Designs, Tricks, and Schemes

Sunset’s 40 (not 41) Gorgeous Paths


Over on the Sunset website I found a fabulous display of paths, a garden feature we just don’t see enough of, imho.  The collection is titled “41 Gorgeous Garden Paths” and indeed, 40 of them ARE gorgeous, like the one above.  The only exception is this next one, which looks ridiculous and would be crazy-making to maintain.

I’ve been a busy bee this weekend making pavers for a path through my new new front-yard garden that’s all garden, no lawn.  I’m making super-cheap leaf-embossed concrete pavers – photos coming soon.

So readers, do YOU have a garden path and is it both beautiful and functional?  And back to Sunset’s collection of paths – is there one you’d kill for?

Posted by on April 30, 2012 at 6:24 am, in the category Designs, Tricks, and Schemes.
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20 Responses to “Sunset’s 40 (not 41) Gorgeous Paths”

  1. I suppose you could say that. I’m creating several throughout my landscape (where I am working extra hard not to have much grass). I’m midway through putting in a pollinator bed and it has a lovely winding mulch path. I’m going to set some rough hewn limestone pavers on it so that butterflies have a place to sun and get moisture.

  2. Mary Gray says:

    Susan, you are so right…That grass circles thing is so ludicrous!! I am just imagining the homeowner out there trying to mow those things and having those rocks flinging out from the mower blades at high speed, taking out his neighbor’s eye. Maybe if they made the circles out of dwarf mondo or sedum or something…MAYBE.

  3. Maybe they are IKEA round bath mats. ;^)

    And you are right, grass done this way is especially INSANE!

  4. Morgan says:

    Thanks for this post! My husband and I have been “not agreeing” on what path to put in our new lawnless front garden. Its even all dug out and we haven’t found a compromise yet!It seems the only point we agree on is tons of johnny jump ups surrounding the path. I hope if we sit down and look at this together it will help.

  5. Lisa-St. Marys ON says:

    I like the Fairy Tale path and the Magical path. (I also like the grass circle path to look at, but they have “people” to care for it obviously).

  6. Ellen W. says:

    I just can’t believe they’re suggesting that anyone outside of the arctice circle puts in bamboo Actually, sadly, the Sunset website isn’t so good at noting which plants are invasive.

  7. Laura Bell says:

    Well, at least they are trying to maintain only a small lawn. I can’t, however, imagine that this saves anyone time or resources.

    As part of my front garden re-do, I’m planning on planting chamomile in the currently straw-mulched area in front of my big picture window. And to make sure I have continued access to the blueberries, hanging baskets, and hummingbird feeders there, I’m planning on stepping stones. I’m just not sure of the material to be used yet. In the backyard, we use DG & old bricks for our pathways, edge them with lawn & callas & ferns and sages, depending on the spot of the yard.

  8. Ali M says:

    I love bamboo, at least the clumping varieties. and have found them to be well behaved even after 12 years.

    I’m looking forward to seeing those leaf embossed concrete paver pictures.

  9. Deirdre says:

    I have a grass path.It picks up where the paved path takes a right turn to the front steps, continues around the corner of the house, and along the side to the back gate.

    I HATE GRAVEL! It wanders, and is impossible to keep clean. Gravel almost forces one to have leaf blower. I would never put in a gravel path. I don’t like it much as mulch either. It does nothing for the soil.

    I have thought about embossed leaf pavers for a path through one of my wider beds.

  10. KM says:

    I don’t know. I wouldn’t want it in my front yard but I think the last one is gorgeous. And the maintenance wouldn’t be so bad. They live in Malibu so they can probably afford to send out a gardener with a pair of scissors to trim the grass “stepping stones” by hand every morning.

    Check out my blog to see my own path in my new garden. Not sure if it is book worthy but it is coming along very nicely.

  11. Jason says:

    I have grass paths in my front garden and brick-style pavers in the back. The pavers have worked out nicely. About eight years old, but have a nice aged look with lots of moss growing.

    Two problems I have with paver paths:
    1) Grass and unwanted plants growing between the pavers (the spaces are filled in with sand, not concrete);
    2) Pavers sinking so that soil washes down over them.

    I’ve dealt with this by weeding and lifting the pavers and re-setting higher them over additional sand. This works pretty much, but more labor intensive than ideal.

  12. Laura says:

    I have two special paths. One is an 85 ft curvy brick path in the back yard and the other mimics the shape of the house as it goes alongside it. The bricks were paid for with over-time money made by my programming husband prior to the Y2K panic. In other words, they were purchased with money made by changing all computer program dates to 4-digits. :-)

    They are also special because my husband who is now deceased was blind.

