Walkways lead visitors on a journey through your garden space. They are an invitation to explore, a virtual welcome mat. Humans, being curious creatures, rarely resist that invitation. Garden pathways are made of several different materials, including natural stone, brick, glass or gravel.
Follow the Flagstone
Natural flagstone comes from quarries and is chipped and split into flat, textured rock pieces. Slate, shale and sandstone, all of which are sedimentary rocks, are some examples. This type of rock has layers that make it easier to break up into large, flat pieces. Sometimes flagstone is cut and shaped into smooth, flat paving stones that are often used for formal gardens or even stone walls. Natural flagstone is usually used for pathways. One option is the "stepping stone" path. A path of flagstones is laid out, either over an established lawn or surrounded by gravel or other filler materials.
Brick for a Traditional Look
Brick walkways are more traditional and are often found on colonial or farm style homes. Since bricks are like miniature building blocks, you can create straight, curved and even patterned pathways. Lay the bricks side by side to create a straight pathway, perhaps to a swimming pool or patio setting. To create a curved path, use a running board pattern, where rows of bricks are laid with the edges slightly offset. A herringbone pattern, where the bricks are laid at an angle, is often used for front door entryways because it has a more formal look. The latter usually has a row of straight bricks on either side to provide a more finished look.
Pavers for Creativity
Walkway pavers come in a variety of shapes, sizes and textures that make it easy to be creative. The pieces are readily available at most hardware and home improvement stores and are usually laid over a foundation of compressed soil and gravel, which minimizes cracks. This is the perfect material to create a meandering pathway through your backyard. Insert focal points at strategic spots, such as in front of a welcoming garden bench. Use contrasting colors to line the pathway, in a way framing the invitation to explore.
The Crunch of Gravel
Gravel pathways offer that comforting "crunch" sound as you make your way around a garden. This natural material comes in a variety of sizes and colors, allowing you to coordinate the look of the path with certain garden features. For example, if you have a Japanese-style Zen garden, which uses gravel or stones to represent water, larger rocks to mimic land and a minimum of vegetation, you'd want a more toned down color. Neutral shades tend to be more relaxing. Gravel pathways do need some sort of edging to keep the material in place, such as a row of bricks, pavers or cobblestones. Weed cloth is sometimes used under the gravel to inhibit weed growth.
Tumbled Landscape Glass for Color
If you want to make a statement with your garden path, consider using tumbled landscape glass. This is a recycled material, created from broken up bottles and other glass items that are tumbled to remove sharp edges. It comes in a variety of colors, with glass pebbles of various sizes. Like gravel, tumbled glass needs edging to keep the nuggets in place and weed cloth as a liner. Other projects done with landscape glass include plant accents and rock gardens.
The Mosaic Pathway, An Artistic Statement
Mosaic pathways do tend to take center stage in a garden, rather than just being a means to get from point A to point B. Make them out of different shapes and colors of river rocks and they can become meditative pathways. Or, use different colors of landscape glass to make a bolder statement. This type of pathway is essentially a blank canvas. Design your path like an intricate Persian rug or go Zen and add wavy lines to represent moving water. Create your favorite animal or Zodiac sign. The individual pebbles are set in mortar, so this pathway option usually takes a bit longer to create than the others. When finished, you'll have a one-of-a-kind, artistically creative pathway to enjoy.