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One Path to a Beautiful Garden


Take a walk around your yard, back to your vegetable or flower garden, and ask yourself if the garden feels connected, visually, to your house.

Now, before you are distracted by lush foliage and splashes of flower color, is a good time to assess such unadorned essentials of a landscape. If some connection is lacking, it can be provided, visually and physically, with a path.

The path itself can be very much part of the whole design of your yard. For instance, brick paving might lend itself to a formal garden, wood chips to an informal one. A formal air is also something that comes from straight paths. Curved paths, which are informal, are no less suitable for tying together a landscape.

Whether formal or informal, any garden needs to be balanced around the axis created by a path. One way to achieve balance in a formal setting is with a mirror-image planting on either side of the path. In the informal garden, there's no need to match plants on either side of the path, but balance the total visual impact. Take into account plant sizes, shapes, colors and textures. For example, a large clump of shrubs could be balanced by an expanse of lawn, some large rocks or a single large tree.

Note also how a straight path leads you along quickly. The smooth curves of an informal path tend to slow you down in walking or viewing. Not that you have to be hurried along a straight path, because wide paths also invite slower strolls. An abrupt jog in a path can be used to cause hesitation, an opportunity to glimpse a particularly beautiful flower or an otherwise unnoticed stone carving. The intersection of two paths likewise creates a point of reflection.

You might want something prominent--perhaps a sundial underplanted with bright flowers, or a garden bench--at the end of a path. If you can see the end of the path, have something there worth seeing or going to. An informal path, on the other hand, might curve out of sight, drawing along footsteps or imagination. The sound of unseen water is a good lure.

It is especially nice when bad weather sometimes prevents going outside, to be able to look out a window and not only enjoy the landscape, but feel part of it. A well-placed path can do this. Such a path also provides firm, dry ground on which to step out to the garden to drop the first seeds of the season into warm ground.

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