Most landscapes have walkways of one sort or another. It is a vehicle by which people are able to get from one place to another. Anyone who has even bought a pair of shoes or a car knows that there are vehicles of all different sorts. This particularly long and thin property has been owned by my clients for a good many years. They decided to build a new house on the street side of the property, the landscape of which has been an ongoing project for me since last fall. This informal stone walkway to the barn would remain intact.
My client asked that a matching stone walk be installed from the driveway, and connect with the existing walk in the back. It was not so hard to find flagstone that would match. Matching the rustic pattern took some attention to detail. A walkway dead center in a corridor space makes the corridor visually stronger.
The distance from the garage to the lot line was not not very wide. This landscape would always look like a corridor. In a space that has a very strong personality to start, it makes more sense to amplify rather than transform that personality. We placed that stone walk dead center in the space, and constructed it at a generous four foot width. The soil here is very heavy clay-it never gives up its water. You can see that this corridor has been graded as a swale, the idea being to drain the water away from the landscape beds.
This walkway will get my client, her garden cart, and her tractor to the back yard. It will also serve as a drainage ditch. The gardens, espaliers and arborvitae will to tolerate too much water. Better that the water lurk beneath the walk, where it can drain away over time. This particular walk has a bed of gravel and sand underneath it. Sand has the properly of settling instantly. Implacably. It will not move. Setting the walk slightly high is important. No one wants standing water, or soil washing onto their walkway.
Between the flagstones-slag sand. It settles quickly, and hardens up. But truly, we selected this material as it matched the existing walk. The idea is that eventually, given enough time and weathering, there will be no discernable difference between the original walk and the new one. The walk will look all of a piece.
Once the walk was laid, we installed aluminum edger strip all around. In this instance, the order of events is good. The idea was to make the walk rustic. We did not cut any stones. The edger installed after the walk will keep the flagstone where it needs to be. This walk is not just for foot traffic. There is a tractor that will travel this walk.
The walk from the front yard, and the walk from the terrace meet in a big lazy Y. Barely visible in this picture, a drain set where the two walks come together will direct rain water into the natural clay walled pond. Great care has been taken to direct the rain water from the street, the landscape beds, and the roof into the pond. The rear yard will be seeded with a sun/shade grass mix, and covered in straw to help retain moisture during the germination period. We covered the big storm drain to the right of the walk with fine netting-to keep the frogs out! Given the prediction of a mild August to come, we will seed this tomorrow, rather than waiting until the end of August.
A walkway is a means by which to get from one place to another, yes. But it can also be a beautiful landscape feature. It can help to organize a landscape. It can be built over a swale designed to drain water away. It can be strong enough to provide a roadway for a tractor. Or slight enough for occasional foot traffic. I can be formally designed, or rough and ready. I can provide a beautiful edge to a garden. The materials and construction style chosen can say much about the personality of the place, and the eye of the gardener. It can be narrow in those places to pass by, and wider in those places designed to invite a visitor to linger. A walk can be brisk, or slow. A great walk is a way to make a great garden better.
Strictly speaking, walkways are about transportation. The washing machine that needs to get to the laundery room, the guests for a dinner party, hauling soil in a wheelbarrow to a bed in the garden-all kinds of activities rely on the walkway.
This does not mean that the utilitarian route shouldn’t be scenic. This generously sized slate walk has some beautiful curves; a curved walk invites lingering and looking. The walk is plenty wide enough at the drive to swing the car doors open, and drop off multiple guests.
This is one of my favorite walkways. I managed to persuade my clients to install a wood walk; they were dubious both about its serviceability, and its longevity. However, it used to be that all roads were made out of wood; they fell for this. 4″ by 4″ pressure treated lumber, in 8′ lengths, were routed to look like bricks. The boards were laid over a 8″ deep gravel base. After 6 months exposure to the weather, I was able to stain it black. It has been in place a good many years now. The new owners of the house re-stain it every few years. The ends of the taxus hedges have fence posts of the same material, capped in rusty steel ball finials.
Not all walkways need to be a hard surface; grass makes a beautiful walk. These gravel troughs signal the change from the lawn, to a lawn walk. The length of the gravel trough gives visitors plenty of time to contemplate the massive door, and what might lie behind it.
Some walkways belong to a terrace, or a series of terraces. The identical material and pattern gives visual weight and grace to this walk between terraces. The aged cut limestone tiles, punctuated with limestone dots, is a striking way to get from here to there.
Some walkways are more about defining a view, than transportation. I can attest to the fact that having pushed a wheelbarrow along this path countless times, I would much rather look at it, than use it. The simple stepping stones describe a view without intruding on it.
Some are fortunate to own homes where the old or original materials still exist. This house built in the 1920’s was graced with with a walk of old granite setts. As they had heaved about with the frost, and were a little dicey to walk on in the winter, the entire walk was taken up and reset. This was a bit of maintenance that counted for much; this old walk softens the newness of the new landscape.
This steel and concrete walk is sharply contemporary. The softly trimmed hedges of blue arctic willow are a great contrast. There are so many good ways to get somewhere, are there not?
In my opinion, the walkway to the pearly gates looks pretty much like this.