In the new movement for sustainable landscaping, permeable paving has become a major part of artistic, practical and efficient garden design. Permeable paving is quite simply the use of materials for paving that allows water to penetrate easily. Gravel, sand, blocks, stone and other materials that are not cemented into a solid surface, all qualify. They can be used for patios, walkways, driveways and other flooring areas. Not only are these areas more successful at draining water and more flexible should you want to make changes, but with a little creativity, you can design permeable paving as art. Using the wide variety of color, shape, and texture available in paving materials you can create pictures, patterns and designs that are limited only by your imagination.
Think in terms of doing your own painting. Sketch your design out on paper first. Then put together your materials. Bricks, for example can be set into patterns, colored stones can be placed like tiles in a mosaic, or gravel of different hues can be grouped to blend into various shaped areas. Build a false rug under a seating area with a rectangle filled with fitted stones. Sketch out ponds, riverbeds or lakes with river rock, tumbled glass in shades of blue or blue-dyed recycled tire chips. All these materials will let water pass through freely while they stay in place. You can even make driveways and patios artistic by placing together preformed blocks of different colors. Make sure all bases are properly installed for weight-bearing areas.
At the Pacific Horticulture Symposium in Pasadena, permeable paving artist Jeffrey Bale offered a lecture with many pictures of some of the creative designs he has created in landscapes all over the world. Check out ideas on how to use permeable paving as art on sites like Jeffery Bale, Keeyla Meadows, or visit examples used in places like the Lotus Garden in Santa Barbara or the Los Angeles County Arboretum.