The old saying of “it's not the destination; it's the journey” is usually made to refer to life in general; this saying also applies perfectly to garden design. According to the author of Home Outside: Creating the Landscape You Love (Taunton Press, 2009) landscape designer Julie Moir Messervy, garden paths not only shape one's journey through a garden, they also create the garden's sense of flow. She said that without flow, a garden property simply consists of a pattern of “unrelated spaces.” If you design in flow to the space, you get a sense of harmony.
There are truly unlimited ways you can approach designing your garden's pathways. Instinctively, many house builders create cramped and straight paths which hug a house. While this is good, in terms of economics and efficiency, for builders, it is not necessarily a good thing for the home's visitor. At the other extreme, there are many long windy campus paths that end up with paved shortcuts since students often don't have the time to enjoy the path's curving scenery as they dash off from one class to another. These two extremes show that there is no cookie-cutter solution and that each garden path must be designed with particular needs and situations in mind.
In order to find the right path for your property, Messervy suggests that you walk through your property repeatedly. Use different routes each time. Figure out parts you like and which circumstances create that favorable effect.
It is also very important to keep in mind that when you travel across your property, find places you can pause. Find out where these are and how your garden can optimize the moment or enhance the feeling. There are many directions you can go-meandering paths, curved garden ways, or straight lanes. The key is to pick the way which produces the effect you're looking for while making sure it is right for the situation. Each type of way has different effects and purposes. Straight paths are for connecting one space to another efficiently. These are best for production and work routes. Add colorful plants and stones to make these paths more interesting.
Curved paths are great for creating breathing room and drawing interest. This type of path is great for connecting one space to another while providing a sense of space. Draw attention by putting up a statue or some covered space. Meandering paths are made up of many curves. These are great for wandering and pausing. These impart a peaceful feel. You can draw more interest in meandering paths by planting a wide variety of plants.
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