In yesterday's post about the vines, I showed a photo of a copper pipe trellis I created that has what I consider to be a really attractive patina (the look the surface acquires due to exposure or time). I think most people know that copper will eventually age to a blue-green color when exposed to the weather, but that process takes time.
Most gardeners -- myself included -- don't like to wait decades for changes to happen, so today I'm going to show you how to achieve this beautiful look in just a day or two, with only a few minutes of work.
There are only three ingredients required. The first is copper. I'm using a scrap of pipe for this demonstration, but any copper that doesn't have a varnish on it will work. Here's a comparison of the "before" and "after":
This may work on bronze and other expensive metals too, but copper is all I've tried it on.
The second ingredient you'll need is probably something you have already: Miracle-Gro fertilizer.
I was already mixing up some of this solution to feed my potted plants, which reminded me that I have been meaning to do this little patina tutorial for a while.
The third ingredient is water. Copper, Miracle-Gro, water. That's it!
How much water and Miracle-Gro do you need to use?
Well, since I had the regular-strength solution made up already, I dipped the pipe into it to see what would happen:
What happened was nothing. The solution when mixed as instructed on the package (for feeding plants) is much too weak.
You need to make a much stronger solution. I used a spoonful of crystals and then added just enough water to dissolve it. I would guess maybe a one part crystals to three parts water ratio is what you want, but it's not that critical.
You then want to apply the solution to the copper. When I did this to the trellis I believe I used a spray bottle, but I suppose you can use a brush, a rag or any other method. In this example I just poured the solution onto the pipe:
Note that the solution removed the tarnish from the copper. This tells me that it's strong enough.
(Warning: it's much, much too strong to use on plants. If you have any solution left, dilute it with more water before using it!)
Also note that I didn't stir enough to let the Miracle-Gro dissolve completely, so some crystals are stuck to the pipe. This isn't required, but can add a bit more texture to the finish. One thing that is important is to apply the solution unevenly. You don't have to leave bare spots like I did, but the finish is much more interesting if it's not uniform, so be sloppy!
After only 10 minutes you can see something starting to happen:
Then another 30 minutes or so later, things are really coming along:
You should only need a single application of the solution, but you can do more than one if you want. I suggest giving each application 30 minutes or so to react with the metal before applying the next. Maybe longer -- you may want to experiment a little.
24 hours later, it's getting even more interesting:
I'm not sure how long the reactions will continue, but it seems like a few days at least from what I can remember.
This one is three or four years old, and looks a bit more natural as it has mellowed a bit over time. I love the way it looks!
It's a simple process with beautiful results, don't you agree?