Designing Garden Walks and Pathways

A woodchip pathway in a blooming flower garden.

Garden walks and pathways are not only aesthetically pleasing, but also practical. Many people make walking paths through their landscape so that they can enjoy their garden without stepping on and through their plants. Garden walkways may even lead to a private bench or outdoor dining area from the house. Pathways can be formal or informal depending on your landscape theme and budget. Here is some advice to help inform your walkway design choices.


Your path to a perfect pathway begins with careful assessment. Decide on where a walkway would be not only practical but also pleasing to the eye. Draw a scale map of your garden, including the proposed path. This will serve as a project guide. Be sure that you mark the location of underground utilities on your plan for when it comes time to finish the project.

Tip: Always lay down landscape fabric to suppress weeds before constructing your path.

Informal Paths

For those seeking a rustic feel, informal paths work best. Simple paths vary greatly in size and construction material, which can include flagstones, wood rounds, boardwalks, mulch, railroad ties set in gravel, or simply gravel itself. They may be used where a path is needed only occasionally and they are less expensive than more permanent options. If your landscape is large, they can prove to be the ideal walk-through for the occasional scenic stroll. Maintenance is required to keep plants at bay and to check for rotting wood, but such paths can be both functional and attractive.

Formal Paths

Clean stone path

Formal paths work well in rose gardens, herb gardens, or any other type of formal landscape. Some people install formal paths around pools, and many homes have a formal sidewalk from the road to their front door. Formal paths have a tighter design than informal paths, are made from bricks, pavers, or stamped concrete, and are often carefully edged. Marble or granite may also be adopted for a grand scale pathway.

Tip: Stone and brick pathways are best if laid by a professional.

Raised Paths

Raised paths are more difficult to install than other types of paths or walkways but they are often found in Asian-themed gardens or in landscapes with a large water feature.

Other Design Ideas

A stone and moss walkway

Design your path with plantings in mind. If you are aiming for a cottage look to your home, decorative concrete slabs set in low-growing groundcover will produce a charming effect. Or for a Victorian aesthetic, consider a cobblestone walkway. Bricks also add a certain old-world feel to a path, and they can be laid in any number of patterns for a desired effect.

For long paths, consider laying them along a scenic route where your various garden attractions will be noticed and enjoyed. Planning your path for such strolls calls for carefully navigating your terrain—different sections may require different approaches and materials. Dips in the landscape may require short bridges, for example.

The home itself, along with the patio, may steer your choice of materials for a harmonious blending. Or, you may opt for many different materials for different parts of the paths that also compliment one another. Wide sections of your path may allow for containers or furniture, which can make for pleasant garden features. Whatever type of path you choose, be sure it and its maintenance requirements match your lifestyle. Walkways provide a necessary function, and an attractive one can add appeal to your home and landscape, but only if you can handle the upkeep.