Garden Paths and Walls

Paths have been described as a necessary evil. On the other hand the great Diarist, Pepys, had a great admiration for paths and lawns, and did not care for flower beds. To enjoy a garden – and that is what a garden is for -there must be paths, along which the wheelbarrow can trundle, for though the wheelbarrow is no thing of beauty, it is an absolute necessity at certain seasons of the year. There will be paths needed for the mower, from the tool-shed to the lawn, and of course, there is nothing like a good path for strolling down on a summer evening to introduce your friends and neighbours to the magnificent blooms that you have produced. The great thing to realize is that paths are necessary to get from one part of the garden to another, but to make the garden a mass of paths is a great mistake.

As a rule, houses are built with right-angles and it is very simple by extending the lines of the house walls, to arrange right-angled paths. Further paths may be necessary leading away to a lily pool or running through a rose garden. The place for the paths will soon be discovered, once the plan has been prepared, even though this be in rough. Having pegged out the beds and borders the paths must be made first, for you cannot use the barrow comfortably until the path is there. There is no need, however, to complete the whole path, providing you put in the foundations. You can always leave the surface dressing till ,v,e last. Ornamental paths and all main paths for egress I access, should be 1.2 m (4 ft) wide to allow two people walk abreast or to pass one another. Service paths as ley are called, which lead through to the rock garden or Uy pool need only be 600 mm (2 ft) wide and are usually winding’.

It is impossible to make a good path without excavation, for ample drainage must always be provided. Dig out the soil to a depth of 225 mm (9 in) in the case of light land and 300 mm (1 ft) in the case of heavy soil, throwing the top spit on to the border alongside, but carting the bottom spit away to another part of the garden where it may be used as a foundation for, say, a rock garden.

Next spread a 150 mm (6 in) layer of broken brickbats, coarse large stones, cinders, old iron, etc., in the bottom. If you use old tins, these should be beaten flat. It is upon this thick layer of material that a 100 mm (4 in) depth of coarse gravel should be placed. 1 m3 (1 cu yd) of this is necessary for each 10 m2 (9 sq yds) of path to be laid down. Over the coarse gravel should then be placed the 50 mm (2 in) of whatever surfacing material is used. It may be fine gravel. It may be cinders, or even tar macadam. See that the path is not dead level. There should be a camber of about 40 mm (1½ in) to the 1.2 (4 ft) walk, and about 20 mm (| in) to the 600 mm (2 ft) walk. Well roll each layer as it is spread into position and if the paths have to be made during a dry period, use plenty of water between each rolling. By doing this a really firm foundation is assured.

Gravel paths can be tarred over or covered with one of the more bituminous compounds. They are then easier to keep clean. I


Concrete Paths

A concrete path is clean and very durable. The soil should be removed to a depth of 50 mm (2 in) and a 50 mm (2 in) or so foundation of gravel or stone should be laid down. Strong pieces of wood 50 mm (2 in) in depth should then h* laid down alongside the edge of the path, with pegs drf in to keep this wood in position. These strips hold l. concrete up while the path is being made. On a clean stoij or wood floor, mix up the cement to a formula of 3 bucket of shingle, 2 buckets of sand and 1 bucket of cement. Mix the sand and cement first by turning them over and over 3 times. Then add the shingle, and repeat the process. Lastly add the water, and for the quantity mentioned not more than three-quarters of a 9-litre (2-gallons) bucket full will be required. Add this water gradually, turning all the time.

Water the surface where the concrete is to be laid. Do not put too much concrete down at a time, and level off by working a piece of wood forward over the surface. It is easy to do this if the two sides of the wood rest on the wooden edges of the path. Prevent the new concrete from drying out too quickly by covering the path when laid with damp sacks. One bag of cement, 0.07 m3 (2\ cu ft) of sand and 0.1 m3 (3f cu ft) of shingle will make enough concrete to lay a path down 600 mm (2 ft) wide, 50 mm (2 in) thick and 4.5 m (15 ft) long.


Crazy Paths

Some people prefer crazy paving or flag paths and these are quite suitable for a formal garden, and around a certain type of house. Do not, however, just lay the crazy paving or flag stones direct on to the soil. Make the necessary foundation as advised for the gravel path, but instead of using the gravel put 100 mm (4 in) of the original top fertile soil under the paving stones so that rock plants may be made to grow in between. If the soil is mixed with a certain , amount of sand better drainage is assured. Crazy paving and flag stones should be laid with a straight edge as this is the only way of ensuring that the surface is level and smooth. Unevenly laid stones may be dangerous. Do not I use cement between all the cracks. These cracks are much better furnished with alpine plants. If you must use cement, because you fear an awful lot of weeding, then leave cracks here and there for the plants, and the whole effect will b-far more natural.

