Paths in your garden

Lilyfinch z7 mid tnDecember 23, 2009

In the spring i plan on laying down a path from flagstone rocks from my front porch to the back garden. I have an idea in my head, the path will go to the arbor, split off to go the shed and curve around the pond. From the arbor it will lead to the hammock( if you dont have one, you need one!!) and also a path to my bird feeder. From the arbor itll also go around the inside of the back garden, so im not compacting soil too much.

Id love to see pictures of your paths, tell me about how you made it, i need your inspirtion! And on a yucky cold day like today, i want to see your pretties! :)

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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

This probably isn't what you had in mind, but I like woodchips for my paths.

The problem with stepping stones is that they are usually too small and you have to keep your eyes on them to walk the path. Plus, you have the issue of edging. I try to keep it simple.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 10:31AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Paths are a very important element in my garden - there are lots of them! Because I am disabled, flagstone paths are dreadful things for me. My paths are made from 1/3 concrete sand and 2/3 fine pine bark mulch. It packs down nicely to give firm, easy footing and looks natural in the garden. Here are some pictures of paths in my garden:

Looking out the office window, down the center path of the south woodland area May 17 2009:

Pretty much the same view June 19 2009:

A little bit to the left:

Looking from the back porch across the north end of the lawn into the pines Aug 9 2009:

Looking through the south alley gate June 30 (2008 in this picture...)

North allay June 7 2009:

Through the front arbour Sept 25 2009:

Front lawn - now just a grassy path June 7 2009:

    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 10:36AM
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Botann- Beautiful fall picture.

Woodyoak- Your pictures make me miss summer! What a gorgeous garden :)

Lilyfinch- Do you have access to that flagstone they're always using on old episodes of This Old House? They have those big slabs of flagstone with the granite dust in pretty. We have nothing like that out here, but I think it would be beautiful as a patio or a walkway. If you have smaller pieces of flagstone, still great for a walkway. Out here people use more of the small blocks with gravel or grass around them and they can be very difficult to walk on and you do have to watch where you're stepping. I use grass for most of my paths. With the clay here, anything else sinks into the mud :) The grass has roots about eight inches deep, but it holds up in the clay really well...and you can snowblow right over it. That's another important feature in our part of the country (LOL)

I hope your paths turn out really well and you show us lots of photos. Sorry I don't have any pictures, but maybe next year!

    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 12:41PM
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Thyme2dig NH Zone 5

Botann, I really have to wipe drool off my keyboard every time you post pictures of your most incredible yard. Absolutely breathtaking!

Woodyoak, I would like to know more about your 1/3 concrete sand and 2/3 fine bark mulch paths. Do you mix them together before you lay the paths, or do you layer the 2? How does this do in terms of weed control? They look very beautiful. I am wrestling with what type of paths to do in a new backyard area I planted with shrubs and trees so far (perennials to follow this spring!!) and really like the look you have there. I would also still kill for that Heptacodium of yours!!!

Lily, we found 2 pallets of a bluestone and bought it immediately because we had never seen it before. Here is what we did with it for paths in our cottage area.

Because the stones were so big we didn't dig down and prepare as most specify. We (OK, really DH did mostly all the work!) already had a very hard-packed surface and then put down a cement-like sand. The stones have not moved. One area heaves in the winter but then settles back down in the spring. The area in this picture that shows the stones have been in place for about 6 years or so and we haven't had to do anything for maintenance.

What width were you planning for your path? Some of the stone we had were quite wide and a path of single stones would have been fine winding through a yard.
We also experimented with sealing the stones to bring out the color in them. The jury is still out on this. We did half of them and then decided we weren't sure how much we really liked it. This gives you an idea.

In this picture you can see how we used them as a single-stone path as opposed to a wider path. These were just laid on the virgin soil and dug in slightly.

Hope that helps a little! It sounds like you'll have quite a nice bit of paths for wandering around your yard.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 1:31PM
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We did pathways from the concrete forms you buy at Lowe's. I didn't want to worry with real stone but liked the look. I was really pleased with the results.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 1:40PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

botann - do you have a spring picture of the same scene? It looks like there'd be quite a show of rhodos there... Rhodos are one of my favorite plants - I've tried growing them here a couple of times with no luck at all - too dry; not acid enough. I see your 'my page' info says you have 10 acres. I'd love to have lots of space like that but, realistically, I know my 1/4 acre is just about the limit of what I can cope with - but I do try to garden every inch of it!

