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Using Stepping Stones In The Landscape

The depth of the stones can be adjusted by adding soil or sand

to the holes until the correct depth is reached.

Gardens can have many landscape features, but I think one of the most enchanting is a garden path. Although we all have walkways from driveways to the front door, and sidewalks that take us to specific locations in our yards, the garden paths that I particularly like are the decorative paths that might have a function by providing a pathway to a garden shed or to the vegetable garden, but the main purpose of the pathway is its use as a decorative feature in the overall garden design.

One of the easiest types of garden paths to create is a stepping stone path set into turf. All you need are some stepping stones, such as round, concrete ones, square, 18-inch cement pavers, flat, limestone slabs, or even rhubarb leaf stepping stones that you have created yourself out of concrete. Creating the path is as simple as placing the stepping stones on the grass, cutting around them with a sharp tool, lifting the stepping stones out of the way, removing the pieces of turf and setting the stepping stones into position.

The depth that the stepping stones are placed is important – position them too high and the mower will catch them as it passes over; plant them too deep and grass will grow over the stepping stones and water may collect on top of them in the spring or after a heavy rain. The depth of the stones can be adjusted by adding soil or sand to the holes until the correct depth is reached.

I think a stepping stone pathway looks best if it is slightly serpentine, that is, it has a curving, undulating line. As easy as this sounds, care must be taken because if the curves are too exaggerated, people walking the path will cut corners and not stay on the path – we are a lazy lot and like to go from point A to point B in the most direct way possible! To avoid this problem, mark a straight line and then ensure that one edge of the path you are creating is always touching or on that straight line.

A path, to look natural, must have a destination. It might be the vegetable garden or the garden shed, but it must appear to go somewhere. If there is no actual destination where you wish to make a path, you will have to create one. The destination might be as simple as a garden bench on a small pad, a bird bath at the edge of a flower border, or an existing wishing well already in the garden. Sometimes a pathway can create a bit of mystery by having it disappear around a bend or behind a grouping of shrubs or into a stand of trees along the perimeter of the garden. This technique gives both a destination to the path and a motivation for visitors to the garden to wander down the path to see what is “around the corner.”

Another method to add interest to a garden path is to have it pass under a vine-covered archway. Often a pathway to a vegetable garden which is located to the side of a landscape and separated from the rest of the yard by a hedge can lead through an opening in the hedge and the nearby shrubs can be trained to form a natural archway. If no hedge exists, a trellis can be used and Virginia creeper or some other permanent vine can be grown on it. The path would pass under the trellis and go into the vegetable garden.

A stepping stone path is not that difficult to make, can serve a useful purpose in a garden and can be a decorative element in the landscape. By following a few simple guidelines and using your imagination, you can create a stepping stone path which will enhance the beauty of your garden for years to come.

– Albert Parsons writes from Minnedosa, Manitoba

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