Garden Design

Easy Steps to a Garden Path

The following is an excerpt from an upcoming book due to be released next year by Helen Yoest, Gardening With Confidence™.

A journey down the garden path is poetic and practical. Now, while the winter garden sleeps, make planning your garden path a dream.

Madonna Phillips and Greg Hallman's front garden in Historic Oakwood, Raleigh, photo by Helen Yoest

Madonna Phillips and Greg Hallman's front garden in Historic Oakwood, Raleigh, photo by Helen Yoest

As winter opens the landscape, taking on a hardscape project – like building garden paths – is perfect timing.

Paths play an important role in the garden.  More than a map through, paths fill a void in the garden, particularly in the winter, give sturdy passage, and invite you into the garden.

Chances are, you’ll know where to put a path.  Over time, a path will make itself.  Cut across the lawn enough times to smell the roses and you will begin to see where a path may go.

Casually sketch your house and garden.  Map out where a path might lead.  Adding curves will slow the pace and reveal the garden slowly.

Know the purpose of the path and how it may be used. Will your path be used by two at a time?  Does it need easy access for the wheelbarrow? This will help plan the width and path materials.

Here are five materials to consider when planning a path.

Gravel and Other Loose Materialstone
Gravel paths are ideal for budget conscience homeowners.  They also provide traction and allow for good drainage.  Gravel looks nice and the sound of the crunch is somehow reassuring as you journey down the garden path. In more informal areas, paths made of mulch, such as wood chips and bark, will define an area.  Paths made from these materials are best in areas not traveled with bare feet.

Brick is probably the most versatile material to use in creating garden paths. Complementing most home styles, brick can be laid in many different patterns and can also accept a gentle arch.  Set in sand or mortar, brick is equally suitable for a passage to the front door as it is for a service area. Remember, paths made of brick in moist, heavily shaded areas can retain moisture and form moss, creating a slipping hazard.


Concrete pavers offer the consumer many options in design.  Available in both non-interlocking styles with smooth edges and interlocking styles with patterned edges, pavers allow the pieces to fit together like a puzzle. There are circles, hexagons, squares, triangles, and rectangles. Pavers can be laid in sand or mortar, making their use versatile and with many choices to match your home’s style.

Flagstone and cut stone tile lends a more formal feeling to a garden path.   Flagstone is a natural choice to compliment garden plantings.  The available colors are naturally subtle, resulting in restful looking paths. Flagstone can be laid in sand or mortar, but if thick enough, flagstone works well laid directly on top of leveled ground.  Cobblestone, fieldstone, river rock, and other irregularly shaped stone lend a more relaxed look to the garden path.   The use of various sizes in the design allows for some very creative patterns.

Wood can be used as raised decking in the garden or as an edging to other path materials.  Boards can be positioned widthwise to visually slow movement or lengthwise to provide a sense of forward movement.  A level path can be constructed with wood to line out the dips and valleys of our Triangle plots. Left natural, stained or painted, wood lends itself to just about any home style.

Determine the Width
The path width is best determined by its use.  If the passage is to only be used as a service area, such as a path from the front yard to back yard, enough space to allow the passage of a single person is all that is needed; therefore, a width of 2-3 feet will be sufficient.  If the path width is needed for two to travel, then a width of 4-5 feet is needed.

Installing your garden paths this winter will be a dream come true for many years to come.

Helen Yoest is a gardening coach and designer through her company Gardening With Confidence ™.  You can catch up with Helen via her blog at

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