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Garden pathways are an important aspects of garden design and are often overlooked, pathways are functional features but can also enhance the aesthetics of your outside space.

Whether you are relandscaping your entire garden or simply adding a pathway, it is worth thinking carefully about what you could achieve. You wouldn’t want to go down the wrong path!

A garden pathway provides a great opportunity to make life easier and could help to transform your property. It may add curb appeal, enhance safety and improve your access all at the same time while giving you a stunning finishing touch for your space. 

In other words, garden pathways can be so much more than simply a means to walk from one place to another.

Gardens with pathways can really work well for you and your property. Our garden pathway ideas will help you make the right decisions while providing design inspiration.

Getting started with garden pathways

Before you so much as lift a shovel or engage a contractor, think carefully about what you need to achieve on a practical level and the other potential benefits of your pathway. 

Your path’s primary function will be to connect areas of your outside space or to enable you to walk around your garden to enjoy the planting, a pond or special features. So far, so simple.

But could your path also be designed to make maintaining your garden easier, to bring balance to the space or to better showcase a pleasing focal point?

Here’s how to evolve the right plan for your path:

Determine your pathway’s purpose

Are you looking to make a simple connection between two areas of your garden, or should your pathway facilitate a stroll around your space? If you wish to connect your patio to your pond, could you continue your garden pathway to another feature or create a circular route?

Decide where to locate your garden pathway

You may feel that the right location for your garden pathway is obvious. However, sometimes the route less travelled is a better one! Could you position your path to provide easy access to borders for maintenance or to divert attention away from less attractive elements of your space? 

Should you place your path in the sunshine or would you prefer a shaded stroll? A sunny path will be more exposed to the elements in winter and so might prove to be less useful when it rains.

Think about shape and scale

If your path is too wide, it could overly dominate your garden, but a narrow path could feel underwhelming in a larger space. A narrow walkway would also be harder to navigate. Paths in your back garden should be wide enough to accommodate a wheelbarrow or mower. Wider paths will work well at the front of your property and should enable at least two people to walk side by side as they approach the house.

The shape of your path will impact the look and feel of your garden. A long, straight path will make any space feel narrower and longer. A zig zag or serpentine path will enhance the sense of space in smaller gardens. Straight paths deliver a more formal look, while meandering paths are great options for informal landscapes. Incorporate curves to create intrigue and to invite exploration. A path that narrows gradually will change your perspective and make your garden feel longer.

Consider how to tackle sloping ground

Many gardens are flat or relatively flat and so present few complications when designing pathways.  If your outside space slopes steeply or features multiple levels, you can still incorporate pathways, but your garden pathway ideas may need to include steps or terraces. Meandering or zig zag pathways would be easier to negotiate on sloping land than straighter paths.

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Practical considerations for pathways

Once you have formulated a rough plan for your path, there’s still plenty to think about. The devil is certainly in the detail. Even what appear to be the best ideas for garden pathways can deliver poor results if you don’t properly assess the practicalities of your project.

High traffic or rarely used?

Will your garden pathway be a high traffic area such as the principal or only route from your front door to the street? If so, ensure that you choose durable materials and ones that are easy to clear of snow and ice. Low traffic routes give you greater freedom in your choice of materials. You could go for stepping stone garden pathways, a wooden pathway for your garden, gravel pathways or even bark chippings.

Pathway safety

Your pathway could be both beautiful and functional. It should certainly be safe to walk on. Always set stepping stones deep enough to prevent them becoming trip hazards and ensure that gravel is stabilised when installed. 

Feature railings on any steep sections of your path and avoid garden pathway slabs or bricks that become slippery when wet. Consider lighting your pathway if it is to be used after dark. Garden pathway lights are also aesthetically pleasing additions to your outside space.

Weather and seasonal changes

Large pavers and brick pathing that isn’t mortared can be susceptible to frost and ice. Stone garden pathways absorb heat which could be helpful in cold weather but become problematic on hotter days.

