Pathways might seem insignificant but they are an important part of the yard. They lead people or people’s eyes to important parts of the yard: front doors, gardens, sitting areas etc. Landscape plans have to take into account that people with a purpose walk, from point A to B in a straight line as seen in public landscapes where people take shortcuts making paths across the lawns. Pathways in recreational areas are more likely to be curved encouraging people to explore and go further to find out what is around the corner.
Paths in front yards lead to the door. For the most part they are narrow, making people walk single file and in a straight line. Wider sidewalks are more inviting, cost more and take longer to shovel in the winter. Cement sidewalks are the most common as they are readily available and easy to maintain. Decorative finishes add interest and this can be achieved with cement, paving stones or wood.
Shapes within the paths add to the mood and should blend with the shapes within the rest of the landscape. Small distinct particles in a pathway add excitement where directional lines with points encourage people to move faster.
If flowerbeds are part of the plan, make them at least 3 ft (.9m) wide. This allows for an easy transition between plants of different heights and is large enough area to hold the needed water. Narrow beds that often edge a walk way of fence either look sparse as it can only accommodate one row of plants or fall over the walk as too many plants fight for sunlight and nutrients.
Flowerbeds are used to add color to the yard which in turn draws the eye towards that area of the yard often making it a focal point. Flowerbeds can contain Annuals, perennials, bulbs or a mixture.
Annuals need to be planted yearly allowing the gardener to change the color or design. Expect annuals to flower soon after being planted and continuing until the first frost. Planting annuals each year is relatively inexpensive but the yearly cost adds up. Annuals usually flourish in 8-12 inches (20-30 cm) of top soil.
The initial cost of perennials can be high but once established they last for years. Most of these long lived plants bloom for a few weeks during the growing season. A large bed of perennials is always evolving. When properly planned there is something blooming from early spring until frost. Perennials grow bigger each year and many of them will need to be divided to keep them in check. While this takes time, it also provides more plants. The gardening community usually like to share plant pieces which keeps the cost down.
Bulbs corms etc. are divided into hardy and tender with the tender ones having to be dug up and stored in the fall. Hardy ones such as lilies and daffodils come back every spring. The spring bulbs add color first thing in the spring when color is lacking.
Take time to prepare the soil of a perennial bed as once established these beds will last for years. Large perennials have deep roots and should be planted in at least 18 inches (45 cm) of good top soil to make a lush garden. That being said, plant aggressive perennials in poor soil to help keep their growth under control.
Linda Tomlinson is a horticulturalist that lives near Rocky Mountain House. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org