Pebble Pathways – And Mosaics, Pebble and Brick


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Pebble Pathways are a specialty. I have done just a couple in my day but I have so enjoyed looking at those done by others, I’m actually late in speaking of them. The above is from the Portland, Oregon Chinese Garden and – to me – represents the absolute “state of the art” of the Pebble Path. Embedded in a loose layer of wet cement and arranged painstakingly (obviously!) the makers keep their supplies nearby and reach around to grab the pieces, then they fit them meticulously into position. It was interesting watching them make these paths – and I only saw them beginning rather than all the way through – but these guys were definitely specialists. What was perhaps even more remarkable was their speed. Believe me, they’ve had practice. I have mentioned before in this blog where I was involved in this project myself, along with a couple of other souls from Teufel Nurseries in Portland.  One of my mates on the project was John Stone, currently an independent and very good contractor in Portland and Southern Washington. Here is his website. In fact, I describe much of our role in this exciting and hugely rewarding project in this blog under the category of  “Chinese Garden” in my “Categories” section.


Of some irony, during the construction of these pathways in Portland, a somewhat substantial amount of the pebbling had been accomplished when they were suddenly informed of a local building code which insisted that all “pebbled surfaces” were not to have more than a 1/8th inch depression. Since the ancient Chinese trait of providing such depths as a quarter inch – best for “massaging the feet” while traversing the -path – they had to redo what they had already done. The purpose, strictly non-judgmentally speaking, was for the ease of travel for wheelchairs and handicapped resources. Whether it made any difference whatsoever would be the question but – to their credit – the constructors sighed and went back to work.


What led to me to this subject, in fact, was seeing the mosaic work of Helen Nock, who I featured below in this blog, the wonderfully creative British designer and maker of exotic and artful garden furnishings, among her other talents. I was reminded of a few projects we’ve done where we inlaid a rather “Mosaic” pattern of not only other pebbled pathways, but with bricks as well. When one does a mosaic pattern, one gets this sort of “Fractal Sense” of the smaller role of the mosaic pattern being subservient to the overall ambiance of the project – the macrolandscape – itself. By exploding in artistically free small patterns at the more “micro” level, we make fascinating details which are never necessary whatsoever, but which add so much of a human touch. Below is a simple sort of construction we laid by cementing bricks over a barren, glaringly white “porch scape” of plain cement. Note the circular pattern of the bricks by the doorway. In the bricky world, this is so much trouble as to be almost self-destructive to a budget unless it’s factored in. Naturally, in my case, I gave the sucker away! But the clients actually made up for it. They were somewhere beyond pleased. This picture can be enlarged quite huge by clicking twice, for the full effect.


Here’s what it looked like from the front, after the lunch pails were removed:


And one final look at paver mosaics, in this case the picture at the front of the Toronto Music facility, a public arena dedicated to music, as evidenced by the fascinating mosaic trends shown in the pavers out front. The designer used a computer simulation of musical chords – I bet Jazz, lol – to render this undoubtedly maddening project for his installers.


Back To Pebbles:

There is a simply fascinating potential in constructing walkways and paths in these pebble finishes. There is literally no limit in possibilities. Indeed, Pebble Mosaics are a virtual art form of their own, some hanging in frames as representational art and others playful scenarios developed from the whimsical and fecund minds of homeowners and “amateurs”. I use the amateur term advisedly, as many of the best landscapes I have ever come across were done by the persons who lived where they worked. I’ve said this many times, but my respect for these folks is over the top. The best landscapes in the world can be those you happen onto visiting a party or dropping by for any purpose, into a back or front yard you never knew existed. Suddenly the floor moves. 😉


Patience, a good selection of stones for the project, a great base of, say 3-4″ of unfinished cement upon which to work (a surface and finish we in construction often refer to indelicately as a “rat slab”) and a slurry of moist cement is about all one needs to get tight with the Pebbling Art. Here are some random pictures of other pebble art projects – not my own. The first 2 are more of the Chinese Garden in Portland, with the first picture featuring a multifaceted quartz-dominated walkway:


This one is made even cooler by the plantings alongside – never to be underestimated as the adjunct of choice:


A close up –


On a wall…………………………….

Picture 534

From the amazing Janette Ireland, I present the utter Lunatic Fringe of the Pebble Mosaic Art:


For more on this stunning artist, click here:  Janette Ireland

You’ll never look at a cute pebble the same way again! Below is from This Blog Check it out.


Well, we’ve gone from interesting to wild. My work is done. 😉

10 thoughts on “Pebble Pathways – And Mosaics, Pebble and Brick

  1. In my home state, we are (quite unfortunately) not “tight” with the pebble mosaic art form. I would be stunned if I spotted one in a garden here. Possibly the freeze/thaw cycles in our state are too tough for the mosaic to survive intact. Our loss, for sure!

    Christine in Alaska
    .-= Christine B.´s last blog ..Cinderella’s pumpkin carriage discovered! =-.

  2. LOL, Christine. I’m afraid the heaving aspect of Pebble Surfaces could be a problem. And then there’s the good old snow shovel. By the way, that 1,100 pound pumpkin on your blog is almost as impressive as that Monster Salmon your old man is packing on the side, lol.

  3. Need a price for 3 cubic yards of pebbles 1/2 inch to 2 inches in diameter. We would like it delivered tomorrow 9-24-10.

  4. looks like a variety of beans glued on paper !!!
    very creative…maybe I should quit IT and learn paving

  5. Well, IT can get tedious, I guess, just like laying in a quarter mile of one inch stones. Or more. I don’t know what advice to give you.

  6. I visited the Chinese Garden in Portland, Oregon in 2001, when it was still pretty new. I remember I was stunned by its beauty. When I saw your photos of the paths, I instantly recognized them. That is how memorable they are, and that place is.

  7. I remember watching those guys work, Charles, talk about a thrill. Even when the city inspectors made them redo a big section, lol. I learned a ton about setting rocks as Mosaics. Hopefully this Spring I get to do it myself for as friend in Minneapolis. Thanks for commenting.

  8. Steve, I live here in Oregon and I want to do a pebble project so bad! Do you have any recommendations for pebbling directly onto cement? I mean as in what kind of glue should I use to fasten the pebbles to cement? The mason’s mortar I tried is just not working. Sigh.

  9. I don’t know anything about Oregon, but I have been to Beijing. The pebble pathways are beautiful and seemingly everywhere! They are a feature of the beautiful parks and gardens but they are also in the communal gardens amongst the high rise apartment buildings. While others took photos of the vista, I was photographing the ground! Cant wait to try some in my own garden.

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