You don’t have to pay a lot for a one-of-a-kind birdbath. This spring, look for plants with large leaves to add to your garden. Then turn one of those big beauties into a birdbath. This project makes a serene resting place for butterflies, too.
By Dottie Baltz, Pennellville, New York
1. Choose a leaf at least 10 inches long and 7 inches wide. (We used a hosta leaf here, but rhubarb, burdock, gunnera, castor bean, caladium and elephant-ear leaves also work well.) Cut the stem off.
2. Spread out a sheet of plastic or a large plastic bag to protect your work surface. Pour the play sand onto the plastic and make a pile. Wet the sand slightly so that it sticks together, the way you would for a sand castle.
3. Shape the pile to approximate the size and shape of your leaf, but keep in mind that birds do not like baths that are more than a couple of inches deep. Once the sand pile is to your liking, cover it with a piece of plastic or a plastic bag. Place the leaf vein-side up on top of the plastic, centering it.
4. In a plastic bowl, mix three parts contractor’s sand to one part Portland cement. Mix 1/4 cup of water and 1/4 cup of concrete fortifier, and add slowly to the sand until it reaches the consistency of a thick brownie batter. The easiest way to do this is to squish it with your hands wearing rubber gloves. Mix more water and fortifier to add to the sand if needed. Rinse your gloves or hands. Pick up a handful of the sand mixture, plop it on the center of the leaf and spread to the edges. This gives you a solid surface that picks up the leaf’s veining while removing air bubbles.
5. Now slowly start building up the thickness of the casting. For strength, keep it between 1/2 and 1 inch thick. Be careful to keep the edges smooth to get a good contour. Once you have it at a good thickness, build up the center to make a pedestal.
6. Cover the mixture loosely with plastic. If it’s a hot day, you might want to mist the casting from time to time to keep it from drying out too fast and cracking. Let your project dry slowly for about 24 hours, then peel off the leaf. If the casting feels brittle, let it sit for another day.