Paths provide a variety of functions in the garden. They can lead visitors to the front door or make a dry walkway to the trash bins or compost pile. They can also add structure to the garden, by connecting different areas of the garden, and leading the way to a focal point.
Straight paths are suited to more formal stately homes and gardens. Curved paths will complement the more informal, casual cottage look.
Primary paths should be 4 to 6 feet wide for two people to walk comfortably side by side. Secondary paths or paths for just one person can be just 2 to 3 feet wide.
It’s important to consider the material you’ll use to create the path. Too many different materials create a cluttered look. Instead, try to limit yourself to no more than three different pathway materials throughout your property. Repeating the same materials in different areas of the garden helps to pull the areas together.
Of course, bricks and flagstone are traditional English pathway materials. Old materials are even better, and save you money if you can recycle them from a renovating homeowner. For a formal look, use straight-cut flagstone in square and rectangular shapes. Irregular flagstone will better suit an informal garden.
Hard materials, such as concrete, brick or flagstone, will help you walk faster, so it makes sense to use these in the front of the home, where visitors want to quickly get to the front door. Loose materials such as pea gravel or packed sand will slow you down, so these are better suited to areas where you want visitors to stroll through the garden.
Grass can also be used as a pathway material. The British use grass as paths between beds a lot more than we do in America. So consider decreasing big lawns and replace it with flower beds instead. Flower beds will, in the long run, use a lot less water, fertilizer, and pesticides than grass, so you’re helping the environment as well.
Plants for edging paths
To complete the English garden look, use plants to edge your paths. Let them flop over the sides of the path to create a full, lush look. Almost any short perennial, annual, or ground cover will work beautifully, but here are some traditional English edging plants:
* Lavender works well as edging because as you walk along the path, you brush against the Lavender, releasing the scent.
* Dianthus (Pinks)
* Thyme – Creeping thyme also works well as a filler between flagstones
* Pansies – for early spring color
* Myosotis - Forget-me-nots – lovely, long-lasting blue flowers
* Stachys (lamb’s ear) – fuzzy gray leaves that children love to touch. Cut off the rather unattractive flower stalks immediately after flowering.
* Campanula carpatica – a lovely blue or white bell-shaped flower
* Dainty bulbs such as English Bluebells or snowdrops
* Gaillardia (blanket flower) – has long-lasting bright orange and red flowers
* Artemisia ‘Silver Mound’
* Brunnera (false forget-me-nots)
* Heuchera (coral bells) – grown mainly for their beautiful leaves which now come in a wide variety of colors from peach to lime green to purple
* Phlox subulata – spreading mats with pink, blue or white flowers
* Primrose – loves wet areas
* Hosta – grown mainly for the leaves, but their flowers are fragrant and attract hummingbirds