lavender lass - I miss summer too :-) I spend a lot of time in winter looking at summer pictures! It also helps me figure out what needs attention next spring/summer. The main front bed has been sadly neglected the past couple of years as we've turned out attention to sorting out other parts of the garden. The front bed will get some overdue attention in 2010.

thyme2dig - yes, the sand and mulch are mixed together - sort of... We get, say, 2 cubic yards of pine bark mulch and 1 cu. yd. of concrete sand. Then DH fills the wheelbarrow by alternating two shovel-fulls of mulch and one of sand. Then he dumps it on the path in small piles and I come along and spread it out, which mixes it a bit more. If DH is feeling ambitious he borrows the neighbours' water filled roller thingy to pack it down. If not, we just leave it to pack down from use and rain. It makes a nice path material. The pinebark mulch breaks down eventually so after 5 years or so, a 'top dressing' of pinebark mulch is a good idea. If anything seeds into the paths- and things definitely do - they're pretty easy to see and remove. The dogs sometimes leave skid marks and launch gouges when they are racing around the yard. Those are easy to repair by just raking the path with a garden rake. The paths are mostly 36" wide, although some are 30". In summer when the plants are at their fullest, the paths can look/be much narrower. I like the look and feel of being IN the garden when I'm walking around the garden and the paths give that to me. The heptacodium was planted in 2002. It has always been nice but this year it was definitely in good shape! Where is the garden in your picture located vis a vis the house? Is it a front garden? I grew up with a front garden with a white picket fence - but it was messier than yours! Where was the picture taken from? DH likes to take pictures from the roof of the garage - sort of a live-and-in-color 'plan view' :-)

    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 5:04PM
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cyn427(z7aN. VA)

Great idea for a thread, Lily. All your paths are wonderful!

woody, I always like that view looking out from your office in different months. That and botann's are my inspirations for the one I am planning this spring-I think I mentioned it before. I will be trying the concrete sand and fine pine which I have always used as mulch anyway.

Botann, there's a lot of path envy (and plant envy) going on here. I am with Woody-wish we had that much space-and thyme2dig-drooling right along with her! It looks like an arboretum and the path just draws me in...

Thyme, your enclosed garden is so welcoming. I think the sealed stones look great, but it is hard to tell which I like best. I also love the single-stone path and your plantings there!

Jen, that garden and path to your shed look so charming-like something out of Hansel and Gretel.

I am now studying the routes the pups are running in the snow in the backyard these days. I will try to plan the other paths around their favored routes in the spring. Maybe that will help direct them AROUND the plants rather than through/over/on top of my plantings!


    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 5:37PM
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This is an intersection of two paths... the flagstone laid with polymeric sand in the joints (must be touched up every few years) with Charm's front paws on what is called "Chapel Hill grit" a locally quarried material. More photos of the grit.

More of the flagstone:

    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 5:59PM
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token28001(zone7b NC)

Grass, clover, and whatever else grows in there. Even in the backyard, I have grass paths. Right now it's mostly wet soil since I've been hauling wood over them. In the spring, I plan to overseed with more fescue and maybe some white clover. It's really good for the bees and can go weeks without needing to be mowed.

This is a good example in the perennial bed.

And the backyard. I've kept the leaves mowed in the paths this year, just to remind myself where the edges are. Not much stone is used since I want to be able to mow down the meadow if I don't like what I get.

    Bookmark   December 23, 2009 at 6:38PM
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Main walkways should be no less than 36" width not only from an aesthetic standpoint, but also for ease of the time plants spill over or you add containers along walkways, that 36" is going to feel much smaller than what you envisioned, so think about what they will be used for (wheelbarrow?), and how much room you will actually need. Do you want people to be able to stroll side by side, or single file?

For less formal and less traveled walkways, say a walk off the main path to the bird feeder, these can be smaller in can use the same material, but instead of setting these in a paver base as you would on the main walkway (if that's what you choose to do), you can set these directly in grass or soil, level with grade, stepping stones more or less. Let your eye follow the MAIN pathway, creating a sense of discovery around each curve....using plants with varying heights and textures that contrast on these curves will draw someone can create an alcove around one of those curves with a separate sitting area...the idea is to draw the eye in, not in too many directions...a natural flow...

Too many walkways in a small space will probably be too much...keep it simple...sounds like what you are planning is going to be lovely...

