Thursday, September 17, 2020

Garden Paths, A journey

Stepping stones made of pieces of local basalt and veins of hand picked river stones
Local basalt and river stones mortared together to make stepping stones between two houses

I've been building gardens for over 30 years now.  Most of my work has been residential and often involves the removal of lawns and generic hardscapes so that I can replace them with something more inviting and complimentary to the natural world.  If you aren't going to be walking around the house on a lawn anymore, then you'll need a path.  A path takes you somewhere.  I try to make that journey an interesting one, something that you will pay attention to, that changes the way you feel.  Life is a path in itself, and by choice I've followed an interesting one, marked by moments of unfathonable beauty.  If possible I try to translate those sensations in to my work.  Lets take a walk.

The entrance to Randy McChormach's Portland garden emulates a creek that flows from a hot spring at a cabin they own in Eastern Oregon

I've been working with stone for a long time, so I've built a lot of stone paths.  My first stonework was at my own home, using rock that I scavenged from old abandoned quarries in the hills outside of Portland.  These were usually sources of stone that would be crushed to make road beds for highway construction.  

Basalt stones laid flat in fine crushed gravel form 3 rectangles leading to the side of the house.

I hadn't worked with river rock yet, but after a trip to Spain and Portugal I was exposed to pebble mosaic and began to incorporate naturally water smoothed rock in to my work.  It kind of took over my career eventually, although I prefer to work with plants.

These small pebble mosaic stepping stones lead to a hose faucet.  I built them without forms, just pressing the pebbles in to a flattened mound of wet mortar and then carefully leveling them with a piece of plywood.  I called them pebble cakes at the time.

Split basalt makes a nice solid stepping stone.  These are at Marenakos Stone outside of Seattle.

I quit doing lawns years ago, removing them rather than installing them.  A path through a beautifully planted garden is way more interesting to me than a swath of grass.  When you get rid of the lawn, you don't have to mow anymore, and your neighbors don't have to listen to a lawn mower every week!  Nature benefits from the shelter and sustinance provided by biological diversity.

A once grass covered parking strip is now a diverse garden of heat and drought tolerant plants with mosaic stepping stones connecting the sidewalk to the street.

In this garden in the Beaumont neighborhood of Northeast Portland I built a set of stepping stones in 18 inch square forms that represent lotus blossoms.  The idea comes from the Jataka tales, the story of the life of Buddha.  When he first walked as a baby, lotuses sprung from his footsteps.  You see literal depictions of this tale sometimes in sacred Buddhist shrines, most notably at Bodhgaya in India at the place the Buddha attained enlightenment.  

Finished stepping stones in their forms

So the idea for this path is that you can conciously tap in to an enlightened state of being if you are perceptive and aware.  Each step is a meditation as you walk through the garden.  In Japanese and Chinese gardens paths are often built with intention in mind.  I could post a zillion photos of paths that have inspired me but I am going to stick to my own work to keep from writing a novel.

Lotus stepping stones inspired by the Jataka Tales from Buddha's life

The most readily available material in my early years as a garden builder were split basalt slabs from a huge quarry on the Washington side of the Columbia River near the town of Camas.  Stone is blasted from the slopes and then manually split in an arduous process of drilling and jackhammering large chunks of rock in to usable slabs.  They are nice and thick and very heavy, and often not perfectly flat.  I spent many hours picking through piles of heavy stone for the best pieces.  Clients rarely fully understand how intensly laborious this kind of work is.  

A basalt slab path connects the front and back gardens of a suburban house in Lake Oswego, Oregon.  The stones are arranged to be picturesque and to slow the pace that a straight line of stones might not encourage.

Back then I was able to drive in to the quarry and pull unprocessed blocks of stone from the slopes.  A lot of my work was in the suburbs where houses were built on scraped hillsides leaving barren inaccessible yards with terrible subsoil.  I was young and strong and under the influence of old European gardens with stone paths and terraces, constructed by generations of hardy stone masons.  The stones I was able to collect at the quarry were special in that they had split naturally and had substancial dimensions.  I was young and very strong.  Eventually liability restricted my access to the quarries and stone vendors were starting to set up shop in the region, so I quit going directly to the quarry.  