    It took him 4 month to dig out the soil all by hand, lay the road base, and then level the bricks for the path in the back. In case you are wondering, he did a great job and I love it.

  13. UrsulaV says:

    I’ve got some mulch paths going on, and I’ve found it’s the easiest for the short-term. Some day I may have the motivation for gravel.

    That first path is gorgeous–the purple flowers against the gold grass!–and the bottom one is ludicrous.

  14. Town Mouse says:

    Maybe this doesn’t quite count, but I had a lot of fun last year taking out some concrete and using the urbanite together with tumbled shower glass (which cannot otherwise be recycled). And it’s not as much of a maintenance nightmare as I had feared. I clean it up about once a year.

    http://tmousecmouse.blogspot.com/2011/05/eco-friendly-concrete-alternative.html

  15. Eileen says:

    I have one area in my garden that is my nemesis. It’s my faux flagstone (concrete) path that evidently is all over pinterest. It is beautiful when all the different thymes are blooming, but it is the biggest pain in the tuckus to maintain. When I planted the thyme, I’d read that they were “weed barriers” and thought that meant that once they grew in, I wouldn’t have to weed. WRONG. Now weeds of all varieties still pop up everywhere and I have to use a skinny little gardening knife to get them out and with such a tiny space, it’s not like I can really smother with mulch or do any of the other things I do with my garden beds. I love the look of my path/ courtyard, but I wouldn’t do it again had I known the time it would take to keep it from becoming a weed pit.

    You can see the path on my blog. This was written when I still had hope that once everything filled in, the weeds would cease to exist.

    http://scravings.blogspot.com/2010/06/thyme-crunch-1-year-later.html

  16. skr says:

    Ellen W., the clumping varieties of bamboo are not invasive. Some are incredibly well behaved. The running varieties can be kept in check fairly easily in arid regions with precise irrigation, but you have to give them room

  17. skr says:

    Jason, your trouble with dry laid pavers sounds like the result of insufficient compaction unless it is occurring over decades, then it’s normal. With regards to the weeds, you could always pour a slab and then lay the pavers down with grout.

  18. tibs says:

    The path I would kill for is the floating stepping stones in the pond. Dog is nice, too.

    I feel the pain of Ellen and Jason. So far my seasonal chores have been resetting the sandstone path and patio and removing the weed/grass infested thyme. The only reason I quit is I ran out of sand – a job for spouse as he has a sand connection and my knees need a break.

  19. A. Marina Fournier says:

    Eileen, your comment led me to the page with the path installation (the griding you finally chose resembles Mondrian paintings, but in monochrome), the Building REsources page, and a vague feeling I’ve been up in your neighborhood via the Open (art) Studios tours in years past.

    The tumbled glass looks easier on bare feet than gravel, some of the rocky bits in the Sunset feature, and rough sand.

  20. Too many of these garden paths were enh/meh or ick/WTF for me.

    I do not like walking on gravel of any size in the summer, or in the rainy season. In the rainy season, it gets very uneven and muddy. When I was a girl in Albuquerque, it didn’t matter if I wore zoris or went barefoot when taking things to the trash cans: the hot gravel was under my feet. It was usually easier to not wear something for the gravel to get into and poke your feet. I think I learned to levitate a bit over hot gravel–and the straight pins in my mom’s sewing room & adjacent hallway.

    I do not like sharp rocks or rough sand anywhere near where I walk, especially when I walk barefoot in my garden areas. I do not like gaps with a change in height (between stone and water/gravel) where clumsy me can put her foot wrong, trip, stumble, fall, ouch, thus the “floating” steps in the fountain areas are not happening in my yard.

    I liked the lawn lattice and the usage of thyme in at least three garden paths, as well as the wooded escape. When I get a new gardener, I think what I should do in the area around the pool that is bare earth and pathy-y, is to a) take up the current paving stone b) even out the height of the path with soil, so that whatever we put down (old pavers or slate ones I lust after) will be more level c) put down weedcloth d) put down pavers, put down plugs/squares of creeping lemon thyme and a few other thymes, Irish and Scotch moss, baby tears, and in the shadiest places, some Corsican mint (visual and tactile texture, as well as a variety of scents), and then e) gorilla hair mulch. They will get rain and run-off once established, the rain can sink in, there will be far less weeding with that set up.

