The humble garden path is a tried and tested way to navigate around your garden. A clearly demarcated line showing you exactly where to go, to prevent anyone accidentally strolling off into your prized flowerbeds or, heaven forbid, getting lost in the furthest reaches of your outdoor space.
If, like us, you enjoy breathing life and character into each and every part of your garden, you may be looking for garden path inspiration. We’ve rounded up 17 tips to help you put your creativity and design flair firmly on show, whilst still staying true to the functional requirements of an effective path.
So, without further ado –
1. Use layers for texturing
Paths don’t have to nestle directly onto grass. By adding a layer between the path and your lawn, you can create subtle visual textures to make your outside space pop. In the picture above grey shingle is used to achieve this, but your options are fairly limitless. Woodchip could work, for example. Or maybe even mixed pebbles.
Not only does this technique add visual interest, but the tangible separation between lawn and path may even provide a subliminal reminder not to walk on the grass.
2. Combine techniques for exciting paths
Building on the idea above, another way to introduce visual interest to your path is to have stepping stones rather than a continuous path. Then you can fill the gaps between the slabs with another material, including the examples introduced previously.
The idea here is to play with the aesthetics of your path, mixing different shapes, sizes, and textures. Done correctly, this is a great way to express your creative flair whilst simultaneously making your unique path stand out from others.
3. Use height
The paths in our previous two suggestions are at ground level which, while common, isn’t the only way to do things. The garden above shows one way that height can be used to elevate paths, giving people a subtle feeling of being above the rest of the garden. Walking along a path that’s raised slightly higher than the surrounding foliage gives a sense of separation, and changes the feel of walking through the space.
Note that there are three separate levels in the picture above: the stones on the left are at ground level, those on the right are raised by reflective silver plinths, and the two wooden decks at the top are slightly higher. This demonstrates how multiple levels can be used to good effect.
4. Paths don’t have to be even
So far we’ve seen a lot of squares and rectangles, or neatly cordoned-off lines. But it doesn’t have to be this way. In the image above we see how slabs of varying sizes and geometric shapes can be used to create an eye-catching yet still-practical pathway in your garden.
This style is great for creating or contributing to a whimsical, happy-go-lucky space. One that reflects your creativity and spark, and letting you play with themes beyond those that people might expect. It also showcases how grass and path can be merged, rather than being kept separate as we’ve seen before.
5. Go crazy
In decades past, crazy paving was the thing to have in your garden. For some reason, uneven pieces of stone arranged into a pattern that mostly fit together was regarded as the peak of design. And while we can’t quite muster up those levels of enthusiasm, we will acknowledge that it can look pretty good.
If you’ve been a little bit inspired by some aspects of the past few ideas, this is a great way to combine them into one. You’ve got the uneven geometric shapes to smash any expectation of uniformity, the aesthetic appeal of the stone, and the clear visual distinction between path and lawn.
6. Think outside the box with materials
You’re not limited to stone, either. While most people would give stone as their answer of choice when asked what paths are made of, you’re free to think outside of this box. Here we can see how sections of aged wood – most likely railway sleepers – can be used to stunning effect on a garden path.
The moody wooden patterns play with the natural theme, and create harmony with surrounding plant life: great for creating feelings of unity between aspects of your garden which, while pretty, stone can sometimes fail to achieve.
A sprinkling of grey stone between the sleepers gives the feet somewhere to land, meaning you don’t have to worry too much about rolling your ankle when walking along your path – definitely something to keep in mind if using uneven surfaces!
7. Think further outside the box
Slabs, loose stone, and wood are great, sure. But if you want something truly outside the box, then let your mind run wild. This gardener has used giant marble feet to mark out their path – truly innovative, and definitely not something we’ve seen before.
The point we’re trying to make here is that the only thing limiting your path design is your creativity (and, realistically, making sure it’s actually possible to walk on it).
If you’ve got kids, a playful path like this will bring a guaranteed smile to their face. And if not, why not flex your creative muscles and do it anyway. We’d love to know what ideas you come up with.
8. Let there be light!
If you’re investing time and energy into a new path for your garden, it’s likely you enjoy spending time out there. With this in mind, why not incorporate garden lighting alongside your path? This way the routes through your garden are just as navigable after sunset as during the day – great if they lead the way to a firepit, a relaxation area, or even a garden bar!
Many garden lights are solar-powered, too, meaning that you don’t need to worry about running a power supply from your house or outbuilding to each individual light. Solar can generate power even while cloudy and the lights usually have fairly low energy requirements, making it easy to keep things illuminated night after night.
