published Saturday, May 5th, 2012

Lea: Garden path can take many forms

Pat Lea

Q: What is the best path for a small garden? I want one in my backyard.

A: You don't say what kind of a garden this path will go through. Nor do you say why there should be a path. Here are a few things to think about before you plan the path.

How much will it be used? Will it be a walking path for you and visitors? Does it need to be able to accommodate a wheelbarrow or a wide mower? What style is your house and garden?

For heavy use, you can have a formal path of level stone or well-laid brick with an attractive entrance, such as posts, pillars or an arbor-type structure.

Iron or metal arches will frame the entrance to an important path and add interest to the garden. They should be placed so that they can be appreciated from inside the house. They will serve double duty as entranceway and feature.

A narrow, beaten-earth path can be useful and fun in a very rustic garden or for the use of gardener and wheelbarrows only. They are especially fun for children who can wander down the path.

Informal paths can be of wood chips or pine needles or gravel. They should wind and provide an interesting walk with a variety of plantings that change as you proceed along the path. These informal paths are used for woodland walks through trees or wildflower gardens that should be seen up close. Informal paths can also connect more formal spaces, just as a winding path can go from one open space to another to provide variety.

There are many books with photos that demonstrate how to build garden paths of many styles. The way to start would be to get some brightly colored flags to use as markers. Place along the lines where you want the path. Then try it out several times. Ask: Is it too steep? Will it need steps? Should it curve, or will straight be better?

Then look from various points -- maybe the driveway, the windows of the house or a porch. Does it complement the overall look of your yard?

Spending some time on a preliminary plan will ensure that your new path will be exactly what you need and want.

Email Pat Lea at lea.pat@gmail.com.

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