The first and biggest decision in designing a garden path is deciding what you want your path to do. Paths can suggest that someone did walk lightly through your garden or they can be design statements all by themselves. Will your garden path be built for many people who wish to travel from beginning to end, or for just one or two to leisurely stroll along?
Let's find out what is best for your garden.
Decide if your garden is formal or informal. The formal garden is usually symmetrical, with hedges, concrete or masonry features and probably a concrete, paver or brick path. The formal garden path will be straight and wide, ending in a formal patio. The path will most likely be wide enough for at least two people to walk abreast. The formal garden path is part of the architecture of the garden.
Think informal. Most of us, if we have not hired a landscape architect or contractor, have an informal garden. The informal garden path will separate two garden rooms in the informal garden. Think of your path as a way to get you and your friends through your garden. The path forces visitors to walk where you want them to go.
Carefully decide how you want people to walk through your garden. Chances are your garden path will not be a straight line through your garden. It will wind and bend. The path will make people go at the speed you want them to go and end up where you want them to.
Use the proper materials. If you are designing a formal path, consider concrete, pavers or bricks. Often you can build your own path, but if it demands the skill of a mason, be sure to hire one.
Use natural materials for an informal path. If you have an informal garden with several rooms, several beds, garden art and whimsy, use flat rocks, pea gravel or even mulch for your path. Use flat rocks and plant creeping plants or steppables between them. If you use plant material that can be walked on, you can smell the thyme or pennyroyal between the rocks as you walk.
Make a path narrow if you want one or two people abreast and want them to walk slowly. A wide path will make people hurry on through.
A garden path adds a focal point to your garden. It defines your garden and allows people a great way to tour your garden the way you want it toured. Have fun designing your path. If you don't like your natural path with rocks or pea gravel, it is easy to change it whenever you wish. You can learn other excellent design ideas by taking some online classes in design.