Heavy natural slabs of basalt make inviting steps up a retaining wall.  I mortared the stones together but in a way that the mortar doesn't show.

Gravel makes the easiest path to install.  It can be crushed or rounded pea gravel. I  prefer 3/4 inch river rock to pea gravel as it is larger and less apt to stick to your shoes and feet and get tracked around.  A gravel path should be fairly level so that you don't slip on it.  Crushed gravel is essential if there is a slope.  You just wheelbarrow it, dump it and rake it smooth and hose it off.

A wide gravel path on a level terrace.

For years I built staggered basalt stepping stone paths down the narrow strips between houses and anywhere a path was needed, to get to a hose faucet, a garage door, a storage shed.  The work was brutal but fairly quick and affordable.  I was known as the guy who liked the largest slabs, which I would dig through the piles, moving tons of rock to find and then wrestle up ramps in to my battered truck.

Basalt slabs winding through a forest garden in Lake Oswego

American gardens usually get a slab of white concrete for a patio and strips paths down the sides between the houses.  Sometimes budget constraints required recycling the concrete I was breaking up in to a more interesting path.  Hauling away heavy waste material is laborious so I often found creative ways to recycle it back in to the garden, sometimes using it to thicken a mortared wall with a stone face and occasionally for paths.  Recycled concrete is sometimes referred to as Urbanite.

I broke a narrow concrete path between two houses in to rectangles and then rearranged them with bands of large river stones to create a more inviting garden path

My garden has always been my guinea pig for exploring new ways of using materials and plants.  I taught myself how to lay stone here, to work with mortar, and I developed the techniques I use today for building pebble mosaics surrounding my home.  I had time to build things that took many years to complete.  I inherited the usual concrete paths to the front steps and around the sides of the house.  I recycled the concrete in to my walls as back fill and began replacing the paths and steps with stone work.  

The front of the Crack House (I still call it that) when I first bought and started working on it.

I created a mosaic with a pair of eyes for the threshold.  I had spent parts of 3 winters in Nepal and loved the Buddha eyes painted on stupas there.  But it is bad form to walk on Buddha's eyes, so I made the eyes at the entrance to my garden green, like mine.  I live in a former Crack House and the property had a tumultuous and sometimes violent history.  A man was killed here in a drive by shooting before I bought it. I was living in the house net door at the time.  So my eyes now watch over the entrance to my home.  Up the steps I built a landing with a Tibetan endless knot. This represents  Samsara, the endless cycle of life and death and its infinite potential.  This mosaic turned out to be kind of wonky and off center but moss has softened and partially obscured it over time so this is less obvious.

My eyes and a Tibetan endless knot mosaic

The original concrete walk between my two houses.

The rattlesnake path that runs between my two houses took 7 years to build.  That was mainly because it took so long to collect the specific colors and shapes of stones I needed.  There is an island in the Colombia River where pebbles come up through the sand when the river drops in Summer.  I would beach comb for gold quartzite and black basalt, red jasper and white speckled granite.  Uniform shapes are needed to create the even bands in the design.  I needed thousands of these for the 35 foot long mosaic.

Beginning what would become a 7 year project.

I chose a native Western Rattlesnake for the design because it is a symbol of protection and they shed their skin as they grow.  I've always felt a sense of awe when I see them in the wild, not as menacing but as quiet, shy, camouflaged magical creatures.  They are carved in to temples in Mexico to guard gateways and slither as a shadow down pyramids on Solstices.  7 headed cobras, called Nagas wrap around the temples at Angkor in Cambodia, again prividing a border of protection.  My house has never been broken in to, so there may be something to this.

The Western Rattlesnake path leading from my front entry around the corner of the house.

