Garden Pathways

This yellow wall uses color, mass planting and repetition to create drama.

Garden pathways are crucial components of both residential and public gardens.  We enter the garden via pathways.  Pathways get us up close and personal with the plants.  A giant bed may contain loads of beautiful plants, but if you can’t enter the bed, you won’t be close enough to appreciate the details in their presentation.

Denver Botanic Gardens has many very well designed gardens and pathways, so my examples will be from DBG.  Create drama in your pathway by using color, mass planting, or repetition.  In this case, all three have been used.   There’s a bright yellow wall, repeating  taller shrubs, and a mass planting of grass all along the path on one side.  

Plants have been used to soften the edge of this informal gravel pathway.

Plants can be used to soften the edges of pathways. Note the soft edges in the long path with flowers bordering each side.  The path is straight, but it has a slightly meandering feel because the plants overlap the path to varying degrees.  This is particularly good for situations using bark or gravel as pathway material.

The clean straight edges of this pathway provide perspective lines drawing you into the garden.

Pathways of pavers. brick or concrete will generally have more defined edges, but it is sometimes fine to have some plants overlapping the edge.  Be careful about the plants along the edge if you want to create visual drama.  Look at the path with the arch at the entry.  That “gate” gives drama and structure to the path and the perspective lines on this very straight path create visual drama.  That would be spoiled if there were big plants reaching out into the pathway.  Therefore, sometimes it is best to avoid large plants along a path’s edge.

The pathway allows access through the dense jungle planted in the conservatory.

The path takes the visitor through a dense jungle of plants in the DBG conservatory.  One of the main functions of pathways is access.     It takes a path or a machete to negotiate a planting this dense.   I’ve got a photo of a pile of debris and leaves that was cleaned from that garden in the morning.  Gardeners mostly groom plants behind the scenes.   This was fully clean and out of view in a few minutes.  

Large amounts of debris are removed from fast growing tropicals. This was clean and out of sight in minutes.

Garden pathways and the plants that border them are critical elements in my garden designs.  I install plants for particular purpose, and for visual drama along a path or other edge of the bed.  Contour lines are important pieces of design.  

The hard, smooth surface on this brick path makes for easy access for strollers and wheelchairs and is pretty as well.