Ornamental Paving Slabs




About: Hi, I'm Tim. I work on the railways during the day, run a scout troop and have a blog (see above website link) where I discuss my allotment and projects!

There's so many boring paving slabs out there and I thought I'd have a go making my own for my allotment.

This particular slab is actually for aesthetics only,  You can making this for stepping on, you just need to apply a couple of inches more thickness than I did and add a bit of chicken wire.

You will need:

Sand (I used soft as opposed to sharp sand)
A leaf
Suitable flat surface - thick cardboard if you're not going to move it, I used the top of an old desk.
Knife for opening bags if you need it
Gloves/other general safety gear as appropriate.
Screwdriver or similar sharp pointy implement for getting in crooks and crannies.
Minions - This time I needed a couple of minions/friends/assistants about to take photos and assist with general jobs.  You'll probably need a hand when doing this.

As usual having researched the project and not finding anything like it on instructables, the robot links it directly to someone who's done exactly this, but with some neat ideas.  You can see it here

Step 1: Picking a Leaf

You'll need a fairly big leaf.  I'd avoid leaves such as giant hogweed as the juice will burn you if you're in the sun.

I used a rhubarb leaf as it's in abundance at this time of year, but you could use all sorts.

I'd use a large enough leaf you could step on.

*no minions were injured in the leaf picking process

Step 2: Concrete

Concrete can be made in so many different ways - it's very similar to making a cake.  I've absolutely no experience at mixing concrete.  Here are some safety considerations:

1.) open the cement bag in a plastic bag.  This stops it going everywhere
2.) If not opening in the outdoors, wear a mask. 
3.) Use gloves when mixing and applying concrete

I used a 50:50 mix of eight cups of cement to eight cups of sand.  It seemed to work well with about a litre of water.  I didn't add the water slowly but all in one go, assuming I'd need more, but I didn't and had to add more cement and sand (so it's not a disaster, just add equal amounts)

When it becomes a thick paste, you can apply to the leaf

Step 3: Covering the Leaf

At this step, it's fairly self explanatory, you're just smothering the leaf with concrete.  Depending on the use, you may need to make this quite thick (about 3-4") and for extra rigidity add chicken wire reinforcement (will need to be cut to same size as the leaf).  The concreted leaf here is about 2" thick.

Concrete needs to applied upto the edges - you don't need to go over the edges however.  The stem doesn't need to be covered either - as you can see in the later pictures, the stem is still exposed.

*The excess stem of rhubarb makes excellent crumble and feeds your minions.

Step 4: "leave" Overnight

The concrete takes time to set.  Due to the weather, I needed to move my leaf inside overnight, but it was set by the morning.  It hadn't bonded to the wood so a gentle nudge and it came straight off.

Now comes the slightly tedious bit - peeling off the leaf.  There's no hard and fast rule on how you take it off, just peel it bit by bit.  Be sure to properly support the leaf whilst you're doing this.  The last thing you need it to do is break!  The weakest point will be where the veins are.

Step 5: Fin

The deep veins should stand out very well.  You can paint it, however I quite like the concrete look.  There are clear sealants which you can apply for outdoor use which soak into the concrete and give it a better bonded surface.   The advantage of all these veins is also more grip, useful on a garden path in the rain!

The slightly brown areas are where rhubarb leaf juice got on it and stained it.  I think this looks quite pretty and more natural.  This is why sealing them can be a good idea!

If you want to lay paving slabs, dig a hole same shape as leaf and line with sharp sand, bed down the slab by tapping it with a wooden mallet (gently!)

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    21 Discussions


    Reply 3 years ago

    Or elephant ears. Devils club might be interesting a well.


    3 years ago

    I made one like this only made it over a mound of sand, so it was like a huge shallow bowl and I used a huge rhubarb leaf also. I used it as a downspout catcher thing where the roof drained off onto the yard. I always thought ones to use as pavers would be so cool. Gotta find some good leaves here in South Texas to do it. Very nice instructable. Thanks for posting!!


    3 years ago

    Very nice idea! I have don some cement work over the years
    and an idea you may use to make a stronger edge or a thicker block is: dig a
    hole in the shape of the leaf but a few inches larger all around, about 3
    inches deep or however thick you want it to be. Using strips of plastic
    (garbage bags etc..) surround the edge of the leaf and pack sand/rocks/bits of
    wood to support the plastic. You'll be able to make an irregular shaped wall
    around the entire leaf hence allowing the concrete to make a straight up edge.
    I have use this method a few times instead of cutting wood for framing and it allows
    for irregular shapes to be molded. I can't wait to try this next summer. Thanks
    for your instuctable.


    6 years ago on Introduction

    Gorgeous. But doesn't it crack when stepped upon?


    7 years ago on Step 5

    Try spraying the leaf with cooking oil before putting the concrete on.


    8 years ago on Step 5

    Love it!! can't wait til summer to try this!


    8 years ago on Step 5

    Very cool looking!! Thanks for the great 'able!

    This looks great. I think you could add a wooden frame around it (mold) and once it had set up a bit, fill in around it (but not on it) with sand, then fill in the square with more cement with some reinforcement in it, to end up with the square thicker slab with the leaf in relief. Then you could add them in randomly with your pavers in your patio.


    8 years ago on Introduction

    really nice and very simple, thanks. have no idea where to get such a large leaf though.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Nice I'm going to give it 5stars!!!!!!!!!!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I've made rhubarb leaves for pavers and decorative use as well,  and leave the leaf on during the curing process, which helps keep the cast moist as well.  Eventually it dries up and can be removed easily,  and the remnants can be blasted off with a strong water jet.  Be sure to pack enough material around the large veins to avoid weak spots in the piece.

    Also went to a local concrete place and bought some reinforcing fibers - a 1 lb. bag goes a long way and a pinch mixed into the water for each batch of concrete  adds a lot of strength to the batch.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    I need to make pavers for my garden; what a terrific idea!  Ta!


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Spray some nonstick cooking spray for leaf removal and color with add in concrete color (will never peel off).


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Would love to see the finished product / deployment.   could you used the leaves to "imprint" in a layer of thinset on top of a sidewalk?

    Neat!  That's a *huge* leaf!  It might come off better if you dumped some scalding hot water over it to soften it after the concrete is set.  You might be able to just hose it off with a jet of water after that.


    9 years ago on Introduction

    Your paving slabs looks amazing, I have to give this a go. When I do i'll post photo. ......... <(¿)>