My garden is very small, so mosaics bring a level of detail that makes it feel bigger by drawing your attention to it's intricacies.  The wavy edge of the path makes it look much longer than a straight line would, and the pebbles massage my feet when I walk on them barefoot.  As I proceeded towards the back of the house I felt the need to end the first rattlesnake as it was losing its biological accuracy.  I wanted the mosaic to depict a real Western Rattlesnake, not be an characature of it.  So to finish the path I created a more tightly coiled baby snake at the other end who would receive you when coming from the back.  It wasn't easy to build but turned out nicely.  

Baby Rattlesnake completed 7 years later.

In front of the house on the other side of the entrance I built a Persian prayer rug that leads to a beautiful statue of a Buddha that I bought from a master carver's shop in Bhubaneswar, India.  This mosaic took 2 years to collect the stones I needed.  Large river stones make an informal path to get me from there around the corner of the house in that direction.

Prayer rug and Buddha in my front garden.

I was able to take down the fence between the two gardens when I bought the boarded up Crack House next door, and built a connecting path with nice slabs of orange oxydized basalt I had collected over the years.  I'm gradually replacing parts of this path with mosaic medallions made of stones I've been gathering on my travels in the US and around the world. They remind me of the places I've been and the experiences I had there. That is something you don't get from buying rock from a supply yard. You need to be discreet and conscious when collecting stone from the wild, leaving no trace.

Opening up and connecting my two gardens.

The garden has obviously changed dramatically over the years as I built my well known altar wall and the plants I added have matured.

One of the stepping stones I built using pieces I collected over a year, including ones from Egypt, Jordan, and Israel.

When you design and build a garden it can be tailored to the space rather than plunked down according to what's on a plan.  I like to mock up the spaces I'm working in so that I can fine tune it in real time.  I end up doing simple drawings just to give clients a conceptual idea of what I am hoping to accomplish.  

A simple sketch of a patio and path design.

My work is dependent on the materials I am able to procure.  I will spread out a pallet of flagstones that I can trim and shape with a diamond blade stone cutting blade mounted in a large size angle grinder.  I can lay out the stones to the desired arrangement and fill in gaps with handpicked river rock after I've set the larger stones, making sure that everything is flat. 

I used the same basalt material used to edge the mosaic entry to the home.

The slab stepping stones become a staircase leading down the slope to the lower parts of the garden.

Sometimes I was able to buy really thick slabs that we muscled in to place using pry bars, to create substantial steps.  I avoid these types of projects now unless the budget allows for craning large stones in to place.

Large slabs of basalt built in to a retaining wall lead to a patio at the top of the slope.

I worked with an assistant named Henry Mansfield for several years who had the enthusiams to saw cut and shape basalt to fit tightly together.  The gardens we constructed as a team were always laborious endeavors.  In one garden in the West Hills of Portland we built a low seat height wall that mirrored the shape of the house, and framed the entry court in basalt with a natural winding zen stepping stone path surrounded by gravel to create an integration between the architecture of the house and the natural forest garden beyond.

A seat height wall frames an entry court with a stepping stone path leading to the front entrance. The paving is entirely permeable.

I got tired of using basalt because I didn't love the grey color, and the variety of material sold at stone yards was becoming more diverse.  More generous budgets allowed for using bluestone imported from the East Coast of the US.  I used beautiful sandstone that comes in a variety of colors, mixed with pebble mosaic for clients with more adventurous tastes.  I called the multicolored curving entry walk and steps I built to Randy McChormach's Southeast Portland home the Candyland Walk because of its colorful compostion.  The walkway has become famous on the internet and Randy is a fastidious gardener who maintains her place in immaculate condition, something that is frustratingly rare amongst clients.

What I call the Candyland walk and steps leads to the front door.  You used to have to squeeze past cars in the driveway to reach the front porch.

Another garden in the Irvington neighborhood of Portland was built in phases over a number of years.  The Goodfriends had spent time in Barcelona, Spain and loved the paintings of Joan Miro, which became the theme for a patio and later paths in the front garden.  In one phase I removed the old cracked concrete entry path and built a set of wide pads framed in local Mollala basalt with pebble mosaic veins that related to the patio mosaic in the back garden.

The original walkway, which I removed.

