Paving the Way for Garden Paths

garden paths

We all need the means of getting dry-foot from one part of the garden to another, and if we don’t take care this can be a very expensive item in both time and money. On the other hand, if you choose carefully your garden path can add greatly to the beauty of your garden.

Once chosen, a garden path can be made gradually without a great deal of inconvenience. It will almost inevitably begin from the house, so this is the section to make first. Unless you are on virtually stoneless ground, its foundation can be made gradually from stones collected as you prepare the garden elsewhere, otherwise you must import this core.

Aim for a width of at least two feet. If you try to keep it narrower than this, you may stumble — it is surprisingly easy to do so. You may also damage plants growing at the side.

Narrow garden paths that have borders of tall plants on one side and dwarf plants or lawn on the other may safely be narrower than one which passes through tall plants. A garden looks prettier if plants are allowed to spill over the edges of a path so allow room for this.

Four feet is a better width if you have to use it to wheel barrows, mowers or the children’s tricycles along it.

The simplest way through a garden is the stepping stone type of path where the stones are laid flush with the level of the soil. Stepping stones may be laid on grass, a fraction below the level so that the mower can safely pass over them. Flag stones, pavement stones, Cotswold roof tiles and cement squares may all be used.

Garden paths which have to be surfaced must be dug out. First mark it with canes or pegs of wood. Take out the soil to a depth of about nine inches or a foot (a spit deep) two spits if the soil is heavy clay or inclined to waterlog. Save the top spit if it is good soil. Fill the dug area half full of builder’s rubble, clinkers or stones. All these will help keep the soil drained. They will even help drain the soil on either side. Make sure that this drainage layer is level. Test by laying a length of wood across. A test with a spirit level is even better.

Over this layer you need to lay ashes and ideally a two-inch layer of builder’s sand or gravel. On this you can rest your paving, building it up or scraping it away to ensure an even and level surface.

Try to make the edges fit as tightly together as you can. Scatter sand over the surface of the paving and with a hard brush sweep it between all the crevices. It will bind the paving together.

Paving varies from flagstone paving, random paving, random paving with a straight and uniform edge, crazy paving, cobble paving, crazy and cobble paving combined and brick on its own or with something else. In fact there are unlimited opportunities.

Crazy paving is a mixture of irregular shaped pieces of stone of the same kind and roughly equal thickness, usually one to two inches.

Random is rectangular pieces of varied stone, all with right angled corners. Local paving can often be bought, usually one and a half to two inches thick. One ton covers roughly 10 to i2 square yards of surface.

There are many good coloured cement paving stones made by various companies.

But paving stones, of whatever kind and shape, are not the only materials available to us for paths. There are gravel, ashes, . cement, bitumen or plain soil. Whatever material is used, however, the basic groundwork or the foundation should be the same in order to get best results.

Gravel is usually sold by the cubic yard. This will cover 12 to 18 sq. yds. At about two to three inches thick. It should be raked evenly over the surface and rolled several times to make it even and compacted.

Ashes can frequently be obtained from local gasworks. These should be treated in exactly the same way as gravel.

A cement path is unquestionably the longest lasting. But it is heavy, difficult and time-consuming to lay yourself. Neither is it particularly attractive, with its hard lines. Although these can be softened by growing low-lying plants at the edges. Cement or concrete paths can be made in different colours.

Old hat in the paving field in this country are the cold laid bitumen surfaces. These come in a plastic sack and are tipped out on the prepared area, raked level and rolled. Coloured chips are scattered on the surface to break up the otherwise black or brown colour. This material hardens in a matter of a day or two and gives a neat, trouble free surface.

