DIY Gigantic Concrete Leaf Orb

I like competition and especially winning! This was my entry to the Quikcrete-1-Bag-Wonder Contest. ‘Take a bag of concrete and create something unique. Well, I’d say I should have won, but I guess ‘beer’ won out. I’ll get over it eventually as I can now enjoy my unique creation in my garden (which incidentally won a Trillium Garden award). You too can join the fun and make your own DIY Gigantic Concrete Leaf Orb.

The Concrete Mix:

As you know I love to use Rapidset Cementall but since it was a Quikcrete contest I needed to use their product; Fastset All-crete. (may be under a different name in the US) I know it can get confusing when choosing a mix so I’ve made a post here to help you.

Once you have used fast setting mixes it’s hard to go back… I know.

The Mold Material:

It’s old news that many use Rhubarb as a way to cast nice detailed leaves. I don’t have enough production of Rhubarb so I was looking for an alternative and came across one at the grocery store! ‘Artist brain’ is always looking at things in a different way. I’m the only ‘crazy’ looking at food for it’s great textural value.

Savoy Cabbage is perfect! It has such great pronounced texture and it is quite sturdy so it lasts well.

The Process:

Get Ready:

Gather your supplies

  • large inflatable form (24″ beach ball worked well)
  • bucket or bowl to stabilize the ball
  • Gloves and concrete dust rated mask
  • FastSet All-Crete
  • Fibreglass drywall Mesh
  • Mixing Vessel, spoon & water
  • Savoy Cabbage leaves
  • scissors

Step 1:

Blow up the ball and set it in an appropriate container that will keep it from rolling or toppling.

Mix up only small batches as this will set quite quickly. I use a container that is about 500ml (yoghurt). If you let it sit for about 30 seconds it stiffens nicely to make applying easier. Aim for a consistency that is quite pliable and plastic-like. You will get the hang of the consistency after a couple mixes, don’t worry.

The Forming:

To ensure strength it is key to have good over lap of the shapes and reinforcement material. The first layer is thin leaf shapes that join allowing the mesh strips to be layered over.

Make sure that you have good connection to the shapes. I work form the top middle outward.

Since the Cabbage leaves are quite large they will probably need trimming to shapes that match roughy the size you intend to use on the orb. You can use larger if you like as they tend to have some curvature as well. If they are too stiff, you could leave them to wilt a bit in the sun or zap in the microwave for a bit.

You are using the underside where the veins are. Put some mix on the shape replicating the size that you have on the orbs.

Quickly but gently ‘slap’ the leaf onto the one on the ball. Wriggle it to make good contact with the concrete. You can peek under to see how the shapes are joining and adjust if needed.

You can be fussy or more ‘rustic’ if you like The overall charm is the leaf textures anyways!

Around & around:

I work outward from the middle of the top and slightly rotate the ball to work outwards when it is hard enough. Keep the idea of gravity in mind. Do leave the valve opening accessible as well. The mesh also helps any shapes from sliding.

Since this mix sets so quickly I found that the leaves could easily be pulled off in a short time (will depend on your conditions like temperature etc) I even discovered that the cabbage leaves are so hardy that they will last through repeated use!

Wonderful Texture! If you have any concern that there are some weak spots where overlap did not occur that much you can add a leaf on top extra assurance. If it is really hot misting with water will help slow the curing a bit.

Do let the final shape cure well. I’d wait 24 hours to be sure. Open the valve and start to deflate the ball until it is small enough to pull out.

Any excess mesh can be cut or singed off with a mini torch as I did with these orbs.

The wonderful thing about these orbs is that they are light enough to carry! That one is about 25″ across and I can hold it no problem. It has such interesting shapes I’m hoping to install lights as well for great night lighting effects.

As a garden designer I believe that the ornaments should look natural in the garden not ‘kitschy’. That’s why the leaves work so great. They also echo the stepping stones that I have a ‘million’ of!

