Friday, May 28, 2010

Twin Topiaries Tutorial

Did you ever make a project that should have been straight forward and simple...but it didn't turn out that way? The twins were like that. Things started out well. Labor was going smoothly. The first sign of trouble, was equipment malfunction. problem, just replace the faulty equipment. Then labor got intense and the pain started. Finally the first twin was born...and it was deformed...actually it's neck was way too long.

He needed surgery...stat! 

So I had to rip off his head, trim the neck and replace it. I named him Burt. He's going to be fine though. See...

The second twin was easier...I learned a lot birthing Burt.  His brother Ernie benefited from my education.  And now I'd like to introduce you to Burt and Ernie:

I've seen lots of topiaries.  Everyone's doing it, so it should be a piece of cake, right?  Ummm...unless I am topiary challenged (which may very well be the case), it was a lot more work than first glance.  So I am going to take you through my labor a tutorial, every painful step and mistake, so hopefully you can learn from my inexperience experience.

I found these matching vases last week at a garage sale for only 50 cents each.  My first step was to prime, paint heirloom white, then glaze.  Everything went well at first.

I used this to glaze, mixing a little burnt umber paint with about a cup of glaze.  I just brushed it on, waited a couple minutes then wiped it of, dabbing around the roses to leave some glaze in the depressions.

It turned out sort of a hot cocoa color.  I wasn't too sure I liked it, in fact, looking back at the original photos, I had just spent 10 minutes making them almost the same color...grrrr.  I left them for now...they could be fixed later.  I had other fish to fry.  Out to the yard I went in search of the perfect sticks.

Next it was time to form the balls.  I did not want to spend the $3 per foam ball, that Walmart was charging, so I made my own from newspaper.  I had seen this done on other blogs, but always at the top of the stick (single ball style topiaries).  It would have been difficult to shove a stick all the way through a finished newspaper ball, so I decided to wrap the newspaper around the stick, hot gluing as I went.  So far I've only spent $1 on the pots.  The newspaper and sticks were free.  I used so little glaze, I can't even count that...and I used what I already had.  Here is the wrapping and gluing process.

Scrunch sections of newspaper up (I used half sheets...ripped lengthwise on the fold).  Glue your first edge down to the stick, then start wrapping and gluing every half turn around the stick.  Squeeze the newspaper into a round ball as you go, adding glue wherever needed to keep it round.  This is where the pain started.  I was using a high melt glue gun because I wanted to insure it wouldn't come apart.  After many burned fingers, I switched to a low temp and it seemed to work fine, you just have to work very fast, before your glue cools.

Be sure to add glue around the top and bottom of the ball, against the stick to keep the paper tight to the stick.

Thinking it would be hard to cover the white of the newspaper, I decided to spray paint the balls.  I dug into my stash of old spray paint and found an evergreen color.  Perfect I thought...good way to use up old paint.  Well...this is where equipment malfunction came in.  After a couple successful sprays, the can went dead.  I could still hear plenty of paint sloshing around in the can, but nothing would come out.  Did I mention that spray paint was probably 10 years old???  Okay...back to the box of paints.  I found this horrid teal color.  Not sure what I ever used that one for, but I figured it would work.  In order to keep from getting spray paint on the sticks, I wrapped them with newspaper first.

Can I just give you a tip?  Don't use bright teal spray paint.  It doesn't hide well under the moss.  I learned and used black on my next attempt.  Ok!  Now for the fun part...I thought.  I had picked up some floral moss from Dollar Tree.  Two bags set me back $2.

Out came the glue gun again.  I tried several ways of gluing that moss on...burning my fingers in the process, before I hit on the best way.

First I dribbled hot glue on the ball and pressed a thin layer of moss on with bare fingers...big mistake.  Can. you. say. Ouch!  So I grabbed the label from the moss bag and used that.  This was getting nowhere fast.

Next I tried rolling the glued ball around in the moss.  It didn't work so well...not enough pressure to hold the moss in place.  You really have to press and hold for a minute.  Finally I hit on the trick.

Grab a very large, thick wad of moss, slap it on the glue and hold and press.  After about half a minute, shake, tap and gently pull off the excess. 

Once you've covered the whole ball, you will probably have to go back and put a 2nd layer on most of it.  I found lots of holes where I could see the paint underneath.  After the whole thing is covered so that you can no longer see paint through it, it's time to give your baby a haircut.  First tap and shake off any loose moss.  Then trim any wild pieces of hair moss sticking out.

