The garden’s paths

I don’t mind a path through the garden that is lawn, any variation of leaf or wood mulch, gravel, and hardly mind areas of bare soil, though more than once a ruckus has been raised when clumps of mud are dropped onto the kitchen floor. Of course, it was my wife who dictated long ago that stone paths be laid through the garden.

The stone path is bordered by hostas, Japanese Forest grass and sweetbox.

Good design requires that paths be at least three, and preferably four feet or wider to accommodate two people side by side, but stone paths in this garden are generally one stone in width, and as narrow as a foot and a half, though most are likely to be a bit wider. The bluestone paths to the front and back doors (below) are wider, five feet in the front and three in back, but in the garden the intended purpose of paths is only to keep me out of the mud. Nothing more, and since visitors are infrequent there is no reason to construct paths wider than necessary.

The bluestone path leads past Ostrich fern, hostas, and pieris to the rear deck.

I whine loudly, and often, that my wife insists that foliage not obstruct the narrow paths. She has butchered too many of the garden’s inhabitants, most recently a spiny leafed mahonia that leaned over the stone path that parallels the left side of the house. Admittedly, passing by the mahonia could be hazardous, but I advised that it would be better if she did not come this way around the house. It is not an unreasonable request, I think, but now the mahonia is unsightly.

The wide path below the stone retaining wall for the koi pond drains overflow from the pond as well as from the upper garden.

Unfortunately, my wife’s career leaves her at home through most of the summer, and without proper supervision I cringe when I return home each evening to see ferns and hosta leaves in the garbage. My constant critiques have, I think, improved her pruning so that occasionally I cannot tell where her day’s work has been performed, but the thought of her prowling the garden with pruners in hand is unnerving.

A stone slab crosses this narrow creek, bordered by sweetbox, hostas, and Arborvitae fern (club moss).

I see no value in pruning stems or leaves that arch over the garden’s paths. I dislike straight lines or clean edges to any paving, and if I must walk around or push through rain soaked leaves, I don’t much care. Only a time or two have black snakes been encountered beneath large overhanging leaves of hostas, and though my wife discovered two mating just outside our basement door recently, once they were spooked both disappeared and have not been seen since. A couple harmless snakes are no good reason to carve up good plants.

Hostas, toad lily and periwinkle border stone steps that climb from one patio to another, crossing one of the garden’s ponds.

This spring I have noticed several areas where roots of a blackgum and various maples and tulip poplars have surfaced to cause path stones to wobble. I don’t worry about this for myself. The paths have always been uneven, and strolling the garden a person should be looking down at plants instead of gazing at clouds or looking to identify woodpeckers that are inevitably in nearby trees. Again, if there were more visitors, and happily there are few so that maintenance can slip on occasion, there might be a higher standard for the paths. But, mostly it’s just me, and if a few wobbly stones discourage my wife from being in the garden, well, I’ll somehow make do.

Peacock spike moss and hellebores border the shaded path.