9. Let there be more light!
If you do have the means to run a power supply to your lighting, why not take a step up and install uplights along the length of your path? This is such a gentle and attractive way of lighting up a space, whilst also detracting less from the surrounding plants.
Make sure you get uplights designed for outdoor use, otherwise they’re prone to get filled with water and, over time, moss – neither of which are particularly good for the lights!
10. Use the path to bisect spaces
The most obvious purpose of a path is to get you from A to B by providing a specially-designed walkway that’s easy to follow. They can also be used to great effect in garden design, which some of the ideas we’ve seen so far have alluded to. This picture, showing a render of a garden from above, shows how you can use a path to cut a space in two, providing real strong visual distinction between the different areas of your garden.
If you consider yourself to be a modernist, using a path in this way is a great way to play with lines and accentuate your space.
11. Grow hedges
Harking back to our previous suggestion about playing with height by raising some areas of your path, this idea plays with height in another way. By lining your path with raised hedges, you create visual and physical cordons between your path and the surrounding garden. This is great if the plants behind the hedge are delicate and you want to keep them well away from accidental tramplings, but also just a great way to visually delineate the different parts of your space.
Be aware that hedges require fairly frequent maintenance to keep them looking nice and neat, so you may want to think twice about this idea if you’re not so keen on the manual labour aspects of gardening.
12. Use smaller plants for borders
As well as hedges, which can hardly be called subtle, you can use smaller and more discrete plants to mark the border between path and lawn. The tiny shrubs in this picture do a fantastic job of highlighting the boundary between the two, while not being so eye-catching that they distract attention away from other areas of the garden.
There’s a bonus suggestion here, too. In the top right you can see a toadstool table with an upturned log chair: a great way to liven up paths is to have ornaments placed alongside them, with this being a perfect example.
13. Let things grow over slightly
A lot of the ideas we’ve seen so far feature pristine lines either side of a path which, while we agree it looks neat and tidy, is far from the only way to do things. Take a look at the garden above, for example. The buddleia bushes are proudly overflowing onto the path, blurring the line between man and nature. It’s a subtle but interesting distinction, and one that can be used to great effect when done right.
Some of you may look at the image above and be offended by the mere suggestion that you let your garden get into such a state. If this is you, we apologise.
14. Let things grow over a lot
If you’re of the opinion that paths are purely practical, a means from moving around your garden rather than a design element, then why not focus completely on the nearby growth?
This path is purely practical, and the eye is drawn almost exclusively to the bright blooms that surround it. The pinks, whites, purples, and oranges dance around your field of vision, while the humble brown path surface demands nothing more from you than to walk along it. A great reminder of the spectrum of visual importance on which paths exist in your garden.
15. Let things grow over in a different way
If you’ve got time and you’re feeling ambitious, why not try to cover your path with plants, creating a lovely little grotto walkway. This garden uses dedicated structures to encourage creeping plants to grow over the top of the path, and lines the walkway with a medley of colourful flowers to bring the whole visual ensemble to light.
It’s hard to deny that walking along this path would be magical, and if you’ve got the time and space, what better way to use them!
16. Use colour
The previous suggestion used purples, yellows, and a variety of other colours to complement the majority of greens in the overall palette. But for a truly striking pathway, why not scrap green completely by prioritising plants that boast other colours?
While this may be tricky depending on the plants available in the region you live in, it’s worth considering. Buddleia, for example, grows in vibrant pinks and purples which, used alongside a path, would be incredibly captivating.
17. Keep things clean
Cleaning may be a little more boring than the previous tips in this guide, but it’s a very important way of keeping your path looking as fabulous as possible. Taking a pressure washer to your walkway every once in a while will forcefully dislodge any stubborn dirt, and will bring the surface back to its former glory.
With the subtle accumulation of dirt over time it can be easy to forget just how clean and crisp your path looked, so while the idea of cleaning may not fill you with joy, trust us and give it a go. Also, pressure washers are way more fun than they look – who knows, you may end up enjoying it!
Walk this way!
There you have it: 17 pieces of inspiration to get your creative juices flowing and, hopefully, to point you toward your perfect path. Whatever your walkway philosophy there’s something in this guide for you, from dazzling paths designed to be the centre of attention, to subtle paths intended to do nothing more than get you from A to B.
We hope the guide has been useful, and we wish you the best in your garden endeavours!