Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Northern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
November, 2004
Regional Report

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Create your own mock topiary with snippets of flowers, leaves or any other type of plant material you desire.

Tiny Topiaries

Thank goodness we have our gardens. Just today I made an arrangement for an auction to benefit the San Francisco Garden Club. Always short on funds, and with the holidays just around the bend, my garden becomes a shopping mall of sorts. Wreaths, swags, tussy mussies, herbal vinegars and oils, and even rooted cuttings of favorite plants make wonderful, personal gifts. One of my favorite projects is a miniature, mock topiary that's very easy to create with a minimum of mess and even less expense.

Easy Topiary
Here is what you will need:
* Clay pot
* Plaster of Paris
* Disposable mixing container
* Disposable stirring tool
* Bamboo stake
* Aluminum foil
* Newspaper
* Oasis floral foam
* 1 shopping bag full of dry or fresh plant material
* Sphagnum moss

I begin by spreading several layers of newspaper over my work area and laying out everything I will need for the initial mixing stage of the project. Next, I place a small piece of aluminum foil over the drainage hole in a clean, 4-inch clay pot. (By the way, the very best way to make old clay pots look like new is to run them through the dishwasher; the result is absolutely amazing.)

Next, I measure 2 cups of Plaster of Paris into a disposable mixing container. A plastic, 1-gallon milk jug cut in half works perfectly for this purpose. Slowly add water (about 1-1/2 cups) and stir continuously until the Plaster of Paris is the consistency of thick sour cream.

Now you have to work fast; pour the prepared plaster into the clay pot, being careful not to slop any on the sides. The pot should be about 1/2 full of plaster. The aluminum foil will prevent it from leaking out of the drainage hole. While the plaster is still wet, insert a bamboo stake in the center of the pot. Use your clippers or scissors to support the stake in an upright position while the plaster sets up, usually within 2 to 3 hours. Don't worry if the pot cracks during the drying process.

Now you have a pot filled with hard plaster supporting a stick. This is where the fun begins!

Soak 1/4 brick of Oasis floral foam in water if you are using fresh plant material. Omit this step if you are using dried flowers. Push the Oasis gently onto the top of the stick and push it part way down, being careful not to push it all the way down to the rim of the pot.

Beginning at the bottom, cover the foam with snippets of hydrangea flowers, rose buds, rosemary clippings, dried leaves, succulent cuttings or any other type of plant material you desire. The result should resemble a miniature topiary. I have used kumquats to create tiny orange trees, pinecones, lavender, fall leaves and even small Christmas ornaments and wrapped candy. I usually cover the plaster in the pot with sphagnum moss to give the mock topiary a more natural look.

To water fresh material, simply remove the block of Oasis from the stake and soak it in a basin of water for 10 to 15 minutes. Let it drain and then set it back in place.

The topiaries are delightful, and you can reuse the plaster-filled pot for many years. This is a fun project to do with club groups or children.

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