Garden Paths That Go With the Flow
Creating a garden path is not just about connecting point A to point B; it’s about weaving a beautiful and functional element into your outdoor space. A well-designed garden path can enhance the flow of your landscape, guiding visitors through your garden while complementing its natural beauty. In this guide, we’ll explore how to design garden paths that harmonize with the flow of your outdoor space, creating a seamless and inviting environment for all to enjoy.
Straight and narrow or curvy, paving stones or pebbles, Garden paths add interest to any yard
While the adage, “It’s not the destination; it’s the journey,” usually refers to life. It’s also the perfect approach to designing a garden. Julie Moir Messervy, landscape designer and author of Home Outside: Creating the Landscape You Love (Taunton Press, 2016) believes garden paths not only “choreograph the journey,” they are essential to creating a sense of flow. “Without flow, a property is made up of a series of unrelated spaces,” Messervy says. With flow? A sense of space and harmony evolves.
Step Right This Way
While options are limitless, by default many builders install straight, cramped paths that hug the house. “This is good for the builder, not the visitor,” Messervy says. On the other hand, campus designers often find their artful garden paths ignored, and end up paving the shortcuts students carve out dashing to the class via a more direct route.
Since no one approach is right for every situation, Messervy suggests you experiment before you add new garden paths or change existing ones. Walk your property, trying different routes. What works for your yard and under what circumstances? When you find the best path, chances are you won’t be walking as close to the house as the builders presume you do.
Garden Paths Places to Pause
Frost was wrong. The road less traveled doesn’t make all the difference. It’s the pauses along the way—at least with gardens. Whether you select a straight, curved, or meandering path, create a pause at the beginning and at the end.
If the route is long enough, create a resting spot in the middle or at several strategic points along the way. What makes visitors pause? Triggers can be subtle, like an arbor, a planted urn, or a piece of statuary. Resting opportunities can also be overt, like a table and chair.
Straight Garden Paths
These efficient, no-nonsense stretches provide the shortest route from A to B. Sacrificing interest for efficiency, they’re easy to navigate, easy to shovel, and easy to forget.
When to use Paths:
Straight paths are the best choice for work routes. If you’re hauling wheelbarrows of yard waste to the compost bin or carrying dinner trays to your barbecue, keep the path straight—and not necessarily narrow.
Creating Outdoor Garden Paths interest:
This path is straight yet pulls the visitor in. The broken stones with the grass in the middle prompt you to look down to see where you’re stepping. As you do, colorful, low-lying plants create points of interest. Near the threshold, the path becomes solid, freeing you up to admire the hollyhocks before you climb the steps to the porch.
While straight paths offer clear views, a simple curve provides breathing room as well as interest.
When to Use Paths in your Garden:
When you have to get from A to B but want to create a sense of space and provide a welcoming atmosphere, a curve will do the trick.
Creating Interest Outdoor Garden:
A curved path is automatically more intriguing than a straight one, but a simple bend isn’t enough. The path in this photo provides surprises by hiding what’s around the corner. The statue set back from the curve, offers a place to pause while the covered arbor overhead creates flow and unity.
Curved and Meandering Garden Path
With many curves, meandering garden paths impart a sense of invitation and mystery. They practically beg to be wandered.
When to Use Them:
Choose to meander paths when you want to create a peaceful atmosphere or invite visitors to explore. Many practical gardeners have a hidden “sneak path” to take them directly to their destination, while visitors arrive via the longer, more scenic route.
Garden Path Ideas and Creating Interest:
Because meandering paths are long, add plants at each curve to make the wander worthwhile. When designing your meandering trail, imagine you’re a child who can’t wait to see what’s around the bend.
“If there’s a tree, a grove, a wall in the way, it’s more interesting than a clear view that shows all,” Messervy says.
In this example, although the view is partially obscured, the S-curve directs the visitor’s focus forward. As you navigate the stepping stones, flowers at different heights create interest, while trees act as guideposts along the way. When you finally arrive at the view, a sitting area rewards your efforts.
Choosing the Right Materials
Selecting the right materials for your garden path is essential for achieving a harmonious flow. Consider materials that complement the surrounding environment, such as natural stone, gravel, or wood. Bluestone, flagstone, and brick are popular choices for creating rustic pathways that blend seamlessly with garden foliage. Alternatively, opt for permeable materials like gravel or decomposed granite, which allow water to infiltrate the soil and promote healthy plant growth.
Creating Visual Interest
Incorporate elements of visual interest along your garden path to enhance its flow and charm. Add focal points such as colorful plantings, decorative containers, or garden ornaments to create points of interest along the pathway. Consider installing low-voltage lighting to illuminate the path at night, creating a magical ambiance and ensuring safe passage for evening strolls.
Incorporating Landscaping Features
Integrate landscaping features into your garden path to reinforce its flow and connection to the surrounding environment. Plantings such as low-growing ground covers, ornamental grasses, and flowering perennials can soften the edges of the path and create a sense of continuity with the rest of the garden. Incorporate seating areas, water features, or garden sculptures strategically along the path to create moments of pause and reflection.
Paying Attention to Scale and Proportion
Maintaining proper scale and proportion is crucial for achieving a balanced and harmonious garden path. Ensure that the width of the path is proportionate to the size of your garden and the anticipated foot traffic. Avoid overcrowding the path with too many elements or using materials that overwhelm the space. Instead, strive for a sense of openness and balance that invites visitors to explore at their own pace.
When designing your garden path, consider accessibility for users of all ages and abilities. Ensure that the path is wide enough to accommodate wheelchairs, strollers, and walkers, with smooth surfaces that are easy to navigate. Incorporate gentle slopes or ramps where necessary to provide easy access to different areas of the garden. By making your garden path inclusive, you create a welcoming environment that everyone can enjoy.
Finally, remember that a garden path is not static but should evolve along with your garden. Allow for flexibility in your design to accommodate changes in plantings, seasonal variations, and evolving usage patterns. Regular maintenance, such as weeding, pruning, and refreshing mulch, will help keep your path looking its best and ensure that it continues to flow gracefully through your garden for years to come.
Designing a garden path that flows seamlessly through your outdoor space is a creative and rewarding endeavor. By embracing natural curves, choosing complementary materials, incorporating visual interest, and paying attention to accessibility, you can create a pathway that enhances the beauty and functionality of your garden. With careful planning and thoughtful design, your garden path will become a cherished feature that invites exploration and delight for years to come.