Follow the Yellow Brick Road: A Guide to Garden Paths



A garden is much more than a collection of trees, shrubs, and flowers. A garden combines the dynamic energy of plants with walls, patios, and paths to create a well-designed and integrated landscape.
Both functional and decorative, a garden path is the backbone of a home landscape.  It can take you from the front garden to the back garden and it can also lend a sense of mystery and visual delight to the journey.




Access and Design

The most direct route from point A to point B is a straight line. If you just want your path to take you from here to there, a straight line is a good choice. But if you want your path to add to your garden as it guides you on your way, consider curves and angles.

As you design your path, keep in mind your practical and your aesthetic objectives for the path.


Materials and Methods

Many materials lend themselves to garden paths. Consider how much traffic the path will get, whether you want a natural or formal look, how much you want to spend, and whether you want to do it yourself or hire the job out.

Paths are either dry laid or mortared. Dry laid paths tend to look informal than mortared paths. Also, dry laid paths allow water to seep into the ground so you don’t get as much run off. But you will have to weed a dry laid path, and it may shift more in locations where the ground freezes.

Choose materials that work visually with your house and other landscape features. The materials don’t have to be the same, but they should complement each other. Often the most interesting paths are made from a combination of paving materials.

Excellent materials for a garden path include:

  • Bricks
  • Ceramic tile
  • Flagstone
  • Concrete pavers
  • Gravel
  • Homemade stepping stones
  • Mulch
  • Wood chips
  • Grass


Building your Garden Path in Four Easy Steps

Creating a garden path can be a job for a professional landscaper, but it can also be a do-it-yourself project. Creating a “soft” path, which does not require heavy pavers or mortar, is a realistic undertaking for the home landscaper.

The most difficult part is deciding where you want the path to go. You can put your path in the natural flow of foot traffic or you can define a new route for your path.

Once that is settled, it’s a four-step process to building your path.

  1. Mark the path. You can use chalk, string, or a flexible hose to mark the location of the path.
  2. Remove turf and other paths that are growing in the pathway. Dig at least 10 centimetres down. A square spade and a digging fork are good tools for this task.
  3. Cut landscape fabric to fit the path. Landscape fabric blocks weeds from growing up from the ground. It’s better than plastic sheeting because it allows water to reach the soil. If you need to piece the landscape fabric together, overlap the edges by at least 15 centimetres.
  4. Lay down the material you’ve chosen for your path. Mulch, wood chips, pebbles, gravel, and crushed rock are all good choices for a soft path. Use a rake to smooth out the material. You can spray the path with a mist from a garden hose to help the material settle in place.


Growing your Path

You can decide how you want your path to interact with the plants in your garden. You can keep the plants out of the path or you can allow some spillover. You can even scatter sturdy groundcovers along the path.

Just remember, the path is an important part of your garden. When you make plans for your garden, include the path in your considerations; it’s more than a surface to step on.


Image credit: Image 1, Image 2 


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