Garden walkways are both practical and decorative. Walkways allow you to wander among the flowers without wearing ruts in the dirt, and also provide an interesting design element to your garden. Paths invite people into your garden. They can be straight or curved, short or long and made of different materials.
Crushed stone or gravel
Crushed stone or gravel makes an easy-to-maintain walkway that's also easy to form into any shape. You'll need some kind of edging to contain the gravel, and it's a good idea to lay a weed barrier underneath the gravel to prevent weeds from growing up through the spaces between the rocks. Crushed stone or gravel is available in colors ranging from red to gray to white.
Drawbacks to gravel include its tendency to stick to shoes and get scattered around the yard. A risk also exists of the path being washed out during heavy rain.
Like gravel, bark or shredded mulch is inexpensive and easy to manipulate in curved shapes. Mulch is soft underfoot, and cedar mulches can be fragrant. Mulch walkways fit well into wooded settings and add a very natural, informal look. Like gravel, mulches need some kind of edging to contain the walkway.
On the downside, mulches deteriorate over time and need replacing. Mulch is also easy to track into other parts of the yard or house and can wash away after heavy rain.
You can make or buy stepping stones and arrange them in a path. If you use stepping stones, place them a comfortable distance apart. The simplest way to do this is to walk naturally down the path and use flour or spray paint to mark where your foot lands, then center a stepping stone over each mark.
You can purchase square or round stepping stones, or make your own with gravel and concrete. Use a five-gallon plastic bucket as a mold for round stones, a pizza box as a mold for square stones.
Be aware though that stepping stones can be expensive, and you must maintain the spaces between the stones.
A concrete walkway is a more expensive and permanent method for creating a garden path. You can excavate the walkway, build forms, insert reinforcing wire and pour concrete for a continuous, smooth walkway like a sidewalk.
Or you can purchase a plastic mold that creates the look of a cobblestone walkway. After smoothing and leveling the space for your walkway, you lay down the mold and fill it with concrete. After the concrete has set a bit, carefully remove the mold and allow the section of walk to dry, then move on to the next section. The result is a walk that looks as if it was made of cobblestones.
The main drawbacks to concrete walkways are their expense, the labor involved in building them and the fact that they are difficult to remove.
Bricks or pavers
A brick walkway can be especially appealing in an English country garden. Excavate the path, then lay down a bed of sand three to four inches thick. The sand provides even footing for the bricks or pavers. Arrange the pavers close together in any pattern you choose. Add grout between the bricks or pavers.
Like concrete, bricks or pavers can be expensive and labor intensive.
Plantings for walkways
Add to the charm of bricks, stones and stepping stone walkways by planting between the stones. Choose low-growing, low-maintenance plants such as sedum. For fragrance as well as tiny purple blossoms, plant creeping thyme between stones.