Path Questions

peachymomo(Ca 8)April 10, 2011

I am still in the planning stage of landscaping and I would like some advice on where to place the paths in my front yard. The yard is fenced in and there are two gates, one for cars and one for people, I would like a path to come from both the man gate and the driveway and merge together somewhere. There is an existing concrete path that hugs the house and foundation beds, it is only 3' wide and is cracked in several places, I think it would be better if it were at least a foot wider and smoothed out so I would like to improve that at the same time as the new paths are added. I prefer curved paths to straight ones, so some gentle curves would be nice. I am artistically challenged so instead of drawing in paths I just drew a simple schematic that shows the existing features and where I would like the sitting area to be. There is currently no real separation between the driveway and the yard, just a line where the grass/weeds stop and the gravel is more visible. The property line goes to the curb next to the road, some neighbors have their gardens planted all the way to the curb but ours is currently empty.

I would like the paths to come from both the man gate and the driveway, and I would like them to go to the front door, fountain, sitting area, and back yard (although there is already a path for that, but I would like it to connect to that path somehow.)

Lastly, and I don't know if this is a possibility or not, but I read an article in a magazine recently on dry streams that double as paths, and having one of those would be nice. In heavy rain we tend to get standing water right in front of the path by the front door and it would be great if the new path could somehow help drain that water away towards the street. We had some septic issues this past winter and in dealing with them we learned that we are the only house on the street that drains all of our water into the back yard instead of having a method for getting some of it out to the front where there are storm drains. So that has become one of the main priorities in our landscaping, which I don't mind because I love the look of stone and dry creeks so I will enjoy having them.

To sum up I need paths coming from two places and going to 3 or 4 places, hopefully that can double as a water diversion method, that are gently curved and look good. In my previous attempts to draw paths myself it has always ended up looking too busy or just plain weird to me. I also don't know how well something I draw on a bird's-eye-view schematic will translate to real life. I would really appreciate some help.

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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

Is the plan to scale? I think we need to know the distances. If the plan is not to scale, are the proportions more or less correct?

Here's what I see in my mind's eye. I'm afraid most of the paths are uncompromisingly straight!

All the paths connect to the area around the fountain. I'm thinking of the fountain in a central plaza with garden around it; the plaza is square (or rectangular) and at least wide enough to walk comfortably all around the fountain. There is lawn along some of the edges of the plaza, but beds in other areas. There are also some plants in large pots on the pavement itself.

Provided the distances aren't too large, remove the existing path that parallels the front of the house.

Connect the man-gate at a 45 angle to the top left corner of the plaza. (Add some pavement inside the gate -- a sort of landing area -- to make the 45 degree path work.)

Connect the driveway and the sitting area to the sides of the plaza at the corners: this gives you a straight path running from the driveway across the side of the plaza to the sitting area. Mitigate the long straight stretch by varying plantings on one side of the path, then the other; also vary the heights and types of the plants. If you still can't stand all the straightness, add curves to the paths -- but not right at the plaza.

Connect the front door to that side of the plaza.

Run a path from the sitting area to the backyard. (I hope the sitting area is not simply lawn; this would work much better if it were paved.)

Consider running another path from the sitting area to the top-right corner of the plaza. This could echo the path from the man-gate in joining the plaza at the corner, but I do see it curving in a reverse S as it leaves the sitting area; the S meanders through tall plantings of some sort.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2011 at 1:28PM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

The plan is to scale but not 100% accurate, I rounded to the nearest foot. I drew it so that each little square was 2'. There is 26' between the fence and the existing path, and 52' from the man-gate to the jog in the fence, 13' from the jog to the edge of the property line and the other fence.

I never even considered removing the existing path, that's a great idea! It is uncomfortable to use and tall people have to duck to not hit their heads on the front door awning thing. Unfortunately it has to stay in the side yard because it is narrow and there is already a shed there, so the existing path could be widened a bit but there is only a couple feet of room to work with between the path and the shed. We don't want to remove the shed because it is pretty nice and we need the storage.

I do want to pave the sitting area, one of the reasons I'm still in the planning stage is that I'm saving up money for all of the hardscaping I want to install. Flagstone would be my top choice.

I drew out a picture using your suggestions, I connected everything with straight lines and then tried to soften the edges and add a few gentle curves. I also added a straight path along the road, there is already a dirt path there from foot traffic anyway. What do you think?

    Bookmark   April 10, 2011 at 3:07PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

To the nearest foot is wonderful. You have more room than I thought you had; I'm afraid I was reading the front stoop as the width of the door.

It looks good. I'd like it better if the fountain could move more toward the house (with the current walkway gone, it won't be centered in the lawn), but I assume that's either not possible or way too much trouble.

How do you feel about having your main path from the house to the driveway and to the sitting area so far out? I was trying to design paths that were as direct as it was practical to make them, but since the yard's bigger than I thought it was, it looks like you'll have to go quite a bit out of the way to get to the side yard. You might want to lay out the path with the garden hose and see how it works in real life.

