Walkway sets tone for enjoying landscape

Amid the flowers, one needs a path

In The Garden


Diane Benitz took the path of least resistance when she designed her garden five years ago.

She simply walked a shady route that she knew sheM-Fd want to take, over and over and over again. And a friendly, neighborhood stone mason helped her translate that walk into big slabs of flagstone, sunken into the earth.

Then Benitz planted a lightand- airy array of hostas, azaleas, ferns, toad lilies, SolomonM-Fs seal, a Japanese maple and a tricolored beech tree in the center of her circular path. She bought a birdhouse from a local artist. Garagesale concrete M-y as statues and a bench M-y finished the look.

M-tI wanted to keep it as natural as possible,M-v Benitz says now, as she takes a visitor down her garden path in Glencoe, Mo. M-tWith gardens, itM-Fs kind of a spiritual thing, being close to nature, close to God.M-v

Pathways, indeed, can be the heart and soul of a garden.

Their installation gives direction to a space, defines its edges, leads the way to a focal point or simply makes access to all of the plantings much easier.

The materials used to create a path also lend a degree of personality to a garden M-y with gravel crunching underfoot or stone slabs giving a feel of solidity or wood reverberating with each footfall.

ThatM-Fs the way Randy Mardis likes it.

For 16 years, heM-Fs taught home landscape design as part of the evening and weekend classes at the Missouri Botanical Garden.

M-tBasically, what I tell my class members,M-v Mardis says, M-tis to use a rubber hose or thick rope to lay out the alignment of a path, because you can move it around and visually change things.

M-tI lean toward the naturalistic,M-v he adds, M-tas opposed to the direct route, which is what home builders do when they put in a sidewalk that is the shortest distance to the home.

M-tA natural-looking path has more appeal to people; itM-Fs more parklike and more interesting.M-v

Jim Massey of Belleville, Ill., took that park approach when he laid out a curving graveland- timber path to his favorite backyard spot.

Massey, a retired chemistry professor from Southwestern Illinois College, moved into his house 10 years ago, and some serious shrubbery already grew in the yard.

But he knew he wanted a bench in the back, M-tin the corner, where I could stop and sit back and enjoy the flowers.M-v These include peonies, astilbe, cardinal flowers and M-tlots of hostas that are just gorgeous and huge this year.M-v

At first, his pathway to the bench got a covering of mulch.

But the yard slanted down and away from the house. So Massey decided to stabilize it by replacing the mulch with timbers, as gently sloping stair steps, with gravel filling in.

Now the very comfortable path is a crunchy walk past edgings of fluffy, mature ornamental grasses.

M-tI really kind of like the big plants,M-v he says of his pathM-Fs companions, M-teven in the dead of winter.M-v

A route thatM-Fs anything but routine also is the choice of Rick and Joan Tod of Oakville, Mo.

Years ago, they cleared out part of their wooded and terraced back yard to make room for a wooden swing set for the kids.

But once their children had outgrown the swings, the Tods thought long and hard about a backyard redo.

In the end, Rick took apart the swing set some five years ago, and, instead of throwing it away, he M-trecycled it into a bridge, to make better use of the wood. We didnM-Ft want to level the yard by filling in with dirt,M-v he added. M-tWe felt that the way to use it was with a bridge to get from one side to the other.M-v

He put landscape fabric underneath, plus a layer of rock for a riverbed look.

And to beautify the sloping land to one side, they M-twent over to GrandmotherM-Fs house,M-v he says, M-tand brought back all those day lilies we used as ground cover.M-v

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