Alyson’s designs are inspired by the hustle and bustle of the city. She says: “There’s nowhere better to explore the cracks, crevices, fissures and faults where nature intrudes into the sharp lines of cement blocks.
“Plants and concrete butt against one another, constantly testing each other’s boundaries.
“One of my favourite places to visit in London is the conservatory at the Barbican. This hidden gem juxtaposes Brutalist architecture with lush green foliage.
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“Drawing inspiration from the concrete jungle, we’ll be faceting planters from cement, providing succulents or cacti with chic urban dwellings. Photocopy the gem planter template or visit my website www.alysonmowat.com for a selection of designs to choose from.”
Download your gem planter template here.
To make your gem planter, you will need:
- Spray mount
Gem template, scaled up and photocopied 300 per cent to A3 size or download full-size templates at www.alysonmowat.com
- 3mm foam board
- Craft knife
- Heavy-duty tape/electrical tape/carpet tape
- Very small succulent or cactus and the plastic pot it came in (no bigger than 4cm diameter)
- Quick-setting cement
- Bucket or bowl
- Fine sandpaper
- Spray mount your photocopied or printed template to the foam board.
- Cut completely around the solid line.
- Now score the dashed lines, ensuring you do not push the knife all the way through the foam board.
- Bend against the score, keeping the inner lining of the foam board intact. Manoeuvre the structure into shape, securing it in key points with sellotape. You should see your shape coming together nicely with one of the planes missing: it’s not a mistake. Ensure your pot fits easily within the missing plane.
- Secure the shape with heavy-duty tape, firming up the structure and concentrating on all the weak areas. It will start to look a bit messy on the outside, but it’s essential to keep everything intact and structurally strong when we start to pour in the cement.
- Remove the plant and soil from the pot. Cover the pot inside and out with cling film.
- Put the cement in a bucket or bowl, preferably one with a lip that will allow you to pour the liquid. Following the instructions on the cement packaging, mix up a gloopy paste. Keep stirring, mixing in any clumps. You will need to work quickly as the cement dries surprisingly fast.
- Spoon some of the mixture into the open plane and swirl around the inside of the structure, testing that there are no weak points. If you feel cement oozing through gaps, add more tape.
- Now pour in your mixture. Hold the mould at an angle, so that the opening is flat and horizontal. Fill up with cement until you reach half a centimetre below the opening.
- Now push your cling-filmed pot into the cement, so that the top of the pot is in line with the surface of the cement. Now tape the pot down, as it is inclined to pop out otherwise. Leave your planter to dry overnight. I usually remove the inner pot after a few hours whilst there is still a bit of give in the cement, as it can be difficult to pull it out when the cement is solid.
- The following day, pull off the tape and foam board for the big reveal; it’s a lovely feeling. Rub any rough planes back and forth against fine flat sandpaper, emphasising facets and angles. Most of the planter will be smooth, but the area that usually needs work is the open plane, as the concrete often settles at a different level without the same clean, flat line. Your planter is ready to be planted with soil and a cactus or succulent.
Care: Add water sparingly with a pipette, as there is no drainage hole.
This extract is taken from Terrariums & Kokedama by Alyson Mowat, published by Kyle Books. Photography by Catherine Gratwicke; illustrations by Christopher Moon.