In residential design, the layout and materials of walkways are critical to the function and style of a property. They can range from being a very practical direct way for people to enter the home, to a meandering path that allows someone to look around and enjoy the surrounding landscape . When laying out the front walkway start by looking at the architectural style of your home. Is your home modern or traditional? Are you looking for a formal or informal style? A formal entrance may be accomplished with a strongly symmetrical design or with plant material that is very clipped and contained. A more relaxed style will have sweeping curves with hidden views and a sense of discovery.
Changes in elevation or materials will cause people to slow down and these provide a great opportunity to add a focal point that will mark this transition and add to the overall experience. If there is a large change in grade to deal with, it is best to break it up with landings between shorter sets of stairs. When building a walkway, the proper construction methods will ensure that your walkway is safe and does not pose any trip hazards. Proper excavation and compaction of the base is very important in our climate, as the freeze/thaw cycle during the winter months takes a toll on all materials. Drainage is also critical when building a walkway to ensure that there is no ponding or drainage across a walkway that can lead to dangerous winter ice.
The layout of your walkway will also influence the maintenance of your property such as the ease of cutting your lawn. Long curves and wide angles are easier to maintain without a lot of trimming. There are many colors available to work with, especially when it comes to manmade products. The differences in color may be subtle, such as when using a color blend. Differing colors can also be used as banding or outlining to emphasize contrast and design details. The surface of the material also needs to be considered. For a walkway to your front door that is going to be used multiple times a day, you want a material that is not slippery or uneven to walk on. You will need to clear this walkway in the winter and some materials are damaged by salt which means more manual labour and maintenanced. A rough cobblestone path or pea gravel pathway will cause you to slow down as you navigate the uneven surface. You may not want this leading to your front door but perhaps leading to a bench in the back of our garden it can add to the experience.
Plant material also has a great impact on your walkway. A crisp and clean look can be achieved with a low neat boxwood hedge that maintains a consistent line throughout the year, while others prefer a relaxed look with plant material spilling over the edge of the walkway and softening the edges. Using perennials adjacent to a walkway will ensure that it always changing, and the floral colors and scent can add to the overall experience. There are numerous considerations to be taken into account before the final layout and construction of a walkway takes place. It is a critical decision that sets the stage for how your garden or landscape will be perceived and experienced for many years to come.
By: Sue Montgomery, OALA, CSLA