How important is your garden path?
I visited a beautifully planted garden last year, but it was spoilt by its garden path.
The garden owner clearly didn’t care about her garden paths. She poured all her time and money into creating beautiful borders.
But they were fringed by harsh red brick and modern concrete paths, of the cheapest kind.
Of course, she’s entitled to spend her time and money where she chooses. And she was open for the NGS, so clearly many people think it is a wonderful garden (I shan’t tell you which garden it is).
But I wasn’t the only one to walk away, murmuring the words ‘disappointing.’ And it took us a bit of discussion to work out what we didn’t like.
Finally, we worked it out. It was, indeed, the garish garden paths and the lack of attention to the other hard landscaping elements. (The walls were in the same cheap, modern brick).
Affordable garden paths
Yet you don’t need to spend a lot of money on your garden path. Mulch, gravel or mown paths are relatively cheap – or even free.
If you’re handy, you can plant a stepping stone garden path yourself – see instructions on doing it here from Gardeners World
And if you’re obscenely handy, then you can even lay a stone path yourself. I googled DIY garden paths. There’s an excellent video on how to lay garden paving by Monty Don, involving string and spirit levels. I couldn’t possibly manage it.
A gravel garden path
If you’re getting a path laid professionally, gravel is one of the cheapest. Choose fine gravel as it settles better. Don’t run it too close to the front door, or it will get trodden into the house. And have some kind of edging or border to prevent little stones getting onto the lawn, too. Also, if you have automatic gates, you’ll need to use stone or brick under where they go.
A garden path that works with your environment
It’s also worth thinking about the wider environment when choosing a garden path. I don’t think we would have disliked the ugly red brick path so much if we’d seen it in a town context with red brick buildings. It struck a wrong note because it was in an otherwise very country-style garden.
S shaped paths
The general rule, when creating a garden path, is to follow a straight line between two places. Otherwise you risk bald patches in the lawn, as people take short cuts across your garden.
However, the S shaped path is an important design tool, especially for long, thin town gardens.
Garden path edges
I’ve seen some beautifully simple garden path edging. My absolute favourite is at Rosemary Alexander’s Sandhill home.
If you have more than one path…
If you have more than one garden path, think about whether you want them to be different or to match. The garden we disliked (at the beginning of this post) had a number of different ugly paths – some were cheap concrete pavers and others were harsh red brick.
In contrast, the Salutation in Sandwich is a garden of a similar size. Its garden paths are harmonious. They’re in red brick, which reflects the red brick of the main house.
I have to admit that our own garden paths are a mix of gravel, stone, and even concrete pavers. But then you will notice that I am not featuring them in this post! Except the front garden, and (below) the mistake I think I made with the grouting.
I’d certainly advise you to think about the grouting if you’re using brick or stone pavers. I thoughtlessly decided on concrete grouting for our stone paving because I thought it would be nice not to weed it. I have since regretted it – a more natural sand grouting would have looked better, I think.
It’s worth spending as much as you can afford to get a better path, even if it means not spending much on plants for a few years. You can change your plants more easily than you can change your garden path.
So am I being very unfair in criticising a fellow gardener for their choice of garden path? What do you think?