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Paths and Border Planting

Paths and Border PlantingIt is hardly possible to have a garden without paths which tie the garden to the house. They may lead us to the friendly doors of the cottage, but they may also guide us through a thousand wonders to a sheltered nook where a bower of sweet-scented flowers and roses awaits our coming.

Garden paths are capable of great variety of treatment; they may be laid in several materials, and by their presence, both utilitarian and artistic ends may be compassed. The most common fault with designers is the formation of too many walks, a style of arrangement which is particularly objectionable in small gardens. An artificially constructed pathway is rarely in itself a beautiful object, though it may often appear so owing to the nature of its surroundings. For this reason a walk should generally be made to serve a useful purpose, rather than act as a mere foil to surroundings of a different type.

The walks nearest to the house will, in many cases, form part of a terrace scheme, and it is well that these should be made a distinctive feature. Stone flags look extremely well, much better, in fact, than cobbles, which are tiring to walk upon.

Dressed stone is expensive, but it is often possible to obtain suitable material at fairly cheap rates from sellers who have the disposal of old street pavements.

Terrace walks are necessarily both formal and artificial, and remarks as to natural levels have no application where they are concerned. A fair width is advisable, but care must be taken that the house itself is not dwarfed by an undue expanse of terracing. If different levels are attempted, steps should be employed to give access from one to the other; a sloping path is quite out of place in a terrace scheme.

I do not care for the practice of working in different coloured materials to form a mosaic; there should be sufficient variety, both of colour and form, in the living contents of the garden, without having to face the necessity for embellishments in stone and brick.

When contemplating any special features in the way of design, always consider whether it is possible to approach them conveniently by a suitable pathway. All the best views should be readily accessible without the necessity for traversing possibly wet lawns, or pushing through heavy undergrowth.

Garden paths leading to the flower garden must be broad and well made, as they will be in constant use for heavy traffic, carting manure, water barrows, etc. Cement paths are rarely recommended for the garden. The lesser frequented walks need not be so wide, and providing that they do not lead through highly cultivated portions, and are dry and well made, need not be kept scrupulously gravelled. A degree of wildness is quite in keeping with certain parts of the garden, though an ill-kept, weed-grown path is never permissible.

In constructing grass paths between rose beds, it is not uncommon to lay sod and pack it down firmly so that the roots come into direct contact with the fine, rich loose soil on which it is placed. Scatter over the surface of the sod a sprinkling of fine soil and spread this out with the back of the rake so as to fill in any spaces. Then sprinkle over the soil and sod a mixture of lawn grass seed, and finally roll the sod. All of this should be done in the spring.

The walks which traverse the wild garden, orchard and woodland, will destroy much of the charm of these sylvan retreats if they betray signs of too constant attention their surface smooth, the grass edges rigorously trimmed, and evidences of the line, shears and roller everywhere apparent. A prim pathway would be a sad eyesore on the ragged face of the hillside, the mountain track equally ridiculous winding among shaven lawns and glowing flower-beds. It is often necessary to effect a satisfactory transition between these two styles, and this can only be done by means of a well-marked boundary.

Either a broad hedge, a small gateway, or a short pergola may be depended upon in most instances to render the passage from one to the other free from incongruity. Two walks should never be seen running parallel to one another for any considerable distance; one or other is almost sure to appear needless. If the second path is a necessity, it should be screened from its fellow by suitable planting.

In the same way, the junction of two distinct garden paths should be so arranged that there is no reason to suppose that either one or the other is superfluous. Ideas on this and kindred matters relating to walks are worthy of study and imitation. He makes it a rule that in the case of two walks branching off from one another, each should take a decided outward turn, as though there were no possibility of their meeting again.

Brick paths need good drainage of from six to eight inches of stone or of cinders and about two inches of coarse sand. The foundation material should be packed down thoroughly with a heavy tamper or roller before the bricks are laid.

Garden paths which lead "nowhere" are usually a failure, and we can most of us recall the annoyance experienced after following a walk for some distance only to find that it ended in a cul-de-sac. If such arrangement be necessary, as it sometimes is, some compensating influence should always be provided at the end. A small summer-house, a curved seat and sundial, a well grown tree inviting rest and shade beneath its branches any of these will remove the pointless appearance.

On setting out the rock plants do not ball or crowd the roots, but place them on a downward slant and firm the soil tightly about them. Care should be taken not to bury the heart of the plant too deeply. The soil in these pockets will settle, and a top dressing of compact soil should be applied in the fall or during the growing season.

There are absolutely no rules regarding the formation of serpentine walks, unless they be those of a negative quality. Such walks are always permissible and often charming if they are made in deference to the natural form of the ground. Divergence from the straight line is necessary to avoid a group of trees, to skirt a piece of water, or to embrace some particular view, but not for the purpose of deceiving the visitor as to the extent of the property.

Twisted garden walks look very foolish in a place which obviously possesses straight boundaries, and however delightful it may be to lovers in the twilight to linger thus lovingly on their homeward way, the majority of us are merely annoyed by the mazelike contortions which the average "landscape gardener" sees fit to inflict upon us. So long as the curves are pleasing to the eye, there is no need to make them equal, rather the contrary; the great point to avoid is the creation of a hard line between two neighbouring bends.