Early landscape designers of school projects used to design walkways based on how they assumed people would walk from building to building. They were always wrong. Turns out, people would walk through planted areas and not stay on designated sidewalks. Consequently, the solution became to not install sidewalks until after paths were created by the students and faculty themselves. The result: a nearly perfect circulation system that resulted in less trampling of vegetation. This works in your back yard as well.
Before you install paths, study how circulation works around your home. This will tell you where paths are needed and how much foot traffic they receive. This will give you a general idea of what material will work best.
For circulation routes that take the most traffic; say from your driveway to the front door, and the back door to the clothes line, a sturdy and smooth walkway might be the best option. Concrete or asphalt make good all weather surfaces.
Less traveled paths, like those winding through your garden or to pool area, there are less costly and more aesthetic options worth considering. It just depends on whether you prefer a naturalistic look, or one that is more defined.
While concrete and asphalt may sound utilitarian and unattractive, new materials are available to make them less so. Stamped asphalt is not black, and can be formed with a number of attractive patterns.
Concrete does not have to be gray, in fact there are many colors to choose from including earth tones to blue, green or red. The colors can be integral (mixed into the concrete) or a surface treatment. Concrete can also be stamped and patterned to look like other stone surfaces such as flagstone or cobblestone, or the wet surface swept with a stiff broom or dappled with salt to create interesting textures.
Garden paths can be as simple as landscape gravel meandering through plants, or setting stepping stones or flagstone pieces to a seating area. Other materials to consider are:
- Stepping stones
- Landscape glass pebbles
- Glass block
- Decomposed granite or other landscape rock
If you want a path very out of the ordinary, use glass blocks. If this path is used at night, you can install landscape lighting underneath the glass, giving it a very dramatic look.
If you keep the path narrow, it suggests an intimate setting. Wider paths are for places where people want to walk next to each other or need to pass someone. Foot paths are basically just wide enough for a person to walk and no more. These paths are about 18 inches wide. A path for two is a minimum of 4 feet, but you can adjust this as needed for comfort.
Creating paths tie landscaping and uses together. When created with forethought and using materials suitable to the purpose of the path, your home landscaping will be more inviting and pleasurable.