The design allows for permeability, with gaps to allow for water to percolate in to the ground rather than run off to the street.

I laid out the basalt flagstones in frames made with 2x4's which were later removed.

Once the flagstones were set I filled in the gaps with pebble mosaic.  When the work was finished the spaces between the pads were filled with potting soil and planted with Baby's Tears, Soleirolia soleirolii, a flat bright green ground cover.  

The finished entryway is divided in to panels to allow for permeability and to break up the expanse of paving.

There are stepping stone pads leading from the entry to both sides of the house.  We recycled the broken concrete by jack hammering it in to stepping stone size pieces with stone like shapes to make paths in less prominent areas beside the house.  

Building a stepping stone path to connect the entry to the former driveway.

The driveway to the house was steep and too narrow to use for parking.  The beautiful but sagging garage in the back of this handsome home was torn down to create a more spacious back garden, so we decided to break up the old cracked driveway. We jackhammered the pavement in to nice square panels which we then relayed for a generous path surrounded by leftover pebbles I sorted to build the mosaics with.  

Jackhammering out the old driveway

Relaying the best slabs of old concrete to make a permeable path connecting the front garden to the back patio mosaic.

Later we removed the sloped part of the driveway and I built a set of sets laid out to have a zen Japanese feel after my clients made a trip to Kyoto.

These steps were built to connect the driveway to the entry 

The former driveway replaced with an inviting set of steps

Every project is different and requires a personalized design that best resolves the needs of the property.  Incorporating imported from the east coast raises the carbon footprint of a project significantly but the smooth flatness of the stone is great for situations that call for it.  I've worked on a number of historically significant homes, some of them on the National Register of Historic Places.  One of these homes, a Craftsman Bungalow in the Ladds Addition neighborhood of Portland needed a low retaining wall along the sidewalk and a new entry walk to the house.  The river rock wall curves in to the walkway and forms a pedastle for a Craftsman style lantern.  The flagstone is called Peacock stone as there are shades of purple in the variegation.  I added small spiral mosaics to represent the four seasons in to the step landing and veins of hand picked flat topped river rock.

Flat topped river rocks frame the flagstones and fill gaps, integrating the river rock wall in to the paving.

One of four spirals in the landing of the entry path.

At another historic residence on Alameda Ridge in Portland I replaced the old concrete walk with a generous path using cut bluestone squares set as diamonds. 

A matching mosaic and bluestone panel connects the front entry path to the street.

The family name is Rowan and the Rowan tree, a Mountain Ash, Sorbus aucuparia was historically used to carve staffs used in healing rituals in ancient Germanic Rhunic cultures.  There are a number of Rhunic alphabets including the Elder Futhark, which consists of 24 symbols which I made in pebble mosaics leading to the grand chimney of the house, where I created a Rowan Tree mosaic with characteristic red berries and a petrified wood trunk and branches.  

The 24 letters of the Elder Futhark Rhunic alphabet 

The Rowan Tree

I spelled out the name Rowan in the diamonds in front of the entry steps.  The entry is expansive and the budget required limiting the amount of pebble sorting so I used a full range of mixed pebbles normally used for decorative mulching that is imported from Montana.

The path splits at the Rowan Tree, the left side leading to the front entry steps.

The side path going to the covered porch is much less prominent so that guests are directed to the front door.

I like how this simple path curves around the corner.

I later built a set of round stepping stones leading from the driveway to a fancy picket fenced dog kennel incorporating paw prints in to the design.

Paw prints in round stepping stones leading to a dog kennel

The first historic house I worked on was in NW Portland has a well known Persian carpet styled patio and pebble mosaic parking strip panels.  A path of 3x3 foot squares flows from the entry landing to the patio.  I made a wavy pattern of lines to emulate water flowing and called the path "The River of Life".  The plantings have filled in around the square panels softening the look.

The River of Life Path

The later addition of a garage built in to the slope behind the house involved pouring graphite tinted concrete, which I find much more appealing than bright white concrete.  The roof of the garage is paved in cut stone tiles, so I had insets formed in to the concrete work so that I could lay complimentary panels of cut stone to decorate the paving.

