Paths not runways

Paths not Runways please.

 

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One of the main problems in small garden design is how to deal with paths. Paths by definition have to go somewhere, they need to be hard wearing and they need to be a certain width to be able to walk down comfortably. The problem arises as garden sizes shrink, the path becomes a much more visually dominant feature and as paths have to be practical they are often not pretty!

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So what do you do if like many garden you already have a path and you don’t want to go through the expense of changing it, but you don’t really like it much as it is rather ugly. Well luckily there are lots of ways to make the path appear less obvious, and it’s all about making your eye notice other things more.

Hide the Path in Plain Sight:

This garden for example, is typical of many small gardens. It has an attractive step up onto the lawned area, but the path really leads you eye straight down to the place where the bins are kept and the back gate. The owner has tried to create some interest by adding a birdbath, but at the moment the ‘runway’ beats the birdbath in terms of what you actually notice.

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To lessen the impact of the path and make the garden look more interesting you need to make something else much more interesting.

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Now the lawn is competing with the path – the lines of the lawn are saying ‘look this way instead’…but there is still not enough interest to make the birdbath the feature of the garden….but we have a cunning plan for that too!

 

The plants used have strong vertical lines, which pulls your eyes up from the ground. Low box hedges force your vision into the back corner – where the main garden feature is. The birdbath itself has been immersed in soft and floaty flowers, so on first glance, you can see something, but you have to look a little harder to see exactly what it is.

So, does the path still dominate?

Make an Entrance:

This garden clearly highlights the runway effect…but you still need to get to the shed. So how can you make the walk to the shed more interesting and the path less of an ugly feature?

 

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As we have said, you can’t hide the path, but you can hide the path by making it less obtrusive – it’s all about distraction. Here all the lines lead in the same direction, all the garden features reinforce the runway nature of the garden and this end up giving the impression that one should ‘look to the shed’. This is not a problem if the shed is a thing of beauty….but maybe the man-cave or her-hideaway is rather more practical than pretty!

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The first job is to lose part of the runway effect by reshaping the lawn and redefining the left hand border.

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Now, we tackle the runway, by making you look up. All the columns lift the eyeline above the path. The shed is partially hidden and the planting will sway in the wind. All of which creates a more interesting outlook, but the path is still pretty visible and pretty dominant.

To deal with this you need to make an entrance. Entrances frame the part of the view you want to highlight. By making the entrance spectacular – the path automatically becomes less obvious it also becomes more welcoming. It’s kind of like saying ‘step this way…and enjoy the journey’.

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Create a False Entrance:

If changing or re-siting the path is not an option, what can you do. A simple but cheap option is to create a false entrance.

The border alongside the garden can be planted with really vibrant eye catching colours- which helps to hide the ugly grey concrete paths and patios. Planters have been  dotted around the garden too, use the same planter to keep the whole design simple but chic.

This makeover uses plants from ‘Prairies’ as they are easy care, low maintenance and will tolerate drought.

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