Monday, December 17

Down the garden path

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Well-designed walkways allow you to use your garden to full potential and draw visitors to different elements

Pathways are an integral part in the overall design of any garden, providing direction and guiding visitors, linking entrance to house and house to garden, each serving a particular function, each having its own character.

Pathways create a particular mood by their direction, their shape and by the material used in their construction. They delineate lawns and flowerbeds, and divide the garden into different areas.

A pathway or network of pathways that slows progress makes the journey more interesting, inviting the visitor to discover what lies around each bend.

Functional walks

When deciding the placement of pathways, think of the function they will serve. While pathways are primarily for convenience and accessibility, they can also add a sense of anticipation and mystery. The more diverse, the more interesting the garden.

Pathways connect spaces, each space having its own character, practical or decorative, rustic or modern, geometric or curved, patterned or plain. The material used in their construction should support their purpose.

A pathway refers to a more casual way, while a walkway clearly defines direction and is the shortest possible route to an entrance or utility area and should be well-lit. Add definition and interest to walkways by adding a portico or columns, or a water feature alongside the paving. Update a front door with a bold coat of paint and align pots in the same shade on either side of the door.

Pathways entice the visitor to find out what lies beyond what the eye can see. Picture: Kay Montgomery

The narrow passage linking front to back garden is often neglected and could be made more attractive with a paved pathway and space left on one side for a narrow flower bed and pots.

A paved terrace could lead onto a narrow path with colourful flower borders on either side that will slow progress, which then opens onto a lawned area. The open spaces of the terrace and the lawn are in contrast to the narrow pathway.

If your garden has no great depth, a pathway between two flower borders can be slightly narrowed at the furthest end to give an illusion of distance. Plant small aromatic shrubs, such as lavender, rosemary and santolina that release their scent when the plants are touched, alongside pathways. Plants with sharp leaves or thorns should not be planted near paths.

Adding other elements

Adding an arch or pergola divides the garden visually. Pathways can direct visitors to garden “rooms” – a bricked terrace, a children’s play area, a herb garden, a small shelter in a corner of a garden, or a focal point such as a fountain.

A pathway that disappears around a shrub or hedge invites exploring and stops people and pets from taking short cuts. Curves should be gentle and not have too many ins and outs. A pathway through grasses and flowers swaying in the breeze and visited by butterflies, birds and bees provides sensual pleasures.

Steps or a contrast in paving material are useful for indicating a change in level. A rocky hillside with steps and meandering paths following the contours of the land, and flat rocks serving as seats, can be dramatic and exciting.

Use arches and pathways to direct visitors to the various garden rooms. Picture: Lukas Otto

A pause along a pathway can take the form of a flat rock or rustic bench, and an oversize container can indicate a change of direction. A sundial can be positioned where paths intersect, and a bench creates a destination.

A winding pathway shaded by trees becomes a mini woodland walk where shade-loving plants transition smoothly into an open seating area. Bark mulch or gravel is suitable for pathways in a woodland garden.

Materials

The foundation of the path is important, particularly where there is continuous foot traffic, or the area has poor drainage. Paving interspersed with a decorative pebble design makes an attractive path.

Concrete is long-lasting and is widely used for walkways and steps. Brick is warmer in appearance and more in keeping with cottage gardens and older properties.

Place a garden ornament at the point where two paths meet. Picture: Alan Dawson Gardens

Bark mulch is suitable for paths in woodland, informal gardens, and between stepping stones. Ground covers can be planted between paving stones.

Gravel combines well with paving stones and low maintenance landscapes. Rake to keep the edges controlled.

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