A post from Bridget. My friend Christy and I recently attended a class at our favorite local nursery, Red Cedar Country Gardens in Stilwell, Kansas. They offer a number of wonderful classes, including one we recently attended on building hypertufa fairy houses and cottages.
If you aren’t familiar with hypertufa (pronounced hyper-toofa), it’s faux garden stone made up of a mixture of various ingredients such as portland cement, vermiculite, peat moss, water, plastic mesh and sometimes sand (the recipes vary). Hypertufa is strong and yet relatively light making it perfect for garden statuary, flower pots and urns.
Jim at Red Cedar is a fabulous instructor who has masterminded their stone cottages. He not only created all the wooden forms but perfected the hypertufa mixture that’s ideal for the cottage’s pointy roofs and chimneys. These quaint little houses are perfect additions to porches and gardens, whether or not you delve into full on “fairy garden” mode. I like to think that it would take a fairly crusty heart to resist the charms of the fairy displays at Red Cedar.
Hypertufa houses may be left in their natural state or painted.
The process consists of mixing the hypertoofa material, and keeping it damp enough with water as you press it into the wooden forms. As Jim stated, it’s just like building a gingerbread house (except that a team of experts already made the dough and are standing by every step of the way so you don’t screw up). Corners and doors and windows and roof peaks require extra TLC to make sure the mix fills in all the cracks and ensures a strong final product. Larger walls are reinforced with small pieces of rebar, and roofs and peaks with stretches of wire mesh.
Wooden forms are used as molds for the sides and rooftops. Wire mesh creates windows and works as a reinforcing agent. Hypertufa mixture is prepared in small batches to prevent overdrying as the molds are filled.
Red Cedar finishes the cottages, which involves allowing them to cure for several days, and scruffing up the outsides with a wire brush to give them a more textural appearance. Jim’s mixture uses plastic mesh (shredded strips of plastic) so he “burns” the outside of the cottage which not only sounds amazingly fun (FIRE!) but smooths any plastic sticking out of the mix. Finally he drills holes in the pieces and secures them with masonry nails and Liquid Nails adhesive.
Creation of the houses requires a lot of steps! Aerosol cooking spray keeps the hypertufa from sticking to wood when dry and leftover cans create perfect “cookie cutters” for cutting circles to create scallops.
Mushing all the mixture into the forms and mesh is hard work – who needs therapy folks? Take out your aggressions on a fairy house roof. It’s a highly underrated treatment plan. And at the end you’ve created something – and feel – just wonderful.
Wire brushing creates the gridlike texture evident in this mushroom and roofless Scottish Cottage.
My little house is still drying under Jim’s watchful eye, and I can’t wait to post my final product next weekend!
Red Cedar offers a variety of house and cottage styles, all equally delightful and sturdy enough to last for years.