    In my last house, my gardener and I set up the front yard, after the awful white rock hardscape had been removed (to be used in someone’s French drain) thus: make a meandering “dry creek bed” of smooth, tumbled rocks (on landscape plastic) from the downspout to the curb, to keep the roof runoff from eroding the foundation and look good as a garden feature. Then, place the bare-root roses around the yard, lay the drip-lines and emitters, plant the roses, set up the weed cloth, add the gorilla hair. MUCH less water usage, and fewer things to annoy the roses. I’m planning on doing something similar once I have a more cooperative and knowledgeable gardener.

    For any deep stairing, I’d experiment with a tall and a short person to get the optimal sizing. It’s not just a visual feature, you know.

    I love water features and ponds: I just don’t want to be injured by them or their approaches. With the dog’s floating steps, and a couple of the exhibits at this year’s SF F&G show, any tottery person or klutzcould do themselves an injury and the homeowner a sizeable chunk of insurance payoff/civil suit.

    I liked the “eye candy” but would have liked to see more vertical garden on that structure. I liked the idea of a goal-minded path, but the one they showed didn’t wow me.

    Barefoot in the sand: see barefoot in gravel. For me, sand like that sucks my feet in and makes me very ungainly in trying to walk in it. My feet slip sideways, making me feel as if I will turn an ankle. Not for me, thanks. The driveway transformation was orderly, and a bit of wild might have been nice there. The grassy path, and the path of grass? Enh.

    As to the walled garden with the stamped concrete path, my choices might have been different. Thicker aged-coral-colored adobe walls or a 3′ fence of it, a less-orderly paving, solar-powered path lights, water-thrifty scented plants for day and night, a Moorish fountain–some of the elements I’d use here. The last comes from a childhood spent in San Diego’s Balboa Park’s museum corridor, with its Moorish rose garden and a subsequent love of Moorish architecture.

    The grass-circle path: I agree with what others have said about maintenance. Let’s see, soft grass, sharp shale, and I’ll bet short-legged me can’t easily make it from one circle to the next in my usual regular walking pattern. As to the bamboo, most of the bamboo I’ve encountered (in CA) has not been the clumping type, and should NOT have been put in the ground. I’d love a wall of black bamboo, but it’s too pricy for me. Next!

    Yes to raised beds, no to the gravel. Herbs, baby tears, soft mulch (gorilla hair and its ilk)–nicer on the feet. If I’m meditating, I can easily trip over the rectangular stone that rises a little above the gravel. Then there’s that gravel thing again. Must be cheap.

    I like the curving through green and the native wood fence, for completely different reasons. In my Santa Cruz home, my gardener went down to the mouth of the San Lorenzo River (maybe a creek by east-of-the-Sierras’ terms, save that it flows to the sea) and picked up flotsam logs of trees washed out to sea, or washed up from the bay, for building a sturdy arch (reminded me of an entrance to the Paris Métro) and pergola. Loved them. Underneath the Paris Métro and the metal ogee arches were heart-shaped slate steps, which I had hoped to continue through the Back 49, once the center ground had been tilled and seeded with low-growing herbs and ground covers. Soft under (bare) foot was desired, but the look of those slate “pavers” would set that off, with the old Golden Delicious tree in the (off) center. I could have had a labyrinth there…maybe the current owners (who liked what I’d done) will do that.

    #28, the bridge for seasonal runoff garden–don’t want to walk there at all. Any of the paths that were small poky bits with large flat things as “bridges” were better for viewing than for walking.

    Now we get into the gardens I’m happier with. The rock border in #31 is fine, I’d still want something other than gravel, and I’d like a greater range of greens or foliage.

    I prefer the kitchen garden paths to the next Mediterranean setup–I really fell for knotwork and other medieval style gardens in my 20s, but have yet to have the yard where they’d work. The idea of a chamomile or moss turf bench truly appealed–one sees them in books of hours and paintings of the period.

    The patio entry in #35 is exactly what I’ve been talking about–mulch between the pavers, no sharp bits around. I also happen to like the plants in that garden. I adore the hidden path in the next garden! The storybook setting, magical space, keyhole vegetable garden, and the last one, the thyme travel labyrinth (another feature not for my current yard, blast it!)–I’d be visiting those a lot. The easy-care front yard should perhaps have raked gravel (which lets it out of the easy-care category), or non-lawn ground covers of different heights, greens, and growth patterns, in order to please me. Those things you neither mow or prune.

    My rambling slant I shan’t prolong,
    (sing rickety-tickety-tin)
    My rambling slant I shan’t prolong
    And if this comment is much too long,
    You’ve yourselves to blame if it’s too long
    You should never have let me begin, begin,
    You should never have let me begin!

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