Portland's Japanese Garden achieves maximum beauty and variety with a minimum number of hardscape materials: stone for paving, bamboo and wood for fencing. Next week we'll look at fences; this week we focus on paving.
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Different paving offers visual, often subconscious clues as one walks through a garden – where to turn, where to walk more quickly or slow down and linger, where to notice special structures. Here, the exposed aggregate (pebbles in concrete) used for wide, long paths gives way to rough stone mirroring the rustic wood of the pergola above.
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Clean edged granite paving stones laid in a linear pattern lead to a gate structure; within the gate, stones lay across the path, echoing the roof above and marking passage from one side of the gate to the other.
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The "typical" path surface in the Japanese Garden is the exposed aggregate used for longer, wider stretches without any particular focus.
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Paving isn't only about looks. Garden Curator Sadafumi Uchiyama notes that even when wearing thick-soled shoes like he is here, our bodies perceive the different paving surfaces: through "the bottom of your shoes, you feel the texture, whether conscious of it or not."
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A limited variety of stones, used artfully: the clean edge of the long granite and smaller, irregularly cut stones transitions to a zone of small pebbles set into the soil, then a curved line of buried tiles, then bigger, more rustic stones and boulders in the "natural" landscape.
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The same variety of stones is used to lead to this special gate and fence. Note how the boulders mark the turn in the path, the large boulder flanked by two smaller ones.
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A view into the walled tea garden area shows the same variety of materials being used in a different way than on the previous path.
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Even a slight change in height is a visual and physical clue to anyone experiencing the garden. The raised, regularly shaped circle marks a pivot point at the convergence of irregularly cut stepping stone paths.
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More pieces of clean cut granite lead to the gate and structure, on this longer, linear path.
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At this important and rigorously architectural doorway, the paving stones are clean-edged, geometric and rectilinear; the lighter pink stone marks the threshold.
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Rough-edged stones meet the linear wood planks of the Zigzag bridge, which is one of the oldest features in the Japanese Garden. The garden has grown over the years, and parts have been rebuilt or revised. Continual evolution is inherent in Japanese garden philosophy.
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Hierarchy is important in the Japanese Garden. Here, the rough edge of the stone takes precedence over the otherwise straight edge of the wood: after all, the stone paving is more permanent than the wooden deck and bench, which were recently replaced after the original had worn out.
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The wide path of exposed aggregate is edged by larger pebbles on one side, a gutter of smaller pebbles edged by low stones on the other.
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Smaller stones help turn the corner of the path; the rough-topped stone set into the soil is a visual hinge point and a short cut onto which to step across the angle of the path.
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Gardeners Desirae Williams and Adam Hart stand at one of Garden Curator Sadafumi Uchiyama's favorite examples of paving in the garden. Notice how the irregularly shaped stepping stones "kill the corner" of the otherwise straight-edged exposed aggregate. Right angles are especially prone to cracking.
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Stone will naturally break over time, usually into hexagonal (or pentagonal, but not right angled!) shapes. These three stones were probably not originally a single rock, but are laid out so as to evoke such a natural occurrence. Scale is always important; notice the size of the rocks compared to the man's shoe.
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Again, scale is important. Here, a turning point in a flat path area uses smaller fragments of pink volcanic stone. The pink stone might not be as attractive as the gray, but grouping the small pieces of what would have been leftover pieces takes advantage of the difference in color and shape.
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Flat granite pavers give way to rough edged stone risers on the steep stairs leading up the big hill.
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A little further up the hill, the rough stone risers give way to clean cut granite, as the steep path gets closer to "civilization" and the upper level of the garden. The dramatic lower parts of the garden evoke a hike in the Columbia Gorge, says Garden Curator Sadafumi Uchiyama. Note the stones flanking the stairs, and the boulders set into the hill, giving way to moss and soil.