Garden Paths

July 29th, 2019 | 12 Comments »

Working on Timelines, the 3 km trail at Glen Villa that opened last weekend, started me thinking about trails and paths more generally, and particularly about the way the size, shape and the material a path is made of affect how we respond.

What a difference there is, for instance, between the effect of a winding path made of wood chips …


This photo shows a wood chip path at Holbrooke Gardens, an English garden specializing in informality.
This photo shows a wood chip path at Holbrooke Garden, a naturalistic garden in Devon.


… and a straight path that leads to a symmetrical façade.


The tightly laid stone path at Cottesbrooke, a Queen Anne house in Northamptonshire.
A tightly laid stone path leads to the Queen Anne façade of Cottesbrooke in Northamptonshire.


Scrolling through the thousands of photographs I’ve taken over the years in gardens around the world, I quickly realized that even paths made of the same material — stone, for instance — can create responses that differ considerably. A path made of straight-cut stones tightly laid suggests a higher level of formality than straight-cut stones laid in a more random pattern.


The sense of informality is heightened when the path is bordered by loosely planted flower beds.
The sense of informality is heightened when the path is bordered by loosely planted flower beds.


When the stones are shaped irregularly and edged with gravel, the effect changes again.

A rough stone path at Haseley Court
The clipped boxwood hedges at Haseley Court act almost like wings on a stage and the shade adds to the sense of mystery that this path suggests..

Paths are practical elements in a garden, minimizing the wear and tear that happens when people regularly follow the same route. While straight-cut stones that separate grass from a border create formality, they also suggest a practical approach to maintenance.


A long approach to a temple at P, a Capability Brown garden.
Borders edge grass on this long approach to a sculpture at the Royal Horticultural Society’s garden, Wisley.


Most stone paths are continuous but they don’t have to be. The round stepping stones below that direct your feet through this section of the garden at Rodmarton Manor lighten the formal design.


Rodmarton Manor
I like the way these round stepping stones combine with the round and square-edged shrubs on either side.


Not all paths work well. One I saw in a garden in France made me nervous. Was it safe to walk on the stones? Would they wobble or would I catch a heel in the gaps between the stones?


As I recall, a stream trickled over this stone path, making it even more treacherous.
As I recall, a stream trickled down this stone path, making it even more treacherous.


A path at England’s Bury Court is mounded to allow water to run off, making it dry quickly. But more interesting to me is the design of the path. It is a straight line that becomes a curve to echo the curve of a hedge nearby and the transition from one to the other doesn’t curve but turns at right angles. I can’t remember seeing something like this in any other garden. Have you?

This path at Bury Court is curved and straight. Notice how it is sloped to allow water to run off.
This path at Bury Court is made of local stone and echoes the stone used in the fence.


Stone paths can be expensive but not all are. And expense has little to do with beauty. What could be more gorgeous than this path made of stones set into moss?


Stones in the Japanese garden at Les Quatre Vents
Stones in the Japanese garden at Les Quatre Vents in Malbaie, Quebec.


Do you use paths in your garden? What material are they made of, and how did you determine the design?


Open Garden Day Success

July 22nd, 2019 | 18 Comments »
On Saturday July 20, over 300 people visited Glen Villa to view the garden and walk Timelines, the 3km trail that opened for the first time. The day was exhausting because of the heat and humidity but it was exhilarating to welcome so many people to the garden and to hear how much they enjoyed the experience. Many visitors commented on how well organized we were. For this, I have to thank the 24 volunteers who worked at the registration desk and at various spots around the garden. Of all the volunteers, I want


Wildflowers and Wild Life

July 14th, 2019 | 16 Comments »
Some wildflowers are called weeds... but often those 'weeds' have pretty flowers. Consider crown vetch, for instance. Its purple flowers are lovely from a distance and it is useful as a temporary ground cover to prevent erosion. But it's also a menace, in some cases covering and shading out native plants.  Chickweed, on the other hand, isn't a problem, although people who yearn for perfect lawns may disagree.   [caption id="attachment_7731" align="alignleft" width="2773"] It's called chickweed because chickens love to eat it. People can too, and its flowers are quite


Words on the Land

July 7th, 2019 | 8 Comments »
A picture is worth a thousand words, or so the old saying goes. But sometimes a word says all that needs to be said. Or perhaps, more than a thousand pictures can convey. Words label each section of Timelines, the 2.9 km trail that we are opening to the public for the first time on July 20, as a fund-raiser for the Massawippi Foundation. (You can buy your tickets by clicking here.) Words begin the journey at In Transit/En Route, where signs ask questions   [caption id="attachment_7711" align="alignleft" width="5184"] I deliberately


Introducing Mr. Albert Stumpson

July 3rd, 2019 | 6 Comments »
For many years a pine tree towered over an old house where a tenant farmer once lived.   [caption id="attachment_6230" align="alignleft" width="4000"] You can see the tall pine tree behind the house in this photo from 2009.[/caption]   In search of the sun, it gradually leaned farther and farther away from the house. Until one day, it fell.   [caption id="attachment_6221" align="alignleft" width="4316"] The screened porch on the farmhouse is the perfect place to sit on a summer's evening.[/caption]   When the branches were removed, my son-in-law noticed that the