On occasion, I regret that I have given little consideration to constructing proper paths through the garden. Not often, but when a wheelbarrow filled with small plants or compost must bump along over the narrow paths of irregular stones, I think that it would be so nice to have a smoothly paved surface of cut flagging, or even the concrete pavers that are perfectly serviceable, though not my material of choice.
There are two obvious problems with the stone paths as I see it, though I am certain that my wife would be happy to point out many more. The paths are only one stone wide in many places, and rarely are they wider than two and perhaps two and half feet. As pointed out earlier, this width is too narrow for a wheelbarrow or cart, and certainly it is not wide enough for two people walking side by side, which seems to be the standard that landscape architects use in recommending walkways to be a minimum of five feet in width.
Somewhat as evidence that I am not completely oblivious to proper garden construction, the walk to the front door is four feet at its narrowest point, and parts are six feet in width. This walk was constructed of the most distressed and pock marked Pennsylvania flagging that I could find at the time, so that its appearance was the furthest possible from the unblemished perfection of concrete. Later, small insets of brick and rectangles of interlocking concrete pavers in the shapes of koi and salamanders (I believe) were added, though unfortunately the identities of the beasts have been obscured by moss so that all are unrecognizable except the fish.
This front walk would be ideal for wheelbarrows if I found the need to cart materials to the front door. Perhaps, some day it will be used for access to deliver a refrigerator or some such appliance, but the expanse of paving goes mostly unused as nearly everyone who enters the house shortcuts into the always open garage. The hellebores and hostas planted alongside the walk are ignored, and the moss covered beasts are undisturbed except by the occasional salesman who resists the open garage.
Some parts of the stone paths have been constructed so that one stone leads to another that is closely fit into an uninterrupted surface, but other sections are one or two stones wide, with gaps between stones in the most informal of paths. These require some attention when walking to avoid tripping and falling into one of the many stickery or thorny evergreens that so conveniently line the paths. Even without losing ones balance, mahonias lurk to reach out across the path the snare the passersby, and here also the grade drops so that stones are roughly configured into steps that are all the more hazardous as the visitor must keep a watchful eye on both the step and the mahonia.
In fact, I’m happy to blame the insufficient paths on my wife, who insisted that paths of some sort be constructed rather than spreading wood chips, or heaven forbid, only bare soil. At a point I suggested gravel for the paths, but this was quickly overruled for some reason. The concern, whenever any alternative was suggested, was of course that these materials would be tracked into the house, though in retrospect I feel certain that my wife would agree that the stone paths have not stopped me from repeatedly dragging dirt into the house. It seems obvious that the act of gardening leads the gardener off the path more than occasionally, and only the most conscientious gardener will pay attention to properly clean boots and pants legs of soil.
By a long shot, I’m not that tidy gardener. I’m the one who is covered in mud. Even when I go out for a stroll I end up on hands and knees, and maybe rolling around in the dirt to get a closer look at a butterfly or bumblebee. Many times acquaintances have presumed that my mother wouldn’t let me play in the dirt when I was a kid, and this is how I compensate for a lost childhood. In fact, the opposite is the case, but the mess that’s dragged into the house is the same. Despite the stone paths.