Monday, January 14, 2008

Curving Your Pathway

Whether you build a path with flagstone, fieldstone, cobblestone or whatever other stones that can be used in a path, it is recommended to curve the path when possible. Curving paths look more natural and more pleasing to the eye. Now, you don't have to make it complicated and add twists and turns at every corner. A pathway shouldn't swerve just because you felt like having it do so (but, that is your choice); you need to have a reason to make it turn.

The curve could accommodate a tree, shrub, boulder, birdbath, or any object you can route the path around. A curving path through a flower bed looks better than a straight one. Accent the curve by placing tall, distinctive perennials or a shrub on the inside of the curve. A curve or curves can help keep a path on a slope from being too steep. A path leading around the corner of a building should curve to provide the shortest route to the side yard.

Making a path curve so that it disappears from sight brings out a bit of mystery. People will ask:

"What's around the bend?"

A visitor's curiosity can be rewarded if there's a nice bench, a hidden water feature, a unique planting feature, or an overall change in the style of the garden to discover.

Do all pathways really need to curve though? No, not really. Straight pathways lend formality to a garden, and a formal tone may be the look you want. A wide, straight pathway of flagstone (as described in our last two blogs) or cut stone leading from the street to the front door of a home makes an impressive statement. If the style of the garden is formal and includes garden beds defined by straight lines, curving paths may look out of place.

Sunday, January 13, 2008

Flagstone Paths: Design, Use, and Cost

Design and Use

Flagstone is an excellent choice for paths in well-traveled areas. It brings a natural elegance to the garden and is suitable for both primary and secondary paths. When flagstone is fitted together tightly and care is taken to create a clean edge, the material matches the mood created by the most stately homes and formal landscapes.

Fitted more loosely, flagstone pathways complement all other styles and sizes of homes and yards. It's preferred by professionals to use limestone and sandstone for pathways in shady areas, where the lighter hues (a gradation or variety of a color) of the stone make the pathway more visible (usually in the evening).


In hot, sunny areas, the darker tones of slate and granite create a cooling effect. Direct sunlight will also cause the rich and varied colors of granite and quartzite to sparkle and shine. If you like color and brightness in a garden, you might want to consider trying these types of stones.


Flagstone is sturdy whether set in mortar or not. Even the heaviest wheelbarrow loads or lawn equipment traffic will not mar or damage a properly installed flagstone path.


Flagstone prices vary greatly across the country; the closer you live to an area where stone is quarried, the less expensive the stone is. Of the many types of pathways that can be built in a garden, flagstone falls in the upper-middle cost range. We will discuss cost compared to other pathways in later blogs.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Flagstone Paths: Characteristics

Flagstone is a traditional favorite for stone pathways. It comes in various colors and stone types, looks great in all kind of settings, and is available in a wide price range. And the best thing is, anyone with some free time and determination can install flagstone paths that are as long lasting and attractive as those installed by landscape professionals. Now, we will be discussing a number of areas regarding flagstone pathways, from characteristics, to its design and use, and also the cost. There is a lot of ground to cover, so let's get started with Characteristics.

Material Characteristics

Flagstone is sold under two classifications:
  • Flagstone - large, irregularly shaped sheets of quarried stone
  • Flagstone Steppers - smaller pieces of the same material
Flagstone is generally 18 to 40 inches in diameter. Larger sizes are heavy; much more weight than one person should lift (unless you are a bodybuilder). Flagstone is best used for pathways that are 3 to 4 feet wide or wider. Flagstone steppers are usually 12 to 20 inches in diameter. They are called steppers because they are of the size typically used in stepping-stone paths. One adult person can work comfortably with steppers. Steppers are best used for narrow pathways, ones 16 to 30 inches wide.

Thickness of flagstone and steppers varies between a 1/2 inch to 4 inches. Stone 1/2 inch thick should be used only where it will be set in mortar. Flagstone and steppers 1 1/2 to 3 inches thick are considered standard sizes, and work well for both mortared and dry-laid paths.

Types of flagstone and steppers include limestone, sandstone, slate, quartzite, and granite. This gives you a wide range of prices, textures, and colors to work with. Depending on how the stone was quarried, surface texture of flagstone and steppers will vary from almost counter-top smooth to rocky mountain rough textures with surface variations around a 1/2 inch.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Stone Pathways: Introduction (Part II)

Secondary pathways lead out into the garden, either branching off from main pathways (like streets), or existing on their own. These paths can be narrower, with widths as little as 16 inches. Why? Because a narrow path slows walking to let visitors enjoy the view of your garden.

When choosing pathway styles and materials, consider the materials on your home's exterior. Homes finished in brick, stone, stucco, wood, aluminum, or vinyl siding all have color. The color of the stone used when building a main pathway can match, complement, or contrast with the color of the home.

