wire or large paper clip if a wall hanging
  • Colorant (if desired)
  • House Paint (exterior latex) or acrylic paint
  • Paintbrush
  • Large plastic bags
  • Plywood board or sturdy, low sided cardboard box
  • Pam spray

Directions:

  1. Collect supplies: sand, water, cement bonding agent, measuring cup, mixing container, spray water bottle, saran wrap, plastic bag (if working on the ground), box, leaf, inhalant mask, hanger (if needed), gloves.
  2. Put on gloves and facemask when measuring and mixing
  3. Measure: 1 part Portland Cement into mixing pan and 2 parts Play Sand
  4. Large leaves: 1 to 1 ratio
    1. Mix well, use gloved hands
    2. Add 1-2 tablespoons bonding agent
    3. Add water to attain a cookie dough consistency
  5. Place a piece of saran wrap on the bottom of the box or plastic on the ground
  6. Apply moistened sand onto plastic to provide a mold on which your leaf is to be placed. If you want a bowl shape, you will need to mold the sand. Place leaf right side down over the sand to see if desired shape will be achieved. Adjust if necessary.
  7. Spray Leaf with Pam (or: cover leaf with plastic wrap, however, strong veining will be muted).
  8. Begin covering the leaf with the mixture, start in the middle and work your way to the edges. Pat the mixture into the leaf as you go, so that cement will mold onto the back of your leaf and hold the leaf veining. The mixture should be thicker in the center and thinner at the edge (1/4-1/2”). Try to go just short of the edge, as gravity will pull the cement mixture down. If you go beyond the leaf edge, you will have more filing when the leaf is dry. If the mixture becomes dry, spray water sparingly. If adding a hanger, do it last. Make sure the bottom is flat if the leaf is meant to sit on a flat surface. Pat all the cement edges perpendicular to mold edges to a consistent depth.
  9. Small leaves: let dry 24 hours. Large birdbaths, longer and weather dependent.
  10. When dry, handle with care, turn over and remove the leaf. Use a fine wire brush if necessary.
  11. File down the edges. Paint the desired color; use watered-down paint. Use metallic paint on top of base coat for added depth. If this is a birdbath, use sealant such as Jasco Cure-Seal 

General thoughts.

  • When mixing the sand/cement mixture, mix well, focus on a consistency of pliable cookie dough. Too wet it will run and may go through an unexpected tear in the leaf, blocking the vein pattern. Too thick, it won’t marry together on the leaf.
  • If you are making a large leaf, I use 1-1 sand and
    cement
  • When almost at the end of mixing, if too dry, spray water sparingly.

Large birdbaths

  • One bag of cement can make 2-3 large bird baths.
  • You will need at least 8 bags of sand to 1 bag of cement. Considerable amount of sand is used to form the mold mound.
  • Making the sand mold is critical to establish depth and size. Add sand wave valleys to mitigate leaf overlap and add leaf mold character 

Large (double) birdbath

  • Choose your largest and widest leaf as primary. Trim 1/3 into the smaller (of the two large leaves and match up the veins of the first leaf as close as possible. Remember, what you see on top is what you are molding.
  • Check thickness. Center/top leaf thickness to equal to 1” (minimum) with small stick, edges will gradually diminish to ½” (to ¼” if molding a smaller leaf)

Drying & Finishing

  • Let dry 2-3 days. If a large leaf, do not pick up until cement looks thoroughly dry.
  • Leaf removal takes approximately 1 hour.
  • Paint and Seal

Instruction courtesy of former RGC member, S.M.