Follow these tips for Here’s how to design garden paths that are safe, beautiful, and complementary to your home.
Link your pathway to the style of your home
To make sure your walk looks and feels like it “belongs” to the house and grounds, think about the style of your house. Traditional homes with symmetrical architecture usually have the front door in the middle and even numbers of windows on each side. A wiggly path that meanders its way to the front door would look out of place, but a path that follows those formal lines will match the home’s symmetrical look. Soften a straight path’s lines with billowing plants such as low hedges of lavender or catmint.
Build a path that fits the space
A walkway should not be out of scale with the house and garden. Make your path as wide as the steps up to the front porch. If you’re planning a straight path, you can play with perspective: Begin the path wider, narrowing it slightly as it approaches its goal. This technique tricks the eye into making the walk (and, by extension, the garden around it) look longer than it really is.
Put curves in the right spot
If your house and garden are informal, curved paths will look right at home. To show there’s a purpose to the curve, plant the inside of the curve with shrubs or a small tree, and plant grass or ground covers on the outside of the curve.
Winding paths create a relaxed, meandering feel, well suited for woodland gardens and casual architectural-styled houses.
Draw out your winding path as part of your planning—include the house and any plants you’d like so you’re sure to get a sense of what the finished project will look like.
Choose complementary materials
When you’ve settled on a design for the walkway, choose the material that best complements the house and design you’ve chosen. A colonial brick house pairs nicely with a brick walkway—or even with brick trim along a concrete path. Because ranch homes or ramblers often have a mix of clapboard and brick materials, a flagstone path (either straight-edged or irregular cut stone) works well. For a casual, woodsy path, use organic materials common to your region. (Photo 2; courtesy of Tracy Walsh).
Plan for safety
Consider both safety and comfort. You will avoid, not use, an unsafe or uncomfortable walkway. For two people to walk comfortably on a path, a width of 3 feet is the minimum, but 4 feet is better.
Use landscape bricks made for walkways instead of old masonry bricks. Those old bricks that don’t fare well underfoot. Consider installing steps on steep slopes. If you want an informal, woodsy feel, simply set wooden risers into the soil.
Climate plays a role in the safety of your walk. In cold-weather regions, you’ll need to keep the path clear of snow and provide traction in the form of gritty sand or cat litter. Areas with rainy winters have issues with moss and algae coating. If your concrete or stone pavers become coated with moss and algae, consider an organic control (these contain a potassium-based fatty acid) that has a low impact on plants, animals, and children.
Add touches of whimsy
Create a reason for people to stop along the path and admire small details. Mosaics that are made of broken pottery, bits of polished glass, and discarded tiles add a splash of personality to your garden. You can either build these mosaics and other artistic flourishes directly into the path, or you can add a bit of art off to the side.
Benches along the path offer a place to pause for a moment to enjoy the garden.