Archives for April 2015

Garden paths – How to choose the right style for your garden

Garden-pathThere are many different styles of materials that you can use for paths. Garden paths can be made from anything from gravel, to paving, pebble mosaics, brick, timber to recycled church floor flagstones!

Before we get going on what type of materials you should use, we need to look at the most important part and that is getting the path in the right place.

How to make sure your path in the right place

This might seem like a really odd thing to be talking about because your path goes from point A to point B, so surely it is obvious where it needs to go!

It might be obvious where you need the path, for example from your patio to your garden shed. However, just because that’s where you need it to go, it doesn’t mean to say that a straight route is the best option visually.

If you can get a slightly more interesting shape into the path, or have it over to one side of the garden, rather than just having a straight line, it will make your garden much more interesting to look at.

Yes, you may have to take a few extra steps each time you go to your garden shed, but that’s a small price to pay if the position of your path improves the overall look and flow of your garden. Let’s face it, you will look at it a lot more than you will walk on it.

When you add anything into the garden it has to work with the whole garden, so it’s really important you take into account everything else that is there.


The biggest mistake that most people make is just to add things. First, they had the shed, then goes in the path, patio etc. This makes a very disjointed and uninteresting looking garden. If you take a little bit of time to plan the shape of all of these elements together, even if you don’t put them all in at once, it will make for a much better looking garden.

A well-designed garden is like a jigsaw puzzle, everything has to fit in it place or doesn’t work. Great looking gardens are not a series of unrelated features, everything ties in together and has been thought about.

So consider sweeping your path from one side of the garden to the other, or having it curve around a circular lawn to get you to the shed or the other end of the garden.

What materials should you use for your garden path?

This will all come down to your tastes, style of garden and budget. Traditionally, brick paths have been very popular. If you’re going to use brick, do not use house bricks because they are not frost proof enough and will crumble over time. You need to use clay brick pavers which are specially designed to cope with the frost. Pavers are solid and do not have the indentation underneath them that house bricks do.

If you’re looking for a budget path option, then gravel is going to be the cheapest option. It is not always the most comfortable material to walk on, so if you hate walking on gravel, then adding a few steppingstones through it will make it nicer to walk on.

If you want a contemporary feel to your path then smooth natural paving will work well.

Pebble mosaics can look fabulous, though they are very time-consuming to do, but if you’re feeling creative you can have a lot of fun with them.


Construct your path properly

A lot of times people think that they don’t need to use concrete when they build a path because it only has foot traffic on it and sand will do. Unfortunately, you can’t just put paving stones directly onto the soil or sand, because they will move and then become quite a dangerous tripping hazard. Brick paths can be laid on sand, but they will have a consolidated hard-core base underneath the sand and the edge bricks will be concreted into position to hold everything in place.

So, I encourage you to get creative with your path, but do put it on paper first and check that it’s going to work with the rest of your garden.

BUT do be warned, nice paths alone will NOT give you a stunning garden – you have to get the design layout right first. If you don’t know how to do that then…

Attend one of our FREE Fast Track Garden Design online classes…

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[DESIGN SHOW 14] Patio shapes that improve your garden

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Does your patio look the way you want? Does it work with the rest of your garden or is it dull and boring?

The SHAPE of your patio makes such a difference to the overall look of your garden. It’s often THE most overlooked aspect of garden design.

In this episode, international garden designer, Rachel from Successful Garden Design, critiques some design layout plans and offers solutions on how to improve designs.

Find out how to design a great looking patio for your garden in this brand new Garden Design Show episode…

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Trisha’s 1st Garden Plan – design case study

The conversation started like this:

“Hi Rachel!!!

I’m so lucky to have found you! You have such a knack for teaching the RIGHT information, quickly and in the right way. It’s clicking immediately (you should see the garden I designed for my cousin, just after watching the free videos… Imagine what I’ll be able to do after taking your courses).”

As you can imagine, this piqued my curiosity! What precisely had Trisha achieved from just watching 12 Garden Design Show episodes – here’s what she sent me…


I will let Trisha take over and tell you all about how her design works. My comments are in [these boxy things] and a critique at the bottom.

Trisha’s design process

My cousin and her husband are a young family with 2 small girls. They moved into their new house with a yard so big, I don’t think they know what to do with it.

The yard’s layout and plain concrete patio are built along stark, straight lines. I began softening the lines with an addition to the patio. The [patio] extension would be lined in brick and could be flagstone set in mortar. 

I designed it to be the same height as the patio (opinions are welcomed if it would be better ground height, stepping down off the patio). [Definitely keep it the same height Trisha – it will be much safer and nicer to use].

I set a swing on this extra patio for her and her husband to sit on and watch the girls play. If flagstone is too expensive, the addition could be switched to a planting bed. The brick edge should stay to hold that line in place.

Her yard is currently is one huge L shape. In order to break up the space, I incorporated one of Rachel’s infamous circle lawns. I have never seen a circle lawn and I think my cousins jaw will drop when she sees it.

