Sidewalks are a necessity in high traffic areas where erosion would otherwise pose a problem, but they are not always the most attractive parts of your landscape. Alongside sidewalks also is not the best place to plant delicate flowers that might be broken or smashed by careless pedestrians. In addition, pavement generates a lot of heat that wilts many plants. However, there are flowers capable of taking heat and the punishment of occasionally being trodden underfoot.
Use ground covers that are capable of withstanding traffic as buffers between walks and regular flowerbeds. Creeping thyme or sweet woodruff are good choices that smell wonderfully fragrant when crushed, so if they are accidentally stepped on, it is almost a bonus!
Plant liriope for a pretty, grass-like texture to help soften hard edges in a semi-shady location. Each plant sends up a stalk of white or purple flowers in season, and its neat mounding habit is very low maintenance.
Avoid creating arrow-straight, narrow walks, which are boring and tend to direct the eye toward the house rather than the landscape. Plant a low-growing, spreading ground cover like Dalea capitata, Sierra Gold—especially nice in hot, drought-prone areas. This very hardy plant grows only about 8 inches tall while spreading as much as 3 feet, and is covered with golden blooms in both spring and fall.
Make your whole lawn into a high-traffic edging for your walk by planting it in clover rather than grass. It smells wonderful and is attractive to bees, so it will ensure pollinators for your vegetable garden while reducing your mowing chores.
Plant Mediterranean herbs with silvery green foliage. These are designed by nature to tolerate the harsh light and heat generated by concrete in full sun. The assorted textures and heights really soften sidewalks and add charm to the landscape. Sage, rosemary, thyme, lavender and oregano are great choices.
Consider low shrubs from heathers to roses. Not only will they look pretty in bloom and add fragrance to the landscape, but they will act as barriers to help direct visitors to the front and keep foot traffic off your lawn.