Strolls and Saunters: Planning Your Garden's Route
A path directs visitors to your garden's best views while also protecting plantings and other features. Here, we share some ideas on how to choose the best route to compliment your garden.
From: DK Books - Garden Design
The main route or pathway through the garden not only links together the different areas, but also reveals views, frames spaces and determines the basic design. For example, a main path laid straight down the center of the garden suggests sophistication, while a curved route snaking through the garden tells visitors that this is an informal space primed for their comfort. A wide, open path offers an inviting entrance, while a narrow winding path, set between tall plantings, adds mystery. Draw guests to the end of the route with a focal point, such as a bench, statue or container.
A primary route will be heavily used, so use materials that are durable as well as consistent with the overall garden style. Remember to consider path edges, too, and how their shape and appearance fit into the design.
A formal design is often built around a series of geometric and symmetrical paths. They are used to frame planted areas and meet at a specific focal point. Formal design is fairly strict, so it's is a good choice for you if you want your garden to look orderly and strongly designed.
Routes that snake through the plot add a flowing sense of movement and an air of intrigue. They can be used to move around key elements, or draw them together, as well as reveal unexpected surprises around turns, curves and corners.
Setting a path on a diagonal allows the garden to be viewed along its longest line, drawing the eye away from the back boundaries and creating the illusion of size in small spaces.
A circular path takes you on a continuous journey around the garden. It can be planned to provide alternate views of key features and different elements, depending on the direction of travel.
Random paving with planted crevices creates a pleasantly chaotic, informal design. With no defined route, the eye and body can move in several directions across the whole area.
While primary routes determine the style of a garden, secondary routes are fairly practical, providing access to areas visited less frequently - a seating area, shed or compost pile. They can also lead you off the main path on little detour to a concealed corner. They can even cut through large flower beds, allowing you to experience colors and scents up close. These routes do not need to be as durable as main paths, although they should be subtly incorporated into the design; they can often be created from softer, organic materials or mowed through an area of grass. Secondary routes can be obvious or hidden in some way, either deliberately behind planting or concealed within the design.
Although they have their place, be careful to not over-use secondary paths; doing so can create a confusing maze that makes the design look sloppy and unintentional.