Really, orb is just a fancy word for ball, or sphere. It then makes it sound like you paid big bucks for a landscape designer. Myself, I also come across orbs/spheres in my other line of work which is to teach drawing. It IS such a complex and wonderful shape with so many hidden talents; probably why mother nature constantly uses it for her treasures! These Giant concrete garden Orbs are not fussy and simple to make with readily available materials.
I have used a multitude of ready-made concrete mixes. It just makes things more simple! Some mixes are very economical and some are not but set really fast. This mix; also called ‘vinyl patch’ has some great qualities and these orbs have already lasted through a Canadian winter and multiple moving around.
You will need:
Step #1: Ready the Forms
It is much easier to get everything ready before your hands are covered in concrete. Blow up the forms well, and make sure they are holding well. Last thing you need is a deflating form! I make sure they are quite hard. You will also want some resting places (buckets, pots, planters) that support the size well. It is also a good idea to weight them (rocks or even water) as then there is less chance of toppling over. Since it is difficult to unwrap the mesh tape with gloves on; ready some strips of varying lengths to have available later on.
Tip: Beach balls are better that balloons! I just hate it when a darn balloon decides to pop! My favourite are the 20″ beach balls; they make a huge concrete orb that is still light enough to carry!
Step #2: Prepare your mix
Get suited up with your dust mask and gloves (apron is a good idea too). Add some mix to your container and add water slowly, mixing well after every addition. Mix slow to lessen dust and mix to bottom corners of container. The mix should not be too liquid, but hold it’s shape somewhat.
Test some of the consistency by doing a squeeze test. If it holds shape pretty well then it is right. If it crumbles – too dry, runny – too wet. Don’t worry; you will get the hang of it!
Step #3 Application
Remember the days of playing in the sandbox!? Well, this is much like that, patty-cake-patty-cake. Work from the top and add small sections of mix and flatten. Gently patting the concrete makes the ‘cream’ come to the top and be smoother, as well as having the air bubbles release. This mix is rated for 1/2″ thick topping so that is what I strived for, however some sections may have been a tad thinner.
Wow, you would think I have been working with concrete for a while… yup!
There are a couple of choices of using the mesh. You can have it between 2 layers of concrete mix or put it on the form and then cover. I would say both methods work, however the mesh is less visible if between layers. It is not problem to have some showing as it easily cut or singed off later.
My intention was to have the sphere look like it was a mysterious meteor that crashed to land. I was NOT trying to have perfection, rather some rough natural stone like texture, cracks and holes. This would give many possibilities of use later on…
Work your way slowly down the sides. It may slide off, and you can reapply. To keep gravity in your favour, adjust the ball to keep what you are working on centred on the top. You will have to work in sections and let it set before finishing. Depending on conditions, it sets in 4 hours. I know I am always impatient, but that can be detrimental…
The use of metal tools can make the finish smoother, if you like.
Once a section adequately set; you can start to work another section and add it in, overlapping somewhat. Spray the dried area with water to allow better adhesion as it would draw out too much of the water of new section. The rustic quality makes for being very forgiving…
Leave open areas that are quite random and interesting shapes.
There are many options if you have openings, drainage, lighting, planting etc. AND they are visually intriguing!
The testament of a true ‘maker’ – always dirty hands…
Step #4: Wait… and wait
During the setting time wet down to add strength and allow slower curing. Once they are completely set, you can have more fun with them!
Step #5 Finishing:
The mesh that is visible can be cut with a mat knife or singed off with a mini torch or lighter.
My intention is to eventually add some lighting into these giant concrete garden orbs, soft subtle glowing light. As if it is ‘hot’ from falling to earth… (artists have visions in their heads…)
I did find some acrylic paint that is very ‘neon’ coloured and seems to glow by itself. It will be fairly protected inside and should not be sitting in water so it should hold up well. Garden design should be subtle and accent the surroundings. This concrete sets at a fairly dark colour and that was fine for me, as i am not a huge fan of ‘painted’ concrete. It’s the grey industrial look that is the allure anyways.
To look very random and ‘glowing hot’ inside I was purposely messy when applying the paint. Squirt some inside and then swish it around. Super-simple! and looks less contrived.
Hold the brush vertically and it will easily cover the edge with no fancy painting skills. I know you can do it!
Yes, my deck is full of balls… but that is all for a reason.
To see how to make the smaller ‘Monster Egg’ ones here see my tutorial here
Step #5: The ‘Before’ & ‘After’
Remember the garden makeover? Well, the birds finished their nesting in the tree (yes I had to wait) so it could now be cut. I brought a bit of muscle power… I decided against the monumental task of digging out the roots. They will decay and I will use the stump for a pedestal!
Design works well in odd numbers and sizes. The top concrete dipped yarn orb is a nice compliment to the others shape since it is lighter on the eye with all the negative spaces.
A few screws in the top of the stump will hold it in place.
Wrap some tie-wire around, as there was an opening large enough for a hand.
The stump is barely noticeable and will be sturdy. The stepping stones are one of the easiest things to make. Can’t wait to add some lighting…
It is a sculpture, statement piece. ‘And the plus is that it is portable AND can be adjusted to different configurations!
Can you see me doing the happy dance?…
I bet the neighbours were chuckling again… What is ‘crazy garden lady’ doing now?! And what is she rolling around?!
When it’s done, it;s all a different story. Last time I was cutting branches off the tree until I came upon a nest; and then had to abort! The birds had moved on now and the tree left me a pedestal.
Go ahead, have some concrete orb fun of your own…