Garden pathway drainage

If your land is prone to flooding, mortared brick, stone, concrete or slabbed pathways could make matters worse. Always ensure that your pathways are surrounded by adequate drainage or choose materials that drain freely such as gravel or bark.

Maintenance

Do you enjoy garden maintenance and how much time do you have at your disposal? The prettiest paths may not be the easiest to look after. A paved or brick pathway will be less time-consuming to maintain than a bark or gravel path. Whatever the nature of your pathway, it should be kept free of weeds, overgrowing plants, algae and moss.

Sustainability

To imbue your path with earth-friendly credentials, choose locally sourced, sustainable and eco-friendly materials such as bark chips or wood chips. 

Budget

Its easy to get carried way with pathway ideas for garden areas but it is crucial to avoid busting your budget. Overspending on pathways will impact any further plans for upgrading your outside space and your pathway budget should be proportionate to the size and value of your home.

Think carefully about what you can afford to spend and consider what level of expenditure would be sensible. Your budget could dictate the length of your path, its width, the addition of extra features and your choice of materials. Flagstones and pavers will be more costly than gravel or bark. If your budget proves challenging, try to source used bricks or pavers from local businesses, auction sites or reclamation yards.

When style matters

In addition to working well on a practical and functional level, your path may be a prominent aspect of your property that should look great too.

By choosing the right materials and features for your pathway, you can create something truly special. Here are our tips and tricks for styling your garden pathway:

Materials and colours

With diverse materials at your disposal, the possibilities for your pathway are endless. Decide whether you wish your path to stand out or to fade into the landscape. Think about whether your path should mirror the look your property or certain features of your garden, or if it should provide contrast. 

Choose materials with colours that complement both your home and the landscape. Contemporary paving could feel out of place in a cottage garden while traditional stone pathways may not suit more modern spaces. You could utilise different materials to define certain areas of your garden but be careful about overcomplicating the design. Consider getting creative with materials by using hand-poured slabs, shaped moulds, mosaic tiles, pieces of glass, pebbles, marbles or shells.

Edging

To better define paths and to keep loose materials such as gravel from spilling, use edging for garden pathways. A variety of materials and styles are available including metal, plastic, brick, stone, concrete and slate. 

Adding features

Would your pathway design benefit from the addition of gates, trellises, pergolas, statues, benches or planters? Giving you valuable focal points, providing somewhere to relax, creating attractive dividers or simply drawing your eye across your garden, these features could make all the difference. 

Simplicity and repetition

If you are incorporating additional features into your design, use the same elements along the length of the path to lend unity to your creation. For instance, showcase identical containers or use containers of the same colour. Too many different colours and styles will result in an overly busy space that lacks focus, continuity or a theme.

Planting

Your path may be bordered only by lawn and if that is the case, and you have edged your path, you will need to invest in a trimmer to keep the edges of your lawn tidy. To soften the look of your path, establish borders with smaller plants and for a more formal feel, use box hedging. Adorn trellises and pergolas with climbing plants to raise the eye upwards and to give yourself attractive divisions between the different areas of your garden. Consider the attributes of your plants including durability, fragrance and seasonality.

Lighting

The perfect finishing touch, garden pathway lights are excellent investments. Think about whether you wish to use solar or mains powered lighting. The latter will involve running power to your lights and you must plan for this before starting work. Downlighting is ideal for both navigation and safety while up lighting enables you to highlight attractive features of your garden. 

Pragmatic and imaginative

There may be more to garden paths that you previously thought! Whether your project is to be a pragmatic and functional one or something more imaginative, we hope that our ideas for pathways in gardens will inspire you. 

Your pathway can be anything you want it to be and could totally transform your outside space. Whether meandering around your beds and trees or taking you to your patio or pond, a carefully conceived pathway will make life easier while enhancing the visual appeal of your property.

Take your time to consider the style, proportions and features that your garden demands and the route your pathway should take. Leading your guests up the garden path could then be a very good thing indeed!

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