Now back to those pots.  By now I hated the color.  Can I give you another tip?  I did the first one with the topiary in it.  It's much easier to fix the pots before they have the topiary in them.  Enough said.  This time I just mixed some brown umber paint with a little water.  I brushed it on, then used a paper towel to dab some of it back off.  Tip:  brush it on quickly, then start dabbing where you first started, quickly moving around the pot. Much better!

Dollar Tree came through again with this floral foam.  I bought 3 pieces.  First I shoved a whole piece down in the vase.  Then I cut a 2nd piece in half on an angle.  I used it like a wedge and shoved it down alongside the first piece to secure everything nice and tight.

Next I trimmed the excess off that wedge, so that I had a nice level top.

Well, sort of level.  My second one was better.

To have a nice base for the moss, and to keep stuff from falling down between the foam, I cut a piece of cardboard.  I turned the pot upside down and traced around the rim, then cut out the cardboard a little smaller, so that it would fit inside the vase.  Nuther tip:  Trace the cardboard out before you paint your vase.  I was erasing pencil marks off the rim very gently so as not to erase my glaze!

Cut through the cardboard to the middle, then cut a hole out of the middle to go around the stick.  Use hot glue once again to attach it to the foam.  Next glue moss to the cardboard.  Can I just say, I wish I had stock in hot glue?  I only spent $6 on the other supplies...and about $500 on glue sticks...Ok, I exaggerate a teeny bit.  But I did go through a lot of glue sticks.  Thankfully they were only 10 cents a piece on sale.  I probably went through about $2 worth.

I also bought a couple bags of these cool filler thingee's at Dollar Tree.  I'm not counting them in the price because I got them to use wherever the mood strikes.  I thought they might be cute in the base of the topiaries.

I don't know...what do you think?  I didn't glue any of it down, so I can change it out if I want.

So here they are.  The twins...Burt and Ernie.  I'm such a proud little momma.  Except I just noticed something...Ernie is sporting the same long neck defect that Burt did.  How did I miss that?  Must have been the pain of labor clouded my vision.  Oh...what's a mother to do???  Looks like more surgery is needed. 

This momma is headed out of town for the weekend.  Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend everyone!

This project was entered in the CSI Dollar Store Challenge


I am linking to these fun parties.  Be sure to check them out!



Funky Junk's Saturday Nite Special



  1. The adventures of Burt and Ernie!! I think the twins really turned out pretty! It was nice to read that things don't always turn out right the first time for other people too. Thanks for sharing your adventure with us and have a wonderful weekend.

  2. OOOO! They look so good! Like the vases too!

  3. they look great, and their creation make for an entertaining story!

  4. Love! And what a fabulous tutorial. I love the addition of the 'whatevers' in the base too. Sweet!

    I think I'm the last in blogland to not make a topiary. Must get on it!

    Thanks for linking up to SNS!
    FJ Donna

  5. Congratulations on the birth of Burt and Ernie!!! They will be fine additions to your family since they are so cute and cuddly!!!

  6. LOL!! Poor Burt (that was a serious surgical tool!)... but what a miraculous recovery!!

    They look great... love the effect on the pots and I like the fillers!

    Kendra @ Creative Ambitions

  7. I love topiaries, and you did a great job on yours! What a great idea for the base of the ball! Yes, the styrofoam forms are so expensive, so I will have to borrow your idea! Thanks for stopping by, and for following! I am your newest follower.

  8. Great Job!!! I saw your link on Sunday Showcase and I am your newest follower! Nice to meet you. Have a great Memorial Day weekend!

  9. What a thorough tutorial covering the topiaries and the vases. Great job on both!

  10. Fabulous! Love them both! The chunky potpourri is the perfect touch! Fantastic job! Thanks for joining the Sunday Showcase! I greatly appreciate it! ~ Stephanie Lynn

  11. hahaha love it!! Funny post and great tutorial! I really need to make some. :)

  12. well, aren't they just too darn cute! I love how they turned out!

  13. I bought the most beautiful LIVE topiary and promptly killed it so thanks for this! It's on my to-do list now!


  14. I saw you featured at Remodelholic and and such a good time reading your post and seeing your twins. I love topiaries.


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