Since you've removed all my nice straight lines (please -- it's your yard -- make them all curvy if you like) the path from the driveway to the sitting area no longer needs to be straight. So the next question is where the best place is for the path to leave the driveway. It could start closer to the house and angle in like the path from the man-gate -- but only if that's more convenient.

I wouldn't worry at all about the path along the side of the house being narrower than the other paths. If the difference bothers you, you could start out at the sitting area with the same width as the other paths, then taper the path when it's far away enough not to be so noticeable. Another possibility is to curve the path around a bush or small screen or piece of garden art so that the taper doesn't begin until the path is hidden from the front yard.

    Bookmark   April 10, 2011 at 9:00PM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

The fountain can move, in fact it must move once I'm ready to start because step one is going to be removing a Liquid Amber tree that is currently right where I want the sitting area to be and the fountain is going to be in the way. I also am planning on adding the optional pool bottom that I don't have right now. I agree that it should move toward the house, I drew the second schematic on a print of the first and erased the existing path on my paint program, I realized only after I posted that it made everything look skewed.

A path tends to get beaten into the grass during the summer from the driveway to the front door, I haven't figured out how to accurately render it on one of my drawings but it would be easy to use a hose to lay it out on the ground.

There is a fence and gate between the front and side/back yards with a gate to keep the dogs in, I think that will be a good place to separate the new path from the old.

I think I will try drawing a few more different versions and make a photobucket album. I like that just getting the paths in place defines the planting areas, I am comfortable experimenting with different plants but I really want to get the hardscaping done right the first time.

Thank you very much!

    Bookmark   April 10, 2011 at 10:07PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

You're very welcome. I hope others will post with more ideas.

Maybe I shouldn't admit this, but it took me sixteen plans in MS Paint to come up with the right shape for my (hopefully this year) new front walk and the bed between it and the lawn ... and I'm still not certain if the bed between the walk and the lawn should widen in the middle (on the lawn side) or be straight. At the moment it's straight....

    Bookmark   April 11, 2011 at 12:15AM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

That makes me feel much better about the number of plans I have drawn and discarded : )

I did some more measuring and corrected a few distances that were off and drew a bunch more plans. I put 5 of them into an album ( ) But this one is my favorite:

Before drawing this plan I stood and looked out the living room window at the fountain (my favorite view) and I realized that moving it toward the house looked good on paper but would restrict my view, so I decided that rather than moving it toward the house it might be better to move it back a bit. I also did some walking and looking and drew out the lines most commonly used to get to the front door and then just drew in a big wide path that included them all, which kind of made a plaza off to the side of the fountain between the driveway and the house. It is a large space but I think it will be good for both the flow of traffic and as a gathering area, I will have do some research of what would be the best materials to use. I like how this plan separates the yard so that half is more open and public and the other half is more private and filled with plants.

I would love comments on any or all of my plans, and continued suggestions are much appreciated. Thanks especially to MTO for all of your help!

    Bookmark   April 11, 2011 at 9:00PM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

Oh yeah, this plan is done so that each square represents one square foot.

    Bookmark   April 11, 2011 at 9:02PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

peachymomo, some thoughts on the newest plan:

It certainly addresses the issue of where the "path" should connect to the driveway!

The path from the front door to the sitting area and the side yard now goes a few feet farther toward the street before it turns back toward the sitting area.

Have you thought about curving and/or deepening the foundation beds?

    Bookmark   April 12, 2011 at 12:51AM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

I kind of like the foundation beds the way they are, they are the only spot I have made any changes to since moving in - my boyfriend put in a little redwood border and I planted them with ferns and baby tears and they are starting to fill in and look quite nice now.

I started looking at the square footage of the space I wanted paved and realized it was too much, so I drew a new plan where I tried to slim it down a bit. First I added the existing path back in, because my hose connections are in the two foundation beds so I need to be able to get to them easily. Then I widened the flower beds on either side of the new entryway and I added a little 'tooth' to separate it into two paths instead of one, where I will plant some kind of tough ground cover that can tolerate being walked on and occasionally driven on. Every once in a while someone needs to pull a car into that spot, it's grass/weeds now so it's no problem, I think it would be best to keep it wide enough for cars to continue to fit. I also cut down the size of the little sitting area from a 13' diameter circle down to 10'. That gives me more space for planting and less area to be hardscaped, I like the look of this one.

Here's the newest plan:

I'm leaning towards concrete pavers as the material to use, I considered brick edged gravel but I want something that won't need weeding and will stand up to dogs running around without being pushed out of place.

Thoughts, anyone?

    Bookmark   April 14, 2011 at 12:02PM
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missingtheobvious(Blue Ridge 7a)

An interesting division between round and straight. I hope one of the pros will give advice about that.

I love the giant stepping stone circles.

In this version, all the curves are arcs of circles except the giant stepping stones. You could make that a regular arc also (one end in the center of the fountain, the other in the center of the sitting circle). Or make it two arcs, as you did with the curve of the patio from the front fence around the fountain (another favorite part).

    Bookmark   April 14, 2011 at 11:30PM
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