Landscaping Made Easy

Real Paths Have Curves

Paths accomplish two very important roles in the design. One is practical, the other is aesthetic.
Mike Dooley, October 2017

A lot of landscape designers have elements of their designs that define their work. My signature elements are sitting areas and paths.

Paths accomplish two very important roles in the design. One is practical, the other is aesthetic. In a practical sense, paths help take us where we want to go, connecting patios with side gates, storage sheds, pools, etc. Aesthetically, paths also lead the eye through the landscape to focal points that we wish to highlight, like ponds, bird feeders, benches, groups of pottery and boulders. Another benefit of paths is that they break up the landscape into planting areas.

In the past, designers created rectangular planting beds that followed walls and the foundation of the home. The problem is that foundation planting reveals a structured look, and since the beds are now rectangular, homeowners tend to put plants in a line, forming a hedge. If that isn’t bad enough, there’s a tendency to prune the hedge into another rectangle. This is how my accountant would see his landscape: little rectangles everywhere, like a spreadsheet. This bland look can be avoided with flowing curved paths.

Make full smooth curves to connect high-use areas and make a loop around the yard that the eye wants to follow to show off your beautiful plantings. You can add a cul-de-sac as an informal sitting area so that you have a place to create a focal point. In the process of laying out the paths, create natural looking areas to plant. Inside the freeform circle that is formed by the loop path, you have an area for a little grass, or more plantings if you don’t want grass. It really is that simple.

Inexpensive paths can be made using crusher fines. But if your budget allows, pavers make a really impressive path. Do an Internet search and you will see many other ideas on the subject. Play with these ideas as you design your landscape.

Mike Dooley is the designer and owner of Dooley Landscape Designs. Visit his website at


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