How many times have we laid down something perfect in our gardens, only to have it change character over time? I mean, we can choose among a billion subjects, really, Trees grow, flowers and perennials double yearly, even ground covers, unless tended, can overrun the areas we had chosen for them to “accent” rather than to “overwhelm”, lol. The garden is an evolving area and we are smart to act as proactively as possible in an attempt to maintain an iota of control.
Paths are totally susceptible to this dilemma. How many times have we seen them wash out from heavy rains or to become distorted from their original shapes, losing their definition and becoming nearly indistinguishable from the garden itself. There are abundant example of paths which are actually no longer paths but more resemble “remnants” of paths. Some of the problem with this lies in maintenance, of course. Obviously, simply everything in our gardens needs at least some attention. But I can safely aver that paths themselves, if constructed correctly, can last for eons (relatively speaking) without much ado, freeing us up for more worthwhile and less irritating maintenance needs – like serving our plants, shrubs, tress and artsy constructions without interference from yet another source.
In the first place, the very best and most durable paths have edging. This edging will serve more than one purpose but one of the primary ones is to retain the composition of the material making up the path within its designed borders. Now, we achieve this by using good quality stakes to hold the edging in place. This factors into any edging material, by the way. A good stake stays put, simply said, and we need to make sure we couple that solid stake to a durable edging material. Naturally, how we fasten the stake matters. I personally believe in screws.
In my experience, frankly nothing at all beats plastic edging. Flexible, yet strong, it’s durability and its variable sizing makes it perfect for maintaining product integrity as well as for keeping such thing as Rhizomes out from under and travelling into the path – or worse – crossing it and growing somewhere else. I always excavate 3-5 inches out for my pathways and then fill with whatever product I want for the garden. At that time, I make my edges secure while I still have an excavated level to swing a hammer or use a drill to screw my stakes into secure positions, holding up the edges. At that time, I try and secure the curves of the path in a universal way, by using a stick of whatever width I am planning on making the path, laying it between the edges and setting all my stakes at exactly that width. This never fails, naturally enough, in that we secure a perfect dimensional width throughout the entire pathway’s length. Something as mind-numbingly simple as a stick cut the right length can make all the difference in the world between an “eyeballed”, casually designed pathway and that of a true professional and, in the end, there is nothing so gorgeous as a well-designed and perfectly-made path.
The satisfaction, of course, comes with the garden’s own products, but we should never underestimate the sense of perfection and of completion which having a wonderful garden pathway can give. Making them the right way saves time and trouble later.