Paths provide a structure and a logic to a garden, as well as practical access. Whether your style calls for formal, well-defined symmetrical paths or winding, natural paths, there are many different ways of going about creating your vision in terms of materials and cost.
Stepping stones aren't just for makeshift bridges over waterways and bubbling creeks. Place them throughout your garden to make less formal-looking paths. Concrete pavers allow you to have uniformity in the style of your stepping stones, whereas large flagstones can lend your paths a more naturalistic look and feel. While stepping stones can look attractive in a landscape, be aware that they will not make your garden or landscape accessible to visitors with lower mobility, such as those in wheelchairs.
Concrete paths can be poured in a way that fits your landscape's terrain, making them a highly customizable choice. It also is a smart choice if you will have a wide range of visitors to your landscape because the uniform surface of poured concrete better accommodates those who are physically handicapped. On the negative side, concrete can appear visually uninteresting. Consider sprucing up a plain concrete path with stains, stamps, different concrete colors and textures or impressions of different items created while the concrete is still drying, such as of leaves.
A brick path can provide a uniform walking surface for visitors, making it a safe choice for a garden path. Choose from the many types of bricks available with different sizes and appearances, from the classic brick red look to those in different colors, to bricks with holes cut in them or engraved bricks. Engraved bricks have a secondary benefit--fundraising. If your path is for a public area, give donors the opportunity to have an engraved brick in the garden once they donate above a certain level.
Gravel makes an easy garden path as installation only requires you to pour the gravel along the desired line. While gravel paths are easy to install, they do require some maintenance so that the path looks well defined and the gravel doesn't get too scattered, especially if the foot traffic is high. Consider ending the path in a Japanese raked rock garden, creating a focal point in your landscaping.
Like the gravel path, a mulch path is relatively easy to install and requires a certain level of maintenance over time. Keep in mind that people may track the mulch into the house if you put it too close to a door. Pay attention to the shape and line of your path to create different impressions in visitors. A narrower, straighter path makes a shorter garden seem longer. A curved, meandering path can help highlight focal points in your garden.