How to lay out an "S-curve" garden path?

caroline94535July 17, 2014

Hello! I'm a lurker in a quandary on how to design a curved path through my front yard "cottage garden."

The gardening area is new; for this first season I've planted a few perennials, veggies, and a lot of annuals.

The garden is a large oval, bi-sected into two "half moon" shapes with a 6-ft. wide path between them. Overall ilt's about 30'x22'. For now the path is grass, but I have plans to add low growing herbs.

The garden beds are outlined with very large granite rocks. Once I've determined the curve of the path the inner border will be lined with more rocks.

This photo was taken in early spring. I've added more plants and it's filling in nicely.

The path is 22 feet long. The upper garden is 13 feet deep at the widest point; the lower one is 11 feet deep.

I have a long rope. I thought I could lay is out to form the curve, but what shape would look best for this path? Where should the curve be?

The southeast end of the path is near a Purple Martin colony's pole; the northwest end faces a tree and will have a clematis-covered arbor.

Any suggestions or ideas would be so welcomed!

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To fill in the nearest area until I come up with a planting scheme, I have set out a pumpkin, butternut squash, four cabbages, a day lily, tomato, and several "stepables between some of the rocks.

The squash has filled in from the left edge all the way to the tomato now. I had to cut three runners off of it.

The path is between 6- and 7-ft wide. I can move it in or out to make it down to 5- feet it that will make the curves work.

To fill in the upper section, which is the largest of the two although this photo does not show it, I have a planter filled with geraniums, irises, daylily, a clump of five or six cosmos, large clumps of dianthus and marigold plants, two wave petunias, two Shasta "Alaska" daisies, Purple Coneflowers, Bee Balm, and a dozen or so regular petunias, bee balm, two peonies, and violets.

I made a tomato cage tower for the Thumbergia vines,

This post was edited by caroline on Thu, Jul 17, 14 at 2:25

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 2:18AM
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to outline a curve use a garden hose instead of rope. It curves nicely. Once outlined, take an edging tool and cut out canals to mark the path. Leave the rocks on the outer edge. the inner edges may be lined with low growing evergreens (or other plants) you can train as mini hedges.

I would also suggest since you are using rocks to outline the bed, to bury them halfway so they don't look like these are sitting on the bed. Doing this will help make the bed look more established. Perhaps put 'posts' (columnar looking rocks to mark the entrances of the ring. and perhaps you can also put columnar rocks midway in the ring. It should balanced out the look. Later on - you might be even be able to set up a garden entry trellis. just a suggestion. Lots of possibilities for your yard..

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 10:17AM
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I have a similar bed in my front garden and made a simple curving path as did not feel the distance across the bed was long enough for an 'S' curve.

Play with a hose or rope to try different shapes.

Here's one pic that shows how the path begins at a curve from the entrance to the garden.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 12:34PM
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Do you have a facebook account? If so I encourage you to look up Garden Design.. or you can simply look them up on the web. Very good magazine for inspiration purposes.

Also look up Fine Gardening online.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 12:38PM
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Here is a pic taken from the other end of the path showing the rocks and plantings more. I used Dusty Miller behind the rocks with lavender between/behind on one side and perennial flax on the other so it wasn't too formal.

This bed was much smaller and I enlarged it to it's present size 3 years ago. In that time many of the plants have become huge and I really need to pull a lot of them. Always a good idea to leave lots of space between perennials but I rarely do!

I also had a lot of topsoil mounded up as the previous bed shrunk a lot over the years so this one has a slight 'hill' to the path. While the Bobcat was here moving soil I also had him move many large rocks into the bed for interest. It was all I could do to move the rocks lining the path - rocks that size are heavy!

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 12:45PM
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midnightsmum (Z4, ON)

Great advice from all. I would also make sure not to make it too narrow for strolling. also, if you are leaving grass, make sure it is wide enough for your mower.


    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 6:17PM
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Thank you so much for all the input. I've got "a long row to hoe" before the garden in my yard resembles the one in my mind!

