Like a hallway that connects the different rooms of your house, a path through the landscape links the different destinations on your property.
A formal entry walkway leads from the sidewalk to the front door; a semiformal cut-stone path joins your dining terrace to the grill area; an informal stepping-stone path links your gardens while keeping your feet dry and out of the mud; and a soft footpath defines the welltraveled route from the kitchen to the compost bin. Depending upon its purpose, a path can be wide or narrow, straight or meandering, ramped or stepped, long or short.
What’s important is to make the journey through your property as interesting as the destination itself.
above • A brick and concrete path winds its way through a sprightly garden to the front door. The picket fence divides the deep front yard into two, making the garden journey feel longer and more interesting.
left • A path of flat fieldstones provides an easy-care route to the back door for a young family.
above • Brick pavers link driveway to front entryway through a welcoming gardenscape. Despite a thick wall and privacy hedge, the open gate beckons a visitor to enter.
Without a paved walkway underfoot, we would track mud and debris right into the house. Choosing a walkway surface that is durable, not slippery, and easy to maintain (and shovel in northern climes) is essential to moving between the parts of our property that should be easily accessible throughout the year. A formal path delineates the best route to our front, back, side, garage, or shed door. Often built wide enough for two people to walk side by side, a front walk can be curving or straight, depending upon aesthetic preferences and the destinations that need to be linked.
Natural cut stone, brick, poured concrete, or concrete pavers are just a few of the possibilities available to homeowners when they seek to build a formal path.
The choice of material can either match or contrast with the materials of the house with the former, a sense of continuity is established and with the latter, a more dynamic landscape is created. Planting shrubs and ground covers along the sides of a formal path can soften its edges and create a lovely garden experience along the way.
top right • This poured concrete walkway edged in brick provides a fully accessible walkway that is easily shoveled in winter. Plants spilling across its surface make it look less like a sidewalk when used in a home landscape.
bottom right • Dimensional concrete pavers, available in a wide range of colors, sizes, and textures, create an inexpensive and attractive entry path to this inset front door. Edges look aged because we have tumbled this paver.
Semiformal paths are useful when we want to keep our feet dry but don’t need a continuous surface underfoot to do so.
Cut stone or dimensional concrete pavers, separated by gravel, plantings, or grass, offer a less formal way to link house to garden or different parts of the garden to each other and can be fun to design and to use.
Depending upon your manner of walking, you might choose bigger or smaller stones and then space them so that it’s easy to walk at a normal gait.
Because the pavers are cut (usually into a square or rectangular shape), make sure that you place them so that they visually relate to the geometry of the main house.
top right • Square pavers zigzag through a leafy shade garden to meet a back porch.
bottom right • A simple, shingled house looks just right with a curving semiformal path to its front door.
above • The kitchen entrance of this contemporary concrete house is reached by a handsome path of cut bluestone rectangles, punctuated with squares placed point to point like a diamond. Lush plantings, including grapeleaf anemone (Anemone tomentosa ‘Robustissima’) and coral bells (Heuchera villosa ‘Autumn Bride’ and H. ‘Citronelle’) flourish.
Sometimes we want a simple way to move from one place to the other that offers an individual contemplative experience as we do so. Stepping stones, like natural-cleft flat fieldstones or quarried granite or limestone, are easy to assemble and fun to follow. Spaced several inches apart, and often sized to fit an average foot, each stepping stone should be placed the way you walk: right foot/left foot/right foot/pause. For ease of maintenance, sink each stone into a low ground cover or a lawn, so that a machine can easily mow right over them.
above • A carpet of pink ajuga (Ajuga reptans ‘Burgundy Glow’) makes this stepping stone path experience special. One rule is to space 18-in. stones about 2 in. to 3 in. apart in a slightly staggered pattern to make strolling easy.
right • Both the natural and quarried version of Pennsylvania bluestone are used to handsome effect in this garden. The cut bluestone walkway edged by granite gives way to a flat fieldstone path.
This informal path of Vermont schist links driveway to house through a river-like lawn. Intersperse smaller stones with large ones to enable people to plant both feet, pause, and look ahead to their destination.
Sometimes merely mowing a way through a wildflower meadow or repeatedly tramping a trail through the woods is enough to link areas of our landscape. A soft path offers an inexpensive, easy-care choice for busy homeowners on properties large and small. Good alternatives include grass, bark mulch, pine needles, stabilized soil, and pea gravel. New “steppable” ground covers are also available, but for occasional use only.
top right • In this tropical wonderland, gravel paths unite outdoor rooms into a cohesive design. The tall plants make the paths feel almost like corridors.
bottom right • Stone steps create a narrow trail through a hillside of ground covers.
below • Crunchy gravel underfoot makes for an inexpensive and permeable path material. Make sure to install a filter fabric under the gravel to keep weeds down.
right • A meditative labyrinth is createdby using a ground-covering Sedum, river stones, and tamped, raked earth.
below • A mown path curves through a wildflower meadow of daisies and coreopsis, enticing us to sit awhile before