As with any element in the garden, the path should integrate with everything else – rustic brickwork looks wonderful as a cottage garden path but would look very out of place in a contemporary urban setting.
Whatever material you use it needs to be sympathetic to its surroundings – and these surroundings extend beyond the boundaries of the garden. For example, if you are using brick, choose the colour that is traditionally used in your local area – red, grey or yellow – use the correct one and it will look perfectly at home, use an inappropriate one and it will look wrong for several years until it mellows.The same is true of stone and gravel.
In an established garden it is nice to be able to use recycled or reclaimed materials that already have some age to them; they will quickly settle in but can be an expensive option. Many of the paving companies have recognised this and are now making good copies of the originals. Marshalls Paving, Stoneage and Bradstone all have good ranges.
When you are making a new path it is worth putting some thought into its route. There is no point in having it meander through the shrubbery if it should really be a direct route between the house and the greenhouse – on a wet winter’s day no one wants a detour – they’ll just walk across the lawn or push through the border, eventually creating a less than attractive rabbit run. In architectural terms these chosen routes are known as ‘lines of desire‘ and it is better to shape the garden round them than try to adapt people’s behaviour to an impractical design.
Practicality is as important as aesthetics when it comes to paths – it’s pointless laying a wonderful York stone path if its route is overhung with trees and it becomes dangerously slippery in the winter, or having a gravel path leading right up to the front door with the result that anyone wearing shoes with deep treads tramps gravel into the house.
Choosing the right material for your path is a important as your choice of plants for a border, but get it right and it will be far more than the route from A to B.
Path surfaces can vary according to the amount of use – in this garden the much-visited central path down the borders is made of ‘hoggin’ (a compactable gravel and clay mix) but opens up onto a wider grass path at the end of the borders.
The following posts on the blog provide further inspiration: