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Tufa Rock

Definition (OED): "Tufa- rock of rough or cellular texture of volcanic or other origin."

The Tufa used here originates from the Canadian Rockies; eastern British Columbia, near the headwaters of the Columbia River.

The term "tufa" is often used rather loosely. The tufa that is useful in the garden is formed by mineral deposits from water heavily saturated with calcium carbonate and other minerals on vegetable matter such as mosses and grass and leaves. The vegetable matter decays within the mineral structure, leaving a network of fine channels filled with the nutritious residues of the mosses, grass, etc.

The rock that is formed around such vegetable matter can be thought of as a sort of rigid sponge, hard but filled with air pockets and channels. It is very light, and it can often absorb its own weight or more in water. The structure enables it to both absorb moisture and to give it back: in effect, it breathes.

The same structure that is attractive to certain plants whose roots can grow in the tufa also make it possible to cut it, gouge holes in it, and generally work it fairly easily. It is quite soft and easily worked when first dug, but it hardens and weathers on exposure to air. It colours from cream to darker, and moss grows on it fairly quickly even in dry climates.

The imprint of debris are clearly visible in all tufa rock. While the exterior surface of the rock hardens with age, the inside remains soft enough for plant roots to penetrate and extract all the nutrients required to sustain the plant. Being porous, the rock will hold a reservoir of water and take up moisture by the capillary action from the soil below. While any lime-loving plants can be grown in tufa (it is often used in bonsai cultivation) the most suitable are those high alpine cushion plants which have low nutrient and low water requirements. These plants will happily live for a number of years with only the occasional top up of water during a hot summer

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Some Uses for Tufa:
  • Crevice Gardens
  • Formal English Gardens
  • Alpine host rocks
  • Dry & Wet creek beds
  • Landscape feature rocks
  • Dry pack retaining walls
  • Saltwater & freshwater aquariums,maintains the proper PH levels
  • Lawn ornament carvings
  • Tufa garden walls
  • Bonsai planters
  • Indoor & outdoor fountains
  • Water pond feature rocks
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