Best way of weeding garden paths is to use a new weedkiller which can be sprayed on with a watering can. It will last for about a year and will not spread to adjoining flower beds or grass.

garden paths You can see that there is a great choice of garden path surfaces — certainly enough to allow originality in design as well as ease in construction. A pleasant garden path surface I have admired in other people’s gardens, is raked sand. Where there is likely to be a great deal of traffic, this is used with flag, brick, tile or even a stepping stone path as a margin on each side. Raking can be no more than keeping the surface level, but on the other hand it is quite easy by manipulating the rake to scratch an attractive pattern on the surface. This needs doing frequently. There can be a pleasing, play of colour tones here, as well as textures, according to the type of sand and paving used.

Change of texture is fortunately a simple matter. Where, for example, we were advocating a stepping stone path either as a permanent or a temporary means of getting from one place to another, the spaces between the stones could well be filled with consolidated garden rubble. A comparable — though more effective and durable — effect can be obtained by inserting pebbles into wet concrete, leaving them just proud of the cement. Another method of obtaining contrast in texture is to brush the surface of a wet concrete block to leave the aggregate just showing, or again to lay blocks so that the “grain” of the tamping goes from north to south in one block and from east to west in its neighbour. Definite patterns can be scratched or pegged out. On one pavement I saw large pavement flags (bought cheaply at the local town council’s yard) had been laid down as the main fabric of the paving but no attempt had been made to fit the stone edges flush with the borders. Instead, the geometrically shaped spaces had been filled with a contrasting small stone. Make sure that your textures really do contrast. Paving and gravel or pebbles will look better than pebbles and gravel chips..

Since we all know that grass covers soil surface so efficiently, don’t disregard it as “paving”. Actually the contrast (or perhaps “association” would be a better word !) of grass and stone is very pleasant as you may have observed if you have seen some continental gardens in which large cobble stones are margined by grass sown between them.

This pattern of green and stone colour is a pleasant one, as you would expect of such a natural association. In a country garden or some other place where the surface thus covered is subjected to much traffic, you need not be too meticulous about keeping the grass shorn. However, it can easily be kept short by using a mower with the blades set high. Weeds can be kept under control by the use of selective weedkillers.

dwarf periwinkle Plants other than grass can also be used for this purpose; for example, close-growing thymes and dwarf periwinkle. Their selection will really depend upon where this area is and the amount of traffic to which it is likely to be subjected. Beware they do not become slippery.

This style of garden paving can be used as a pattern within a pattern. If, for example, the area around a tree is to be paved, perhaps because a seat is to be built round the tree or because it stands in an area to be covered, a circle of grass and stone over the tree roots can be bordered by plain paving. Generally speaking, a circular pattern is more pleasing than a rectangular one, though a diamond is often attractive and a star is lovely.

Alternatively, you can graduate the textures, lead in gently, one to the other by placing grass and stone next to the lawn with pure stone of some kind in the central area.

The shape of a path is as important as the shape of a border. There may be occasions when all must have straight lines because of the proportions and designs of the house, but often a meandering path will be more pleasing. This is a personal decision.

The drive to the garage is often overlooked, and yet there is so much of it that it should be taken in as part of the garden plan. Quite often the wall of the garage is a continuation of the wall or fence dividing the one garden from that of next door. This area directly below the fence can be made useful and attractive. A raised bed, or a slightly raised bed gives one the opportunity of making an attractive stone edging and ensures that the plants are neither driven nor trodden upon. Along a fence of this kind, according to its aspect, one can grow evergreens, such as cotoneaster or camellias (in which case the raised bed can have a good supply of peat added), fruiting cordon or fan-shaped trees such as morello cherry if on the north — lovely in blossom-time — peaches, apricots and nectarines on the south and west, apples, pears, or even a grape vine if the fence is warm enough.

The approach to the garage is usually concreted and so often is ugly, arid and too hot in summer. How much better to concrete the wheel-ways and to pattern the area on either side. I have seen garage drives in which the area between the wheel-ways is planted with low-growing ground cover plants, a sweet smelling thyme is one, and low annuals is another.

09. October 2010 by Dave Pinkney
Categories: Garden Landscapes, Gardening Ideas | Tags: , | Comments Off on Paving the Way for Garden Paths


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