Down the Garden Path

July 28, 2019 Carlos Arreola

Agarden path issues an enticing invitation to visitors or simply provides a convenient route for home maintenance. Whatever its use, a well-designed path enhances the functionality of any garden. Walkways are necessary for getting from point A to point B and also provide opportunities to create points of interest in the garden.

Most likely a contractor or landscaper installed basic sidewalks when the house was built. Over time, you have worn paths to a side yard, vegetable garden, or favorite shade spot. Perhaps the walkways installed by the contractor are not quite wide enough or don’t lead to where you want to go. It is time to put your imprint on the landscape by redesigning your existing paths.

To personalize your space and add a creative element to the garden paths, it may be helpful to consider some design guidelines.
Generally, major pathways with the most traffic should be wider (up to five feet) and made of durable materials, such as concrete, brick, or flagstone. Major pathways should be wide enough for two people to walk together or to accommodate a wheelbarrow. Secondary paths leading to a secret garden, garden room, or around the house to a side gate would be smaller (no less than 18 inches) and may be made of less permanent materials, such as gravel, bark, or stepping stones. Don’t forget to consider a garden’s proportions during the planning process. Every rule can be broken, but generally, it is odd to see a narrow sidewalk leading to a large entrance or the other way around. A narrow garden appears even more narrow with a straight path, while a curved path will make it seem wider.
Paths and walkways can be made more interesting by mixing materials, adding plants that either hedge the path for a formal feel or spill onto the path for an informal feel, or by choosing materials with interesting colors, textures, or shapes. You can create visual interest with curves.
Begin by determining if you want to create a formal or informal landscape design. Formal garden designs are characterized by straight lines, right angles, and well-manicured plants. In this type of garden, paths may be made of traditional materials, such as brick walkways. Small hedges and pruned shrubs will edge the paths. The color palette may be more muted or monochromatic. Informal and natural garden designs are characterized by organic shapes, sweeping curves, and natural plant groupings. Plants will appear to grow naturally and encroach on paths. Materials may be an eclectic mix of gravels, paving stones, and natural materials or rely on recycled materials. Color palettes may be vibrant and include a rainbow of
colors.

Of course, gardeners often work with what contractors added to the landscape — or work around it. For example, perhaps the concrete walk to the front door is narrow and boring. A designer could expand the width of the path by adding a border of brick, concrete block, or flagstone. If the color does not complement your home or landscape, consider staining the concrete or adding a mosaic over it. Edge the walkway with interesting planting beds. Play in the mud (or instant concrete) to create stepping stones that reflect your sense of design and adventure — or invite family members, children, and pets to participate in making stepping stones and memories. If a trail is worn to the vegetable garden or a favorite shady spot, you have an opportunity to show your creativity in a minor path, choosing interesting materials to express yourself — from pebbles to wood to stepping stones. When creating a path, you can add curves, a variety of plants, and be bold or subtle with color.

Remember, whatever path you create will be improved by adding scented plants to soothe the senses. Also consider lighting for evening hours. Once your plans take shape, take time to research materials and decide whether to hire someone to install the paths or do the research and install the design yourself. Taking a new look at your garden to create paths will improve its functionality, while also placing your imaginative stamp on the garden. Soon, you will head down a garden path of your own creation.

The post Down the Garden Path appeared first on Neighbors magazine.

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