The architectural style of the home is another important consideration. Sleek, mortared pathways of cut slate or bluestone will probably look weird leading to an older, cottage-style home. Nor will meandering paths of fieldstone of cobblestone match the mood created by a modern-style home.

If you need some good starting points for deciding on what kind of pathways will look good, here are a few quick tips:
  • Flagstone has been a favorite material for paths. Plants grow between the stones, which help give it a rustic look.
  • Space stones along a stepping-stone path to allow a slow walking pace for guests.
  • Gravel paths are great for strolling through gardens. They are easy to install and to move as the garden changes. Consider this if you are a beginner.

Now that you have been introduced and given a better explanation of how pathways work, and what they do for your home and garden, we'll get even more detailed with each specific type of pathway.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Stone Pathways: Introduction (Part I)

Pathways will lead us somewhere. That is their sole purpose. When you are walking in the woods, you usually see a trail. When you walk outside, you have streets intertwining with one another, or even leading to a dead end with a trail into the woods. When you ski down a hill, you might see flags to show you where to go, because if you go elsewhere you might get hurt. These are all pathways, because they guide you.

Pathways not only guide you from place to place, but they guide your eyes as well. When designing pathways, consider both the practical and aesthetic possibilities within your yard and garden. Depending on your taste, you might go for one or the other specifically.

Make sure to start your design by laying out the main pathways. These paths are the routes leading to and from the house. Also ask yourself this question:

"Where do I travel most in my yard?"

If you travel to your shed (if you have one), that might be an ideal place to have a pathway. But, the main pathways for most home owners lead from the street or sidewalk to the front door and also from the garage or driveway apron to the back or side door. If you want to see a good example, it's right outside your front door (literally). These pathways need to be the widest and easiest to walk on. Why? Because this is what you'll be walking on when you come home from grocery shopping or clothes shopping.

A 4-foot-wide pathway allows two people to walk side-by-side very easily. Guests parking on the street or in the driveway and walking to the house will be appreciative of this. Pathways with smooth surfaces and few irregularities are best for guest entryways, but also can help if you are on a date or taking a walk with your spouse.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

Stone Landscaping: Stone Uses (Part II)

Hello, today we are going to finish up "Stone Uses". There are a few more different uses for stone in a garden. If you are into having nature at your door, or having an ancient-like appearance in your garden, read on.

Fountains/Water Bowls

A manufactured stone fountain or a custom-built fountain of your own style can add an important element to your garden-the sound of water splashing. It gives that feeling of true nature. Just think of stone fountains as audible sculptures; any garden can be brought to new life by their presense.


Even if you don't have a centuries-old stately manor or a castle, you can still have a stone ruin in your garden. Stone structures built to look like the remains of a stone wall or structure from centuries before, become a delightful surprise when visitors (friends/family) discover them in a garden.

Water Features

Pools, ponds, streams, and waterfalls bring a soothing sight and sound of water to a garden. It's a great visual as well, putting the mind at ease as you enjoy the beauty of nature (even though it's man-made nature). Water features give gardeners unlimited freedom to create magical, one-of-a-kind landscapes.

Now that you have an idea of what you can do with stone, our next blog will start getting into the nitty-gritty of stone landscaping. We'll be diving into stone pathways for the rest of this month. I know I've mentioned many other ways to use stone, but with so much information it's hard to cover everything at once.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Stone Landscaping: Stones Uses (Part I)

Besides stone's use in pathways, walls, steps and patios, stone can be used for many other things in a garden. These are much smaller projects, but still can add new life and value to your garden. It'll also help people notice your plants better, because the stone will accent the plant.

Rock Gardens

The rock gardens of today take many more forms than those of Victorian times. Early rock gardens were usually on sunny slopes and made to resemble windswept, natural outcroppings. Only true alpine plants were used. Today, rock gardens can be in any part of the garden, and can include any plants you desire.

Outcroppings and Accents

Outcroppings of boulders can carry the rugged, permanent presence of stone throughout the landscape. Make sure to arrange boulders carefully, so they appear to have been in place long before the house was built. This is one of the most appealing displays to the eye, and the most natural-looking.

Planter Boxes

If you want a good stone landscaping idea, I got two words: planter boxes. You might want to consider building a long, narrow stone planter box along the edge of a patio (the one pictured above is built on a street corner, not really ideal for your needs). Or, you can have two matching boxes flank the entrance to the driveway or the sidewalk leading to the front door. Usually constructed of cut wallstone, planter boxes can be any shape or size.

Next blog will finish up stone uses. After stone uses, we start getting into the specifics of each of the possibilities we have covered. If you want to know what possibility will be covered, check back here tomorrow and I'll tell you.