Paths in the landscape should do more than just be a way of getting from here to there. In the landscaped garden the path is really part of the journey. Well-designed paths attract the eye with a sense of movement, drawing visitors with a beckoning call that tempt us to venture further.
Besides the practical purpose of providing a way of tip-toeing through the tulips, they also should contribute a structure to the well landscaped garden.
The feeling and mood a pathway can create can vary with the choice of material, the line the path takes through the landscape and the surrounding plantings.
Paths usually begin as a practical assessment of a situation that begs for something more than just a plain lawn. Perhaps the pathway gets soggy and muddy during rainy periods. Perhaps the pathway is used to such an extent that it is hard to keep grass flourishing after the soil has been compacted.
That being said, planning the pathway should be more about aesthetics instead of being purely functional. Efficiency of the trip, trying to save a second or two, is not the prime motivating factors when considering a landscape garden path. It is the journey, not the mileage involved that is most important.
Planning a path should involve a destination, something worth the effort of making the path more than just a journey to nowhere. That means it should have a focal point of sorts. A destination! This might be nothing more than a bird bath or a cherished bench at the end of the walk.
In landscaping, the fastest way from one point to the next, is not necessarily a good thing. A straight line shot from point A to point B might be good for car trips, but in the garden, think curves and twists— give the wanderer a reason to stop and inspect a local bloom.
Think mystery. If your landscape garden has the space, allow your path to twist around so the visitor is surprised at what lies around the corner.
This is not to say that straight paths are all wrong. In more formal settings, the straight path creates a sense of balance between what lies on each side.
Materials used in constructing a path will set the tone for the entire walkway experience. There's a variety of materials that can be used. Shredded bark and pine needles create a soft informal path. Brick makes for a more formal pathway. Stone offers a plethora of different options, from crushed gravel, to large flag stones woven together.
Imagination in making a material selection is key. Availability is another consideration. Crushed sea shells might make sense to someone living in coastal areas, but may be more difficult to obtain at a mountain oasis.
Using the right materials for the feeling you're trying to create should add charm to your total landscaped garden as well as a safe way to get from here to there.