By Christina VanGinkel
Building a garden walkway can be as simple as trimming a path, and laying down a few found stones, to as comprehensive a project as drawing up blueprints with details of every plant, pot, and stone's placement. No matter which path you take, be it a finely detailed project from start to finish, or something you throw together one weekend when you have a few spare hours, a garden walkway should be a way for you or others to stroll into the garden, to enjoy without disturbing the beauty around.
In order for you to build it, you must first know what you want it to be. Consider if you want the walkway to be a feature all in its own glory, or if you want it to meld so seamlessly into the surrounding landscape, that it nearly does not exist. Consider next what materials you want to use to create it. This will in part be determined by the answer to the previous thought. For example, I have been witness to a walkway made of marble that was elegant enough to grace the most fastidious house, and there was no denying the beauty of it even though the flowers and plants along it were beautiful on their own, but the walkway was the shining glory of the space. Another garden I was privileged enough to enter, had a walkway made of recycled tree slabs. The walkway was defined, yet melded so perfectly with the plants that except for defining the way to walk through the garden, it did not stick out; it was more of a compliment to the space than anything was.
Where the walkway leads must also be taken into consideration. If your garden already holds some surprises, say a waterfall, a Koi pond, a statue, or a bench, consider how you could lead the path to these features, to bring out their enjoyment to the best of the garden's capability. A walkway that winds its way around, leading to a main feature is a good plan, one that bypasses these other features, or just cuts straight through to nowhere in particular, is not taking full advantage of the space.
If your garden has disadvantages, such as being on a steep slope, or having been built near an unsightly feature (a neighbor's old, tattered fence), a walkway can be the perfect opportunity to address these problems. A slope can be corrected with a walkway that winds back and forth, taking some of the edge off the overall slope, or it could be put in so that it winds away from the unsightly object, drawing the visitor's eye away from the negative.
Whichever reason you choose to put in a walkway, whatever materials you choose to build it from, wherever you let it wander too, all of these choices will ultimately be a reflection of how you perceive the garden itself. In addition, whether it ends up elegant, simple, or country, it will make it accessible, and that after all is the greatest thing about any garden walkway.