Cut stone inlaid in to a poured tinted concrete path.

The garden of another stately home in the Piedmont neighborhood of Portland became a project I had wanted to work on for years. The distinctive home is made of cast concrete to look like stone and was billed as a house that wouldn't burn, since most houses in Oregon are made of wood.  The 3 story round tower explains the nickname that kids give the house around Halloween, of Dracula's Castle.  The house was undergoing extensive restoration and the gardens needed a lot of attention from inappropriate installations over the years.  Because the house was concrete, I opted to use inexpensive concrete 24x24 inch pavers with bands of pebble mosaic for the patio and walkways.

The historic Jenny Bramhall House in NE Portland's Piedmont neighborhood got a simple new entry walk with bands of Mexican Beach Pebbles set on edge.  The landing widens to connect to the wide steps.

The entry walkway connects to a straight path that turns at a right angle beyond the balustraded porch, which was totally rebuilt with cast replicas of the original decaying ones.  A Thai spirit house sits at the turn of the path, centered on the axis viewed from the patio, which has the same grid pattern.  

A simple walkway composed of two 24x24 inch concrete pavers with a band of Mexican Beach Pebbles  takes you around the corner of the house.

A tessalated Moroccan design pebble mosaic sits in a small square patio by a fountain midway down the side path and can be viewed from above on the terrace.

An 8 pointed star in a Moroccan style mosaic ornaments a small patio centered on a path leading to the main patio.

Later on a parking area was added for two cars that could be used as a patio during events.  The same grid pattern was poured in the reinforced concrete, and wide steps and a pad with the same design leads up to steps in to a side door.  Originally there was supposed to be a colonade that matched the house on the square plinths in the wall around the parking court but this was never finished.

A parking area doubles as courtyard patio with wide steps and a landing leading to the house and garden.

I worked for several years on another stately home in the Hancock Park neighborhood of Los Angeles.  I was originally commissioned to build two mosaics but later renovated the design of the garden to take it to another level.  Part of this was removing a most of the lawns and replacing them with drought tolerant plants and to eliminate the need for mow and blow maintenance, which involved terrible pruning work.  I made simple stepping stones with concentric squares of alternating black and gold Mexican beach pebbles that lead to an Indonesian tea pavilion and a gated area behind the garage where the pool equipment was located.  I surrounded the stepping stones with Del Rio pebbles and set a collection of pots containing bromeliads under the canopy of a large Leptospermum tree tht had a significant root system, which made it difficult to grow plants in the ground.

Stepping stones leading from the outdoor kitchen to the tea house and pool equipment storage area.

I continued to add to the garden over the years.  When we removed an inset trampoline to make a sunken garden, I made a set of 3x3 foot square mosaic pads leading to the pebble mosaic steps in to the round depression.

Large square mosaic step pads lead to the Sunken Garden

The last project was to remove the thirsty lawn in front and install a dry garden with a collection of plants inspired by the gardens at Lotusland in Montecito.  I trimmed to shape large sandstone pavers to create a path connecting the driveway to the entry walk and a bench.  I planted Dymondia around the stepping stones, a durable flat ground cover that wont grow over the edge of the stones that has yellow daisy like flowers when in bloom.

Shaped sandstone stepping stones leads across the front garden.

A friend of these clients hired me to renovate the front of her home nearby.  The budget was modest but I was able to maximize the effect by using large sandstone pavers once again.  I trimmed the corners to make softer shapes, reminiscent of the look from Flintstone cartoons I used to watch when I was a child.  

Large sandstone stepping stones enhance the setting of this cute stucco house off Wilshire in Los Angeles

The same clients I worked for over the years in LA hired me to do their garden in Chilmark on Martha's Vineyard in Massachusetts.  The house underwent a substantial addition and needed new paths and steps.  Because it is an island all of the materials had to be shipped there by ferry. I was able to  buy beautiful old granite curbs for steps and several pallets of bluestone for the paths.  Again I trimmed the stones to have softer corners and arranged them in to picturesque arrangements.  