Creating a ‘designer’ path

I love Rachel’s use of curved paths, so I used one around the lawn to tour the yard. This is a pretty big path that takes up a lot of space. It would be nice set in pavers, but since our highway department will deliver free woodchips, that might be a no brainer.

The lawn would need a strong brick edge if using woodchips, and I think square stepping stones (that I lifted from one of Rachel’s designs) would be a nice touch set in the path. Theres a nice stop along the path with a wooden bench under her big pine tree.

After the circle lawn was established, there was room for 2 more areas. A playground was the obvious choice. And seeing that the other part of the lawn hides behind the garage, I assume they want the girls to stay in this area where they can see them. The final section of the yard behind the garage, I thought, would be great for ‘family getaways’. So I added a firepit and left the grass so they could put up a tent and go camping! 

These 4 sections of the yard would be fantastic for parties. The adults could play ‘bags’ in the lawn and have a bonfire, and the kids could play in the playground.

Designer vegetables!

My cousin likes to eat healthy food, so I gave her not 1 but 2 vegetable garden areas, if she chooses to grow vegetables. I imagine her and her girls eating from the fruit tree and raspberry bushes by the patio. I also gave her the option to grow greens and herbs on the patio, with large box patio planters. And situated a few more terra cotta planters on the extended patio.

I’m so very proud of my first real garden design. Its all because of Rachel’s insane ability to teach the right information in the right way. She’s such an inspiration. Thank you Rachel!

[:D Grinning from ear to ear – thank you Trisha, you are very welcome, I LOVE that you’ve taken so much on board from just the Garden Design Shows].


Trisha certainly should be very proud of her first ever design. She’s really understood how to divide the space up and create a nice flow around the garden. The area that needs a bit more work is by the shed. The firepit/camping area doesn’t flow in with the rest of the garden as nicely as it could.

The other slight thing, and this is very nit-picky, is the play area. It would look better if it’s definitely smaller than the main lawn. If it’s the same size or larger, it throughs the balance off and makes the garden look top-heavy.

Trisha has a really good eye for design and I cannot wait to see what she is able to do once she’s been through a full design course – she really will be unstoppable!

About Trisha & how she could help you

Trisha from Roots Nursery

Trisha from Roots Nursery

Trisha has her own plant nursery called Roots Nursery which is in the western suburbs of Chicago.

She’s got a lovely website and I recommend you take a look at the download pages she’s created as there’s some garden layouts you can download and adapt to your own garden.

I’m so happy to see a horticulturist crossing the ‘plants only’ divide and embracing garden design so fully. She’s planning on doing the various online garden design and planting courses we do here at Successful Garden Design so that she can better serve her customers.


Has Trisha’s 1st garden design inspired you?

Do leave your comments and feedback in the boxes below!

Learn more! Attend one of our FREE Fast Track Garden Design online classes…

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Paving ideas for traditional garden styles

Last time we looked at contemporary paving ideas but if modern really isn’t your thing and you want to create a more traditional feel for your garden, then the materials you use hold the main key to how your garden will look.


Traditional paving often has slightly rounded edges or a more intricate pattern.

Last time we discussed how using smooth paving with very straight edges creates a modern and contemporary feel, well the exact opposite is true if you’re looking for something traditional. The more lumpy and bumpy the edges of the materials, be it bricks or paving, the more traditional it will look.

There are many shades of traditional. There’s the very formal, right the way through to very rustic. Very formal gardens have a very geometric layout, so the materials you use will be in very rigid patterns to suit the formality of the garden.

More rustic garden styles can use the exact same materials, but because there is less structure to the garden, there isn’t the formality with the design shapes, then the randomness of the materials is what gives it the rustic feel along with the uneven surfaces.

The examples below show you what I mean. The same paving stones have been used in both gardens, but one has more a defined shape and the other a more rustic design style because of the uneven edges.


Same paving stones, first quite formal with defined edge. Second more rustic looking.

The wonderful thing about rustic and traditional styles of garden is that you can incorporate more things into the paving. Whilst I would still stick with no more than three different types of hard landscaping materials, like brick, stone and cobbles, you still want clarity in the design, you don’t want to go overboard and have too many different types of materials together.

So when I say you can add more things I mean feature areas within the paving, like mosaics made from cobbles. Or you could create a segment in the paving that’s a pattern of bricks.


Paving feature segments

There is a lot more freedom to be creative with the more rustic and traditional styles of garden design. The other advantage is the more rustic a look you are aiming for, the less you have to worry about how the materials will weather and age, because it will be part and parcel of the feel of the garden.

With contemporary schemes they look much better when they’re really perfectly clean, as soon as they start to weather and lose some of that crispness, they don’t look as good.

So if you’re not sure if you should go for a more traditional style of garden and can’t decide between that and a more modern feel, then take a look at the style of your property for guidance. The really old traditional style of house will always look better with traditional materials. That’s not to say you can’t have a more contemporary spin on it, but it is easier if you match the garden style with the house.

BUT do be warned, nice materials will NOT give you a stunning garden – you have to get the design layout right first. If you don’t know how to do that then…

Attend one of our FREE Fast Track Garden Design online classes…

Register on this page:

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