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Cape Town - Paths are one of the most cost-effective features in any garden. They reduce the need for lawn, they lead you to hidden corners in a garden, and a simple focal point placed at the end of a pathway is very attractive.
“As an important design element in the garden, paths direct the eye as well as your feet,” says garden designer Beverley Ballard-Tremeer.
“Some pathways are necessary for purely practical reasons, such as from the front gate to the house, or in areas of heavy traffic such as in alleyways,” she adds.
“Other paths serve a largely aesthetic role in the garden, such as forming a framework for a formal rose or herb garden, creating an optical illusion of more garden space by disappearing from view around a bend, drawing the eye into a woodland area, or leading from one area of the garden to another.”
The gardener today has an enormous range of materials from which to choose. Paths that are frequently used for getting from one place to another, such as from the garage area to the front door, should consist of heavy-duty material such as brick, simulated flagstones, pre-cast concrete paving stones, cobbles set into concrete, or heavy-duty sleepers.
Paths in the herb garden or woodland area, which are not subject to heavy wear and tear, can consist of less durable material such as pine bark chips, gravel, cobbles, or stepping stones of timber or concrete.
“From a visual point of view, the choice of material will depend on what is sympathetic to the house and other structures in the garden, and what is appropriate to the style of the garden,” Ballard-Tremeer explains.
If your garden style is formal, straight paths in brick, pre-cast concrete or simulated flagstones will be appropriate. If you prefer an English country or cottage look, gently curving paths of slasto, sleepers or gravel are a great choice.
In a garden influenced by Japanese traditions, a winding path of stepping stones is an obvious choice, while for a woodland garden, a path of pine bark chips, bark stepping stones or railway sleepers will look charming.
In a Victorian formal garden, brick paths in a geometric pattern will be most suitable, while paths of gravel chips will suit a garden with a Mediterranean theme.
Dark slasto or wooden sleepers look lovely in a tropical garden, while the informal look of slasto or broken bricks suits an indigenous garden. In a fynbos garden, square pavers or dark wooden sleepers can act as both soil retainers and a pathway through proteas, ericas and Cape reeds.
Remember that the width of the path should be in scale with the rest of the garden.
A path in a large garden or near a large house needs to be wide; conversely, a townhouse garden needs a narrow path in keeping with the scale of the garden area.
A heavily used path, such as one leading to the front door, should be at least 1.2m wide as this will allow two people to walk abreast.
Other garden paths that are used less often can be narrower – between 20cm and 1m will be suitable.
Plants for pathways
Consider these low-growing groundcover plants between stepping stones or sleepers:
* Moisture-loving groundcovers – carpet bugle (Ajuga reptans), Corsican mint (Mentha requienii), Creeping Jenny (Lysimachia nummularia), dwarf mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus “Kyoto”), Irish moss (Sagina subulata), Liriope spp, Mazus reptans, Oxalis, Peace-in-the-home (Soleirolia soleirolii).
* Waterwise groundcovers – catmint (Nepeta x faassenii), creeping thyme (Thymus serpyllum), gold moss stonecrop (Sedum acre), Japanese knotweed (Polygonum capitatum), Nierembergia repens, sand verbena (Verbena lacineata), snow-in-summer (Cerastium tomentosum) and wild strawberry (Fragaria hybrids).
- Weekend Argus