Heavy equipment was handy for placing boulders.

Martha's Vineyard has a distinctive style that I tried to compliment.  Unfortunately rowdy dogs reaped havok on the garden after I left, digging deep holes all over the place, and the potential of the place never happened, but the hardscape bones of the garden remained largely intact.  

2 sets of stairs designed by the architect seemed unnecessary but required two paths to connect them to the garden.

Old granite curbs from Vermont make wonderful steps.

An old picket gate leads to a Secret Garden circle made of bricks I relayed that had long since been buried by time.

I returned a few years later and attempted to rejuvinate the garden, and built a picket fenced cutting garden that would be safe from the dogs who had destroyed much of the earlier planting.  I had leftover bricks which I used to make step pads leading to a bird bath at the center of the cutting garden.

Bricks set on a mortar pad with pebbles added for detail lead in to the cutting garden.

I like making round mandalas, and had the opportunity to do a commission on Fire Island in New York.  All of the materials had to be delivered to the island by ferry with no idea what we would be building.  Because the project was not focused on any particular result I ended up making mandalas with what we had on hand.  First I built a simple step with a spiral incorporated in to it, alluding to the turning and expanding of the Universe.  This takes you from a boardwalk entry to the path around the house.

A spiral mosaic step leads down to a permeable path made of a variety of stones set in fine gravel.

A round mandala marks a turn in the path.

The Halls Hill Labyrinth was by far the most profound project I have worked on to date, and is the most used path I have constructed.  The 11 circuit path winds in and out in the style of the famed Chartes Cathedral labyrinth with the addition of a vast amount of additional symbolism.  There are a series of essays on this project at  Its even been listed on the Washington Trails Association website.

The Halls Hill Labyrinth is one of the largest stone mosaics in the United States.

After I finished the Labyrinth project I was commisioned to build a meditation path of round stepping stones using left over stones I had collected up north for a Portland area yoga teacher. The goal was to create 108 step pads so that she could do a circumambulation of her house barefoot, while creating a Tibetan mala necklace around the building, but the project was never completed.  

Flexible plastic lawn edging used to form round mosaic pads.  Large nails hold them in place.
 The forms are removed after the mortar has set.

Stepping stones and a carpet of Japanese Maple leaves in November

Mala step pads forming a necklace around half of this house.
To learn how to make these stepping stones you can find detailed instructions at

I traveled to New Zealand three times and spent over a year working on the Living Building Challenge rated project at Camp Glenorchy.  Origianlly commissioned to develop mosaics that emulated the braided rivers that flow from glaciers in to Lake Wakatipu near the town, I embarked on an intesnive series of projects, much of it creating paths to connect the various parts of the project.  Not all of them turned out the way I had envisioned them but some of the work is quite beautiful.  Because the site was fully under construction the first year I ended up building over 100 mandala stepping stones meant to mimic the endless number of stars visible in the clear night skies there.  

A large solar mandala I made to celebrate the Summer Solstice for the Southern Hemisphere.

As exposed aggregate paths were poured during my absence, these mandalas were incorporated in to important points in the path system, such as intersections, creating a celestial necklace around the camp.  The mandalas were often made from stones I collected in the region as geologic samplers of what you would find in specific locations.  I left them on pallets with numbers corresponding to a plan so that their placement would be oriented to the direction from which the stones came.  

Mosaic mandalas I left behind to be placed in the paths during my absence over the winter.

Mandala placed at the intersection of paths.

Many stepping stones went in to the graveled area in front of Mrs. Wooly's General Store, a popular market and gathering place across the street from the camp.  

Mosaic stepping stones set in gravel lead to a potting shed and a parking area behind it.

Others were meant to create geologically significant paths to cabins, surrounded by beautiful river stones I collected from the vast wilds outside of town.  I wanted to recreate the experience of walking along the lake shore and rivers in the camp.

Unfinished path meant to connect to the Rees and Dart Rivers.