And yes, I do need a hammock! If only I had more than one mature tree.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2009 at 3:14AM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

WoodyOak, here's a picture of the rhododendron on the right in the first picture. This was taken last Spring. You can see just a little of the path on the upper left. The rhodie's name is Lem's Monarch.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2009 at 8:13AM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

botann - thanks! oohh I WANT rhodos in my garden, but they just won't cooperate....:-)

kimcoco - I'm sorry but I think you missed some important points about paths and that is that they have to suit the look and feel of the garden and be practical for the gardener. The wide path thing works well for entrances to the house but is less appropriate IMO in informal garden spaces. I am physically disabled and use a walker for mobility. My 30-36" wide paths are just fine for moving around the garden for both pleasure walking and maintenance. Wider paths would be out of proportion as well as being unnecessary. And yes, I do expect people to walk single file along the paths. If they want to stand side-by-side to view the garden, stop and turn 90 degrees! :-)

    Bookmark   December 24, 2009 at 9:01AM
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Woodyoak, I'm sorry I think you misunderstood - my response was specifically directed to the original poster, not a reference to your existing paths or your post.

I do find my points practical for the gardener, and I feel your comments are contradictory in that you state that you yourself have 30-36" paths, and then you say that my suggestions are impractical or that a 36" pathway would be "out of proportion" or inappropriate for an informal garden.

Formal and informal spaces alike have both main and less traveled walkways, the choice in materials for the walkway could be construed as formal vs. informal, that doesn't mean a 36" walkway only exists in an informal garden, or vice-versa. As you indicated, your 36" walkways are fine for moving around the garden, and in reality 36" is NOT a wide path by any stretch of the imagination. I have a difficult time considering this "out of proportion" given that the garden as described by the poster, which included a winding path around a pond, seems to cover an acre or more.

I am a gardener myself, my walkway is wider than 36" and by the time I place all my containers, the walkway is much more narrow than previously envisioned. So again, my suggestions were related to how you plan to USE the walkway, not really a matter of formal vs. informal.

If what you want is for people to walk single file, that width works for you then. The idea was to decide what it is that you want to acheive, and those are some things to think about when planning a pathway, or any semi permanent structure in your yard. Do what works for you, but I was offering some general guidelines as I've done my own research on landscape design before our walkway was installed, and I'm glad I did else I'd be walking like those models on the runway - one foot in directly in front of the other.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2009 at 11:21AM
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Lilyfinch z7 mid tn

Thank you all for you advice and pictures!!! I have also googled garden paths for inspiration, there is so much out there! I am not set on flagstone, i suppose when i visit the rock place whatever catches my eye will be what comes home with me! I am planning on doing the main path 2 people wide, then the side paths for 1 person, itll be a few years before the whole gaarden is done and filled in so i can tweak things as i go.
My plan was to lay the rocks, cut the sod from underneath it so we can just mow right over them. I read to put peagravel underneath to keep it level. Has anyone done that?

    Bookmark   December 24, 2009 at 11:59AM
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aftermidnight Zone7b B.C. Canada

Great pathways, so many different ways of doing them. When it comes down to it pick a style to suit yourself. I guess I'm a nonconformist, in my years of gardening I've broken every rule there is, if I like it that's all that matters.

Most of the paths throughout my garden are topped with driveway chip. As you can see this path fills in some as the season progresses. I plant right in the path itself, first pic was taken in April, the second in July.

Botann, I'm having trouble finding words to describe your garden pure enchantment comes to mind, how large an area do you have?


    Bookmark   December 24, 2009 at 12:50PM
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You all have such beautiful gardens! What an inspiration. I have to admit, while you're all discussing path placement, I'm just getting ideas for next year's garden :)

    Bookmark   December 24, 2009 at 1:45PM
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holleygarden Zone 8, East Texas

Everyone has such beautiful gardens, I am inspired to post my 'pathway' garden.

Here half of it is right after planting:

Here is the other side:

The grass pathway is 5 ft. wide. I only wanted it 3' so I could begin the path with an arbor, but DH wanted it 5' so he could get the riding lawnmower in. Practicalities! ;)

    Bookmark   December 24, 2009 at 4:26PM
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token28001(zone7b NC)

Holley, the width of my paths were determined by the lawnmower too. They aren't for going places, they're for stopping to smell the flowers, or deadhead something. I doubt they'd be useful for egress if the perennial bed suddenly burst into flames.

    Bookmark   December 24, 2009 at 6:53PM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

Aftermidnight, I have 10 acres I bought 30 years ago and put a mfg home on it. It was a pasture for horses and cows. I don't garden all 10 acres though. A lot of it is a steep bluff covered with Doug Firs and ferns.
I have one grass path remaining.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2009 at 4:24AM
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Cher(6 SW OH)

These are some wonderful gardens posted here. It's always nice to look and get ideas. Merry Christmas.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2009 at 7:52AM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

Beautiful pictures like a garden magazine.

