Unique crafts and classes abound at Leach Garden

You’ll be surprised to discover how many different events are taking place at this “hidden gem” of outer East Portland. Here’s just one of ’em …

Scott Hoelscher, Leach Botanical Garden’ gardener, shows his class some of the many types of planters that can be made from simple materials, using buckets and cardboard boxes as molds.

Story and photos by David F. Ashton
While continuing with their traditional events at Leach Botanical Garden – like the Saturday morning garden tours and plant sales – their volunteers group added many interesting and delightful events, crafts, and lectures to their schedule over the summer.

We checked in at a craft-learning session a couple of weeks ago, and saw in action the fascinating process of making one’s own cement planters.

“Today we are having a trough-making class,” explained Scott Hoelscher, Leach Botanical Garden’ full-time gardener. “This is a way for people to make unconventional containers for plants that they would like to have around their homes.”

Hoelscher says using a plastic trash bag as a liner will help release the newly-hardened planter from the mold – and keep the moisture from deforming a cardboard box.

The dozen class participants seemed fascinated about learning how to make these lightweight concrete planter troughs.

The ingredients are simple, Hoelscher advised. “We mix perlite, peat moss, and Portland cement with water. Then, we use a dishpan, cardboard box, or plastic pot to make the mold. It takes for a week to two weeks to get dry enough to take it out, and another three or four weeks to cure, before we can put a plant in it.”

While Hoelscher mixes the ingredients, Sara Hamill, an intern from Clackamas Community College Horticulture Program, adds water.

“Good! The mixture is just right!” exclaims Hoelscher. “It stays together when you toss a clump into the air.”

Class members were walked, step-by-step, through the process – and Hoelscher gave them finesse tips, not listed on the take-home instruction sheet they were provided. Fortunately, participants wore work clothing and rubber gloves – this was a hands-on class. “You’ll all take home your first container – and be able to make more of them whenever you choose,” the instructor said.

As the class worked on their new containers, Hoelscher added, “You can increase the exterior texture by – once it’s taken out of the mold – marking on it with this screwdriver or other implement. Don’t go too deep; you don’t want to hurt the integrity of the pot.”

Class member Betsy Rankin makes her concrete trough planter using a cardboard box as her mold.

He also suggested treating the planter by stroking the container’s exterior with a metal brush before it is fully cured.

Can something so simple really be durable, Hoelscher was asked. “Some of the pots, made in this way, have been at Leech Botanical Garden for a decade or more,” he pointed out. “They’re all around our greenhouses!”

Classes, events abound, at Leach Botanical Garden
Friends of Leach Botanical Garden have been partnering with other area organizations, such as the Audubon Society of Portland, to host bird-watching events. They’ve also added a host of childrens’ events – ranging from nature photography for older kids to weekly activity sessions for the little ones.

Does going on a romantic sunset walk in the park – with live music afterward on the patio with your sweetie – tickle your fancy? Consider signing up for their Equinox Sunset Walk. This event, part of their Leach Botanical Garden “After Hours” series, is coming up on September 22.

To find all of their events, we list ’em all in our Community Calendar: CLICK HERE to view it. Or, to sign up, or for more information, call (503) 823-1671 or e-mail to: education@leachgarden.org. Leach Botanical Garden is located at 6704 SE 122nd Avenue – a couple of long, twisty blocks south of SE Foster Road.

© 2010 David F. Ashton ~ East Portland News

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