I’ve grown up with packs of dogs for decades. Big dogs. Giant dogs. Mostly Great Danes. I moved from the sandy coast to central Carolina where the ground is basically hard rock upon pebble and more rock, so when my dogs have passed, the only solution was cremation. But what do you do with a bunch of urns of ashes when you’re not one to build shrines for loved ones?
My solution was to get creative and use their ashes in the garden by casting cement globes. Actually, I use porcelain cement available at any Home Depot for about 20 bucks a bag. Mixed with perlite and peat moss, they are much lighter to carry. The mix ratio, however, depends on the texture you want the creations to be, and the actual project depends on how much you can lift. Cement, heavy.
I purchased three half-sphere forms from Amazon (6-inch, 10-inch, and 12-inch) and made one-inch thick sphere halves that I would later fit together with concrete and smooth over with another layer of porcelain cement, add pigment, and waterproof sealer.
I wound up experimenting with several batches before committing ashes into the mix. In fact, I never added the ashes at all – I simply made hollow globes and put the ashes inside.
Now my dogs are at rest, and they add an artistic touch to my garden.
This project was so much fun – making things besides steps with cement – that I decided to case some giant elephant ear leaves after driving by a man’s house and seeing these monstrous lobes just waiting for a creative touch! And what a challenge it was.
I formed a pile of sand on plastic so the leaves could stay cup-shaped while I cast the back of the leaves. The size of the leaves meant I had to make several batches of cement mixture, and since I was also adding green pigment, I had to be precise with the calculations so that the subsequent batches would match what I was building. Additionally, I had to make sure the mixtures would bind together and not dry out between the pseudo-layers. I call them pseudo-layers because it was an actual layering process, but the cement had to not realize it 🙂 or else it could separate when drying.
Because of the weight, I knew the leaves would likely break when I would be ready to pick them up even once they’d dried. I used combinations of burlap material and light wire on the back side for reinforcement. Having never done this before, it was all an educated guess knowing what I know about concrete footings, slabs, and steps.
After they had dried, I added several layers of concrete stain and then sealed them with several layers of concrete sealer. Three years later, they still look fantastic in the garden!