Up the garden path

How you get around the garden is a vital part of your garden design. Hard landscaping is expensive so let us lead you up the garden path.

Thursday 23 February 2017

Paths are of course a necessary way of getting round your garden, as you will see in this garden we designed several years ago. But they can also express your personal style, and give you and your guests an aesthetic experience. A sinuous line reveals your personality. Gravel crunches deliciously and audibly underfoot. A bee thronged hedge of lavender on either side puts you in touch with nature. Life is about more than A to B.

Practical makes perfect

Your path’s direction and form need to reflect the use which you and others make of the garden. In your front garden the desire lines are strong and routes should be clear and practical. You might also opt for severe functionality and sufficient width for that rain soaked march with your bike to the shed. By contrast in most of your rear garden the mood may be more relaxed and indeed the style and it can be a laid back curvaceous amble for a ‘stroll with a glass’ around the chill out zone. Here, there is also no need to make everything at once obvious. A path which disappears out of view is always attractive. Make your choice, but be clear about it and realistic about human nature-if you haven’t thought of the corners you and others might cut, you and your garden will be disappointed. 

The materials world

When it comes to what your path is made of, the world truly is your oyster, be it Indian sandstone paving or Scottish Beach Cobbles.  And the price can also range from luxuriously crisp and tawny York stone paving through to cheap and cheerful compacted shingle if you are going for the seaside look. These days the prevailing eco ethos also requires that we at least consider the alternative of reclaimed and or more locally sourced products. Given the plethora of choices available to you it is crucial design wise that there is some visual link which makes your choice appropriate- be it a good match for some existing stone in your garden or a colour theme you are pursuing elsewhere in the area-rather than a random product which you just happen to like. Remember if it is your back garden it could be as simple as bark chips, retained by gravel boards or a special heavy duty grass seed mix and stone flags for the wear points.

The ‘Health and Safety’ Bore

Yes it’s a big yawn, but it IS an issue both for you and for others. A mossy path is a deliciously sensuous experience but it is also potential for a law suit if a visitor breaks a leg. Steps add interest, but need to be easily and safely managed-one step on its own for example is potentially a trip hazard. Using a professional for installation is a smart move. Take advice from him and also your stone merchant as to product choice. And think about its slip resistance especially in wet weather. Annual pressure hosing or algiciding of stonework may be necessary depending on the surface, location and season.


Lighting is another footfall issue at night, but it may also be a security and a style issue. We favour subtle lighting, such as uplighters for plants or LEDS set directly in paving or steps, rather than path side bollards which can look utilitarian and street culture. Discrete lighting will also up-light adjacent plants. Flowering plants, such as cherries, philadelphus and garrya elliptica look amazing lit at night. The added plus is that the shadows of the garden are also subtly lit for your personal safety. A repeated pattern of lighting helps carry you along satisfactorily, and also the eye. But, if you are entertaining, simple tea lights in jam jars enchant both with their light and your attention to detail 

The Primrose Path

The planting on either side can help to extend the idea of your path as an aesthetic experience. Aside from the obvious attractions of a good display, it can be used to emphasize line, be it a simple low box hedge or a sweeping line of topiarised bays for an added sense of perspective. In a similar way, a succession of arches over a path can help to give a sense of rhythm and journey, as well as splendid vertical planting opportunity. To define a route more seasonally, we have planted a snowdrop walk in one client’s woodland garden. And we will shortly be installing a primrose path leading to a springtime picnic area. Using almost any plant en masse, will help to create a defined ‘Walk’ which will be effective and look grand.

Come to your senses

Above all this is an opportunity to please your senses with colour, scent, sound, touch and even taste. A gravel or flag path could be used to grow thyme or Corsican mint to release its scent as you walk. Plant lavender and sage to brush past and rosemary and Artemisia to crush with your fingers. Scented shrubs such as Daphnes, Lilacs, Philadelphus and Roses will delight you with seasonal wafts of perfume. Take your path through a bamboo grove for calming sound and meditative mysteriousness. Honed Portuguese limestone makes a silky smooth path for bare feet. You could even harvest parsley and fennel tops on the way; so good for the stomach!

Yes your paths can be the full sensory experience.

R and L