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Anne K Moore
Photograph Anne K Moore

Constructing a path can take a bit of labor if you decide to dig out, level up, and lay stone or concrete. Or, it can be as easy as marking the boundaries with a garden hose, smothering the grass and weeds by covering them with thick newspapers or plastic garden cloth, and putting down a deep layer of shredded bark mulch. Voila! You have a naturalistic garden pathway.

If you or your dog have worn a path in the grass to get to the strawberries, then get rid of the grass and build a simple walkway. It doesn’t have to be elaborate. If you want to get to your vegetable or fruit garden, then a straight lane is the fastest and easiest to navigate with baskets of produce.

However, if you are building an informal garden, then provoke curiosity with winding corridors that swing around tall plants. A very small garden can seem quite large with meandering paths that open into new sites around every turn.

In an old-fashioned cottage garden, brick pathways are perfect. For the sophisticate, choose flagstones for a more formal-informal look. I especially like the grid pattern with dwarf mondo grass Hannah Rogers installed as front yard walkways. They hold just the right note of formal to informal needed to greet the visitors to her garden.

Formal entries can be curvaceous, too. We all know the concrete walk that takes us to the door. Nothing exciting there. You can give the walk some style with high concrete curbs that enclose exhuberant flowers and even a fountain.

Hard surface walks are the easiest to maintain. A quick sweep with a broom and they are looking good. Even soft surfaces, like mulch, can be cleaned up with a leaf rake and a light touch.

One surface that is difficult to keep looking good, in my opinion, is white stone. Even gravel paths can start to look tacky if they have leaves, twigs, and debris setting on the surface or worse yet, filtered into the stones. This is where garden vacuums or blowers come into play. If you want low maintenance, then opt for something easy to clean.

There is nothing wrong with a grass path, either. You should only use grass in sunshiny areas where feet won’t crush it daily. Green grass looks very pretty next to beds of evergreens or color. For green in the shade garden, try moss. Moss between stones has a softening effect on the whole footpath.

Garden paths should slow us down as we wander through the borders. They can lead us to a fountain, a piece of garden art, or slow us down so we notice that tiny jewel of a flower growing right next to our feet. Gardens open our minds to wonder at the beauty around us; paths give us room and permission to wander.


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