Garden Path Ideas – Make Intentional Obstacles

pathway in the garden

There are probably thousands of garden path ideas as a homeowner you could use to make the walk through your garden a unique and enjoyable experience.

You’ll often hear of “making things flow” but have you ever heard of someone suggesting to – making obstacles intentionally?

Let’s examine some reasons why

Intentional Garden Obstacles

Sometimes there may be important reasons for making a garden pathways curve even on flat ground where no natural obstacles exist. In that case obstacles must be provided.

Put trees or shrubs or both along the line of direct progress between the two points to be connected, and make the path go around them.

But when doing this, study the whole situation carefully in order to introduce planting that will seem natural and always to have been there.

An arrangement of a single tree backed or accompanied by 4 or 5 shrubs. When planted directly in the straight course with one or two more trees farther on and a group of shrubs opposite to prevent the path from going too far along the new direction once the obstacle is cleared, will do the work naturally and simply.

Unwarranted Interruption

Free and uninterrupted progress between the points which a straight path connects is, however, essential.

In your garden path designs, put sundials, bird-baths, fountains, pieces of sculpture or clumps of plant material in the middle of a straight path anywhere along its length is poor design and therefore wrong.

Such features belong only at its termination or, if midway, at one side where, though they may invite a pause, they do not suggest an interruption.

Pathway Proportions

The width of a garden walkway should be sufficient for free use, and may be as much more, within reason, as space allows.

Straight paths appear narrower than they are because of perspective. A minimum width of 4 ft. is therefore usual except for slight footpaths such as sometimes connect two entrances of a house.

Between a double border of flowers greater width is desirable, the maximum depending largely upon the path’s length.


A good rule is to start garden pathways at 4 ft. wide for a 50 ft. length and increase the width by 6 in. for every 50 ft. in length. (That is, of course, the length of the entire path.)

Curving paths do not need to be made wider the longer they are, since only a short distance is ever seen from any one point. However, 4 ft. remains the minimum, this being requisite for two persons to walk abreast.

I like to make sure any of my garden walkways allow me to push a wheelbarrow through, as the landscape garden always needs some attention.

Image: andydr

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{ 1 comment… read it below or add one }

tobeamiss July 21, 2012 at 11:27 am

thank you for this great rule of thumb 🙂