Jan Maas

A path is just a way to get people and materials around the garden, right? Well, yes and no. Paths help to organize your garden and set the tone of the spaces they cross. In working them into your garden plan remember that whatever they are made of, they must be compatible with the style of your house and landscape. Angular paths that lead to a specific destination imply formality and purpose. If you have ever visited Versailles, think of the geometric layout of the gardens — formal and beautiful! Meandering paths are informal and set a more playful tone. They are cozy and loose and allow for surprises as you round a curve and permit new vantage points as you stroll down the path.

The whole point of a path is to walk on it. Regardless of its beauty, if it doesn’t work, it’s useless. A main walkway should be four feet wide, allowing for two people to walk side by side. Side paths that are less traveled can be narrower. Start by deciding where you want walkways to begin and end. Take a walk through your garden, follow natural routes from place to place. Think about what kind of accessibility you’ll need to tend to the garden when deciding the pathway route. Take plenty of time to decide.

In general, heavily traveled walkways like those leading from the house to the garage or driveway should be formal in design and constructed from hard, durable materials like concrete or stone. They should be smooth but non-slick and follow straight, direct lines. Informal styles are perfect for narrower, less traveled paths in the garden. Here the material used to create them can be varied. Merely putting stepping stones down in an irregular pattern will create a simple walkway and add visual interest. The space you leave between the stones affects the walk’s formality. Squeeze them together to create a more proper looking walkway; loosen them up by leaving space between them; the look is softer allowing for living green fillers to grow. Try letting sedum or mosses and herbs grow between them. Many gardens in our area, mine included, are situated in a woodland setting. Paths covered with pine needles, shredded leaves or mulch create the perfect rustic setting for these gardens. The paths feel like they are part of the ground because they are neutral in color and soft, providing a natural background for edging plants. You may need to add edging to keep the pathway material in place.

The possibilities for using pavers are endless. Again, try to select colors that are natural and complement your landscape and home. Pavers can be expensive and labor intensive if you choose to do your own work. However, they are highly decorative and convey a feeling of elegance.

Whatever path you choose it is all important to make sure that the style matches your home and landscaping; be sure that it is comfortable to walk on. Consider the roles that color, texture and pattern play in the appearance of your garden.

Click on “Yard and Garden at the University of Minnesota Extension website for gardening information. Local Master Gardeners will respond to your questions via Voice Mail. Call 218-444-7916, leaving your name, number and question. Our Facebook page may also be of help to you: <https://www.facebook.com/Beltramicountymastergardeners/&gt;.

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