Grass Paths

A grass path looks well, providing it is not worn dov.s the centre (as it so often is) or ruined at one end. SucJ paths are not hard wearing and are not at all suitable for harrowing on. Pay great attention to the drainage when , making grass paths and either lay down turves, packing all the joints with finely prepared soil mixed with a little grass seed, or sow the natural surface soil with a good lawn seed (preferably not containing perennial rye grass) at the rate of 105 g/m2 (3 oz per sq yd). If you sow a path down with grass seed you will not be able to use it for three months or so.

Brick Paths

Old bricks are quite suitable for making paths providing they are not the kind which crumble during frosty weather. It is possible with bricks to make an infinite number of patterns in the path, and a well patterned pathway adds to the interest of the garden, especially in the winter. A good foundation should be prepared as for the gravel path, and the bricks may be laid down lengthwise on cinders or sand. Some people prefer to lay them on a cement foundation, and then they lay a certain amount of cement between the points. To obtain the true cottage garden effect, no cement should be used between the bricks.

Edging the Paths

Grass paths need no special edging. The edging is done with a turf cutter once or twice a year if necessary, or the grass is cut back with a pair of long-handled shears. Crazy and flagstone paths do not need any edging either. Sometimes informal grass paths can be edged with crazy paving so as to obviate the need of using edging tools and to allow almost the whole of the grass path to be cut with the ordinary mower. In this case the ‘edging slabs’ should be “id with their straight edges along the side of the border. Pk paths need no raised edges, but sometimes bricks I used on end or at a slant of about 45 degrees as an edging to a cinder or gravel path.

One of the most satisfactory methods of edging a path fe by means of concrete. A narrow concrete edge need only be raised 50 mm (2 in) above the path level and it is \ difficult to run this in, in situ, between two boards 14 edgewise along the path. The concrete for this should K made with one part cement and three parts sand. To maks the concrete less obvious it is possible to paint the edging with a strong solution of iron sulphate crystals in water, and the edging will then turn a pleasing dull brown colour. The ‘paint’ can also be used for concrete paths to make them less glaring.


Here reference is made to garden walls – the type that can be used for growing plants between the bricks or stones, not ordinary brick walls that may divide one garden from another. Walls are sometimes necessary to act as retainers between two different levels of the garden and serving to hold the soil in place. Such a retaining wall has only one face. Terraces are often formed with retaining walls of this type. Walls are also sometimes used as low partitions between one part of the garden and another. Partition walls are double faced. These are far more uncommon on the whole than retaining walls.

Informal retaining walls can be made of limestone, sandstone, flints, bricks and large cobbles. It takes about 1 tonne of such material to build 3.5 m2 (4 sq yds) of wall ‘face’. Having obtained the necessary quantity of wall material, the soil should be piled to the desired shape. It should tilt backwards slightly at about 125 mm (1½ in) to each metre. A retaining wall, for instance, should have a slight tilt backwards of about 150 mm (6 in). Retaining walls are always built from the bottom upwards; each stone should be absolutely firm, and plenty of soil should be rammed in between the stones and behind them to keep them in place. Every now and then a piece of rockery stone should be allowed to go back well into the soil at the back so as to give strength to the whole structure. Here and there a little space should be left between the stones and the soil not rammed in too tightly, so that any excess moisture may drain through.

Most retaining walls are planted up with alpines, and nurserymen can provide flowering plants specially suited for the purpose. These include: Wallflowers, Pinks, Cen-tranthus, Antirrhinums, House Leeks (Sempervivums), Arabis, Aubrieta, Campanulas, Corydalis, Iberis semper-virens, Silene schajta, Alyssum saxatile, Erinus alpinus, Saponaria ocymoides, Sedums, Thymus nitida.

The planting can be done as the wall-making proceeds. Where plants cannot be obtained, the sowing of seeds is the alternative, and the secret of success is to mix the seeds into balls of soil first and then to press these into the cracks in between the stones. The top of a retaining wall is usually planted with dwarf shrubs or with bedding plants, such as wallflowers and forget-me-nots for the spring and antirrhinums or dwarf dahlias for the summer.

Division walls are made in a similar manner and can be extremely ornamental. They should always slope to the top so that the bottom is wider than the apex. The part between the two wall faces should be filled with good soil and there should be a space of 200 mm (8 in) at the top for the plantings of flowers such as antirrhinums, valerian, wallflowers and the like. Do not have the top of the wall set with pointed rocks that look like dragon’s teeth. The top of a divisional wall should always be flat.

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