3 elements of a great path

See our favorite new ideas for creating a little journey in your own backyard

Concrete path
Photo: Jim McCausland

3 ELEMENTS OF A GREAT PATH

Start by mapping your garden on graph paper. Put an X at every key location: the hammock, the honeysuckle arbor, the garden's best view, a bench that gets morning sun. Mark the garden's access points (gates, doors, patio) and its infrastructure (compost pile, hose bibs, heat pump, toolshed). A path system should connect all these points.

Width
Make paths wider than you think necessary - you'll appreciate the extra space when you're brushing past thorny or rain-soaked shrubs. Wide paths also allow room for groundcovers to soften their edges without crowding you. Make major paths 6 feet wide so two people can walk abreast, and never less than 4 feet wide. Spur paths can be 2 feet wide if you'll never need to access them with rolling garden equipment.

Surface
Main pathways need a hard or hard-packed surface that can easily support wheelbarrows, garden carts, and lawn mowers. If you're using gravel, get the sharp-edged kind; round-edged pea gravel doesn't pack well, so wheels sink in. In cold climates, avoid smooth surfaces like glazed tiles and finished wood; such surfaces can be damaged by sand used to cover ice buildup.

Drainage
Crown hard-surfaced paths (¼-in. drop per foot) so water runs off.

 

 
  • Flagstone path in Pasadena

    A flagstone path in Pasadena leads through a garden underplanted with New Zealand flax shrubs and grasses. Blue-leafed groundcovers create a delicate tracery between pavers.

  • Path in Alamo CA

    Fractured shale fills gaps between concrete pavers in Dennis and Susan Hourany’s Alamo CA yard; yarrow and grasses soften path’s edges.
    Design: Mathew Henning and Heather Anderson [XLINK "http://www.henning-anderson.com" "Henning-Anderson" "" "_new"] Oakland (510/531-3095)

  • Grass circle path

    Grass circles appear to float on a river of black pebbles that winds through a grove of bamboo in Malibu CA.
    Design: Mia Lehrer Los Angeles (213/384-3844) for Lee and Carmen Ritenour.

Most Popular

  1. Top 22 dog-friendly vacations

    You can take your best pal with you on these getaways around the West
  2. 10 raised bed garden ideas
  3. 20 favorite perennial flowers
  4. 10 ways to redecorate with paint
  5. 40 ideas for patios