Health  and safety regulations were to be the bane of me.  Although people come from all over the world to hike in these glorious mountains, bureaucracy dictates that there be no trip hazards. When I returned the following Spring I found my beautiful paths set in poorly executed exposed aggregate paths wide enough to drive a car on.  The results were not to my liking.

Mandala path turned in to a driveway.

I also built a series of landings at the entrance to various cabins to add to their individual identities.  Some were like rivers, and others geologic formations, or celestial skies.  While I was gone they decided that there could be no step from the cabin decks to the connecting path, only ramps.  So several landings I built had to be dug up and lifted.  The mandala paths were set in concrete, completely changing the intended look and eliminating permeability. 

Braided River mosaic landing

Starry Night mosaic landing detail

Lancewood cabin landing connected to a boardwalk

Flower mosaic landing using saw cut stones.

My main contribution to the camp was to be braided river inspired paths.  I built two different sets, one representing the Rees River and the other the larger Dart River.  The Rees River mosaic runs from the parking area through a breezeway at the entrance to the Homestead lodge building and on to the Scheelite campfire shelter.  I used large amounts of stone that I cut on a rock saw as I needed thousands of them and cutting revealed the beautiful green interiors of various schist stones that I collected in great quantities.  The braided river islands were made with cut granite giving the white appearance of gravel bars like I had seen from the helicopter rides I had taken over the rivers.

Braiding of the Dart and Rees Rivers flowing towards Lake Wakatipu.

I could drive in my 4 wheel drive Ute pickup out on to the vast river beds to collect stone, which changes every year during high water levels.

When these paths were poured they formed indentations for me to fill in with mosaic work.  The Rees River mosaic is about 100 feet long!

Path ready for the arduous task of filling in with mosaic

It took me several weeks to complete this project, while working simultaniously on others.

Working my way down the path

The finished Rees River path

The Dart River path starts on a half circle terrace outside the Conservatory and runs through the Homestead Building to the Greenstone Room, and out through the back terrace to a curved wood bridge over a gray water treatment wetland.  The floors inside the building were polished and the cut stone is gorgeous.

The start of the Dart River mosaic on a terrace outside the Conservatory.

Polishing the Braided River floor in the Greenstone Room

The Dart River mosaic connecting to the bridge over the wetland.

I finished these mosaics and built the Geologic Wall inside the Conservatory, and began construction of Garden in front of the building.  There was so much concrete work at the camp that I begged to be able to do a garden that looked more like it was part of the breathtaking landscapes of the surrounding region.  The finest schist stone in New Zealand comes from the Dart River Valley and the owners of the quarries on the vast Paradise sheep station were willing to sell us magnificent slabs of stone to build the path with.  I wanted to create a garden that felt like you were out in the natural countryside.  All the plants used at the camp are native to New Zealand, though not necessarily to this particular region.  We had a nursery full of potbound plants waiting to get in to the ground including lots of grasses and sedges to make it feel like the edge of a meadow.

The Homestead Building before the gardens were created.

I had spent so much time out in the wilds collecting and observing the natural landscapes that I was permeated with it.  Building the garden was one of my favorite parts of my year there and was an opportunity to express an understanding of the wilds of Glenorchy in a creative manifestation.  I used cut stones to make a beautiful strip along the curb so people wouldn't have to step in to the planting beds that distracts your eye from the expanse of grey pavers in the entry drive and parking area.

I even built a ramp for wheelchairs which works beautifully in an unorthadox way.

I laid the paths so that it would feel like you were hiking up in to the mountains in the distance, and planted it so that the adjacent road would be screened.  It seems to have grown in nicely from these photos taken by friends who have visited since I left.  

As the gardens have grown in it is looking like what I had hoped it would.

I continue to build paths in to my 60's.  When will it end?  Life is a journey and I want to make sure it is an interesting one.  Sometimes we stumble and sometimes its hard, but hopefully we can find a beautiful and meaningful route to embark upon.

Thanks for reading, Jeffrey


1 comment:

  1. Beautiful. Really. I am completely lost on what to do in my pnw back yard and this was just beautiful. I was not expecting to open a blog of a master. Thank you for sharing the beautiful ways you contribute to the world.