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Trough and Hypertufa Gardens

For nearly a century, trough gardens have been very popular. These are perfect for cacti and succulents.

There’s an interesting history behind miniature trough gardens. These are similar to sink gardens, which were originally stone sinks from Victorian kitchens.

One difference between sink and trough gardens is size. The sinks tend to be smaller. Originally, large stone troughs were used on farms. These held water or food for horses and cattle.

The original sink or trough gardens held unique charm. Because genuine antique ones are so rare and expensive, other stone-like materials came to become a substitute for these miniature gardens. These included concrete and hypertufa. Some gardeners purchase concrete troughs. They tend to be very large and heavy. These are also expensive as well.

Unlike the original troughs which tended to be rather large, today’s cacti and succulent gardeners can choose from lighter weight materials.

Troughs come in about every shape and size. They make great planters for cacti and succulents.

Rock garden societies around the country often have hypertufa workshops where you can make your own trough garden.


It isn’t hard to make these troughs. However, it does take time and effort. Typically, hypertufa is used. This weighs less than concrete. Originally,
hypertufa was invented to replace stone containers made from tufa, which is a special spongy kind of rock that can be carved and shaped as needed. Like stone, hypertufa is very long lasting and durable. You can give hypertufa a fashionable appearance by adding stylish features and etchings on the outer surface. These markings can be made with various types of tools.

Hypertufa troughs can be made into any shape from round and oval to rectangular.

Think of trough gardens as miniature landscapes. You’ll want a variety of small plants in various sizes, color schemes, and textures as well as contrasting forms.

Large coarse materials, such as pieces of gravel or rock, are placed in the bottom of the trough/sink garden. Then, moist, quick draining potting mix is added.

Once the cacti and succulents are planted in the trough, a top dressing is added. Often, this is sand, pebbles, or stone chips. Moss wouldn’t be suitable for cacti and succulent.

As time passes, troughs develop a beautiful aged look. This is due to the mosses and lichens that develop on the outside.


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