I am so delighted with this orb, I think it’s my favourite of all the orbs (but who knows) And I keep getting bigger! Bring on the exercise ball…

Garden delight… and wait til the snow in winter. Thanks for joining me in my garden and my concrete obsession! Go beautify your space!

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  1. I’m actually working on doing my first Orb.
    It’s coming along pretty well. I did have trouble with a section that I had just put on the ball. It started to slowly slide down the side 😩
    I carefully slid the two leaves back up, I grabbed a bit of my mix and applied some to the other leaves to keep it from sliding again.
    Just curious, how much does the orb weigh?
    Also, the fiberglass mesh I bought has sticky on one side, do,you think it would work if I just stuck the mesh to the ball and then just put the one leaf on instead of double layering?

    Thanks so much
    Sandra Hampton

    1. It’s fun isn’t it!!! Yes, I have had that happen, and sometimes have to shift the ‘ball’ so it’s balanced. The tape is a bit sticky and I had stuck it to the ball, but afterward I did not like seeing it through the holes. So that’s why I do it… But there are no rules; if it works! Just make sure you have good ‘connections’ for strength! I am able to carry it easily. ‘If’ you feel there is a weak spot, you can dampen it and add another ‘joiner’ leaf. Good luck!

  2. Dear Barb, I‘m from Germany and our winters are sometimes really cold with lots of snow. What about your experiences with concrete orbs during these times? Can I leave them in the garden?
    Thanx for all your inspiring ideas. I do love my garden and every kind of arts!

  3. My father has been doing concret project for years, and I have taken an interest. The projects you have done are alot of fun, and I am still experimenting with leaves and colour. The problem is that when I go for a walk I am looking for shapes textures and colours.

    1. Oh, I know the feeling! I also eco print with leaves so I am always looking, even in the grocery store (cabbage) Think outside the box… Happy concreting!

  4. Hi Barb, Thanks for putting this out. Question..I can’t seem to track down the Quikcrete
    ‘fastset mix. ( i our local Home Depot here in Prince George, B.C.) they did not have any.
    They do have a QUIKWALL SURFACE BONDING CEMENT, which i have used before,,lots of small fibres in the mix……..its very strong but would take a longer time to set up. I also would use the drywall’ mess with it…$22 a bag.,,think i’ll try this with this mix.

  5. Your page is a terrible influence on me. I got obsessed with the idea of these a while back, and now I’m finally making them, and my basement is full of buckets of different kinds of cement. I have multiple forms of different sizes and shapes, and my yoga ball has my second leaf orb attempt curing on it now. I’m spending hours down there sifting my portland cement, playing it like clay, making big dusty messes… my roommate wants to shake me, I’m sure, but it’s just so… meditative… and I get cool things I can’t buy.

    I have been using poly felt mattress pads (bought a bunch at $1 each from a hotel clearance) to make my planters and my porch ghoul, and now I’m using strips soaked in cement. It is thick, and absorbs a lot of cement, is slightly stiffish as apposed to polarfleece so it holds some shape, and has almost no texture of it’s own so I get a smoother finish.
    I also put a couple pounds of cheap sand in my yoga ball, which helps it stay where I put it and not roll around as much when I’m putting the layers of cement soaked fabric on it.

    Thank you so much for your awesome page, with all the awesome info. There are a ton of pages out there that offer ‘tutorials’ that are basically just ‘get some cement, whatever you want, and some stuff to put it on, and mix it until it feels right’ and so on, with no details to guide the reader. Your cement comparison page was a godsend, and your fabric comparison page kept me from making too many mistakes, wasting too much of my supplies and money on failed attempts.

    1. Wow, that’s what I like to hear! So many sites only fluff over a one-time try at a media. I learn by doing and testing so it takes a long time to get to the point of sharing. BUT, please be safe and wear a dust mask!!! You need to protect your lungs and use a proper mask for concrete dust. Otherwise, I’m glad to inspire! Concrete on…

    1. Pretty well, the mesh assures a better connection between the leaves. Do make sure to use a very strong mix, (Rapidset Cementall) as ordinary concrete mixes will not cure fast or strong enough