    Bookmark   December 25, 2009 at 4:54PM
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Thyme2dig NH Zone 5

Woodyoak, the garden is in front of my house off the farmer's porch. The picture was taken from the roof of the porch. What kind of edging is in your photo of your grass path in the front yard?

Annette, do those "driveway chips" pretty much stay in place? Do they pack down pretty hard as well?

Botann, I'm glad you posted that last picture of your grass path. That is exactly what I was envisioning in my backyard, but wasn't sure. After seeing your picture I'm definitely now certain that is the way I will go. Do you do anything in particular with the edge? It doesn't look like you have any special edging material between the grass and the garden.
Did you build up the berm on the left in that picture and did you also place all the rock? I honesly can't get enough of your photos.

Lilyfinch, we had pea stone in our paths before the flagstone went down. We actually decided to remove the pea stone before laying the stone on the virgin soil. We were afraid the stones would "slip" on the pea stone. We didn't do our paths according to most instructions. I would imagine that if you are going to cut them right into the sod then the grass would actually keep them in place w/o any problems. Do you have decent drainage in the areas? I have not had any major issues with drainage and we didn't do anything with sand, gravel, etc.

    Bookmark   December 27, 2009 at 8:17PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Thyme2dig - I love porches! Do you have a picture of the garden, looking back at the porch?

The edging is 4"x8" gray paver bricks, set on compacted limestone screenings, with Curv Rite 2000 metal edging between the brick and grass to keep the grass from creeping in. The edging is actually around the beds but the narrow bed we added this year was placed to shape the remaining lawn into a grassy path. So the path and the new bed were shaped together to make each a feature on its own as well as being part of the larger whole. The brick edge outlines things nicely and also acts as a mowing strip - the wheels of the lawnmower run along the bricks to make mowing easy. The main bed used to have a trench edge but it was getting to be too much work to maintain. The brick edge was a fair bit of work to put in place but eliminated a huge maintenance chore! I wouldn't do a brick edge without the grass barrier though. I've linked the product I used - it was a bit pricey but worth it I think.

Here is a link that might be useful: Curv Rite 2000

    Bookmark   December 27, 2009 at 8:50PM
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botann(z8 SEof Seattle)

Thyme2dig, I edge the lawn with a shovel. The soil is about 6 inches lower than the lawn and filled in with wood chips. I edge it once or twice a year.
The berm on the left was built up a bit from soil taken where the lawn is now. The whole thing is on a slope so it drains well. The rocks were placed by hand using metal bars, a couple of shovels, and a friend. I enjoy placing rocks and have done quite a bit of it. Making them look natural is the goal.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2009 at 3:36AM
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cyn427(z7aN. VA)

Woody, that curv rite edging looks like exactly what I need to separate the driveway from the garden areas. The gardens are a little higher and the previous owner put down railroad ties which I finally dragged away after the umteenth time of backing into/over them after they had shifted in a rainstorm. Our driveway always floods and we are always left with a load of mud there on the drive and at the end of the walkway which is also lower than surrounding areas. Very irritating, not to mention dirty and slippery. Would love stone walls, but too much work/expense. I will look into the edging. Thanks!

    Bookmark   December 28, 2009 at 12:17PM
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woodyoak zone 5 Canada(5b)

Cyn - I'm not sure if it would be good for that purpose. It's meant to be sunk in the ground so I'm not at all sure it would be strong enough to hold back soil in a raised bed.

    Bookmark   December 28, 2009 at 5:11PM
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Thyme2dig NH Zone 5

Woodyoak and Botann, thanks for the extra info on the edging. I'm torn between edging the grass paths the way Botann does it (lots of manual labor as we'll have hundreds and hundreds of feet of edge), or to use the Curv Rite which will be quite expensive but a one-time thing. At least I have time to think about it since we don't even have the grass paths laid yet!

Botann, you absolutely succeeded in the placement of the rock looking natural. It looks like they have been there for years. What an amazing job you've done with your entire garden.

Woodyoak, I honestly don't think I have any good pictures of the front of the porch. I'm usually taking picutres FROM the porch out to the garden!

    Bookmark   January 1, 2010 at 11:00AM
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Thyme- If you can manage it, I would try to use the edger. My mom invested in some (much smaller area) but it's still so much easier than digging. There's so many other things going on in the garden, she didn't think, realistically, that she'd be able to keep up with the manual edging. It looks really nice, too!

    Bookmark   January 1, 2010 at 12:44PM
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