This garden has descended into nightmare status. I had to hire help with the rocks. They showed up when I was gone and proceeded to slap them down every which way.

I had started the first five stones by laying landscape fabric under the stone, tucking it under so it didn't show in front and leaving enough to cover the stones from the inside of the garden. As I added all the layers of "lasagna" ingredients, I tucked and moved the fabric into place for each stone. To our already deep, rich North Dakota topsoil, we've hauled in trailer load after load of old, composted horse manure and straw, emu manure, dirt from the potato farm's cleaning facility, three years of grass clippings and mulched leaves. The soil is deep and rich and alive with earthworms.

I finally said "enough" this season and decided to start planting. The neighbors didn't need to look at an empty dirt pile any longer, LOL.

Ianna - I agree. Some of the rocks are perched on the tip; the guys that "lined" the garden didn't have a clue as to placing a rock in a natural position. I was shocked to come home and find this job "finished." At least it was a barter-system job and I didn't have to put out cold cash.

I am going to line the path, properly, by myself. If it takes the rest of the summer that's fine. Once that is done I'll tackle two or three of the outer border rocks at a time by myself until they are "correct." I can move them with a pry bar and the heavy duty handcart; I just can't lift them. They are all larger than basketballs.

I don't use Facebook, but I love the Garden Web forums. I've been lurking for years and drooling over the many gardens. From small to large I find them all so informative and beautiful.

LuckyGal - How beautiful; your garden path is exactly what I've envisioned! I think you're right. My area, though large for planting, probably isn't large enough to pull off an "S" curve. I'll play with the garden hose and see what I come up with.

What are the dimensions of your garden and the path?

Midnight'sMum - Right now the grassed area is between six and seven feet wide; I don't plan for it to be any more narrow than five feet - and probably more like six.

I'll keep plodding along and will be asking more questions before it all comes together.

Thanks again for all the input. Your help is a blessing.

    Bookmark   July 17, 2014 at 8:46PM
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I had very hard time laying out hoses to see what the curvy path would really look like. But my landscaper who did the project used spray paint. That worked wonderful to get a true visual. When we didn't like a certain part he just wiped it away and resprayed until we agreed on shape and curve!

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 6:39AM
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Caroline, my oval bed is 18' x 30', very similar size to yours. The path is off-center. I chose to only use rocks to line the path, not to line the outside of the bed as I've done that elsewhere and it always needs trimming. This way the outer edge of the bed stays neat with only mowing.

I'm fortunate in that I have a rock pile that has accumulated over the years when unearthed by machinery for water lines, etc. so didn't need to buy rocks. I couldn't lift some myself, even some that are lining the path so hired a man to do that. He said he'd place them as well but I wanted to do that myself and could roll them into place. The larger ones were definitely only able to be moved by machinery but the Bobcat operator was very good and put them where I wanted them.

Have fun with this project and it will soon look like the picture in your mind!

    Bookmark   July 18, 2014 at 10:49AM
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Looks like your mental vision will mature to something lovely, and it sounds like your soil is amazing. A couple of comments:
- It's hard to tell from the photos, but it looks to me like 6 feet is a bit wide for the size of the garden. You might want to test out the path for whatever you use for a wheelbarrow as well as the mower to figure out a minimum width. I'd probably aim for between 4 and 5 foot width.
- However you lay out the path, if it will continue to be mowed grass, make sure the mower can easily follow the curve. I like both Luckgal's and Hyperchickmom's paths - gentle curves that make for easy walking.
- Maintenance on a rock edge can be time consuming since the grass will grow under and/or between the rocks, and it will also need regular trimming along the rocks. You might want to consider a buried edging just outside of the line of rocks to discourage the grass from growing into the rocks, both around the outside of the bed and along the path. The mowed lawn grass will be tall enough to cover the small amount of edging that will be above ground. Here's a photo of brick edging with black plastic edging just outside it, which is almost completely hidden by the lawn.
From June 9-10, 2014

    Bookmark   July 19, 2014 at 8:03PM
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