Garden Paths, Steps and Footbridges

No landscape is complete without a pathway through it. From simple flagstones to elaborate terrace steps, there are many choices when it comes to installing a means from here to there in your garden. This article offers both functional and attractive ideas for paths, steps and footbridges to allow gardener and guests to enjoy the outdoor scenery to its fullest.

Installing a garden path requires a careful eye to assess the landscape. Decide which are your garden's strengths and where you plan to install other garden features like ponds, fountains or possibly a gazebo. Is your landscape large enough for a rambling walk or do you simply need a path to the garage so your back lawn does not become trampled? These are all questions to be addressed as you map out the path through your garden and landscape. The length of the path may influence the material choice too. A marble walk will be far richer than a stretch of gravel, for instance. Also, be sure to include problem areas like slopes. Steps can transform a difficult garden area into a novel feature.

A very long garden walk may easily be installed with a path of mulch, or simply flagstones punctuated with rustic footbridges of wood or stone over small creeks or shallow dips in the landscape. This type of path will always beckon visitors for a stroll, and arranging the walk so that it meanders near the most inviting views will be captivating. Even rustic planks will serve the natural setting well. Of course, there are many quaint touches that might be added to the simplest footbridges like decorative railings or painted planks.

Employing rock for these long walks adds an old-world appeal, and there is a wide range of short ornamental grasses that will fill the crevices between the rocks quite nicely if you decide against a more paved look. The alternative might be to lay geometric shaped flat rocks that do provide a paved walk; this is ideal for a front yard path to your front door. For an artistic touch, consider a cement walkway filled with mosaic designs - shards of blue and green tiles go perfectly for a path up to a water feature.

Many landscapers lay paths that feature many different types of materials. For example, the front of a cottage style home might employ a cobblestone walk; the side of the house may use flat river stones to serve as a path. The back of the landscape may showcase rounded slabs of wood for the stretch from the patio to the tool shed. Finally, the outer walk might include little more than a path of loose mulch.

Steps and footbridges add an extra appeal than any path will benefit by. Both of these features must be safe for any amount of traffic, but that said, there are many ways to construct these features. Stone is both durable and pleasing to behold, but wood is quite easy to work with and often less expensive. A simple path up the terrace could be accomplished with railroad ties. A footbridge over a stream might be little more than a wooden plank. A formal setting will require more elaborate footbridges, like arching stone bridges in the Oriental style or wooden Victorian models painted to stand out.

Be sure when you lay the materials that you make your path wide enough to accommodate any garden tools you may require like mowers and wheelbarrows. A good idea is to leave a width that will comfortably allow two adults to stroll hand-in-hand. Also, a bumpy path may provide the most natural look, but depending on how it will be used, it may not be safe, especially for young children and the elderly.

Finally, ornamenting your walk will certainly ice the cake, and there are many options to consider. Lighting is important for evening entertainment when guest might congregate throughout the landscape and garden. A series of stone lanterns may punctuate the path and even be constructed of the same material. Simple stands of strung lighting may also serve the purpose well. Planters and containers are popular features to add to a path, but be sure these won't be tripped over. Edging your path may also be necessary, especially for a more formal design.

Other considerations might be incorporating a water feature around a bend of hedges or trees for a surprising feature along your walk. A simple birdbath could suffice, but a garden pond filled with koi makes a stunning statement. Other water features to select are basins, fountains, chalice wells and waterfalls. Many fountains can be purchased that are quite easy to install and operate, so don’t let a fear of maintenance deter you from water in the garden.

Plant selection is also important for the path. Choose low-growing plants to border the path so they will not block the view behind them. Keeping the path clear of more invasive varieties is also important, so choose plants that you might easily maintain in this area. A nice way to showcase climbing plants along your garden walk would be to include an arch or arbor at the beginning or end of the path strewn with tea roses.

No matter how you landscape around the path, it will only be appreciated the more with a walk that leads guests through it.

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