I'm a plant freak, so my attention (and money) tends to go toward plants and whatever I need to keep them thriving. But the hardscape of a garden is important too, especially what's underfoot. Back in Iowa, m moms gardens were mostly borders along the house and the corner of the yard, so there were no paths per se. When I started making my own gardens, they were not part of the yard, they werethe yard, and so the problem of how to get through them emerged.
I do love brick paving. In Seattle I was lucky to find a huge pile of bricks from a torn down wall, and had enough to pave the path down to a nice grassy circle below. In my last garden, in Kocamustafapaşa, the soil was full of bricks as well, so I got at least enough to pave a circle. But there were no free bricks to be had in my present garden. I got the paths laid out, but they were paved with dirt. And of course, dirt is...dirty! And it grows weeds rather quickly. At the left, you can see the layout early on, dirt paths and all.
So pretty early on, I opted for my second favorite option: gravel paths. Only I couldn't find the gravel I wanted. I like a light gray almost white gravel; I think it shows off the plants the best. Unfortunately it just isn't to be had here. I found some light reddish-brown gravel that might have harmonized with the walls, but it just didn't feel right. What bothered me about it was the color - a somewhat odd bluish-gray. Dark. Believe me, I went all over looking for alternatives, but everywhere, it was the same.
Then I found a pile that looked a little better; and it turned out it was the same stuff, but it was dry and had sat out in the weather for a while. So finally, I just bit the bullet and had it brought in. Because my uppermost garden is down three flights of steps, I couldn't have it dumped; it had to be bagged. I started with thirty, but the bags werent' overly full, so I ended up getting another ten. And here is the result!
To be honest, I still would have liked to find something just a bit lighter; hopefully it will lighten up a little. But the garden really does feel like a completely different place now! You can see the rather striking difference in color between the moist gravel and the pieces that have dried in the foreground.
Over most of the path, I used the plastic mesh bags the gravel came in underneath the gravel in order to make it a bit harder for weed roots to get into the soil. Overall, "weed barriers" are hooey, especially over actual planted area. And they don't really keep weeds from growing. But in my last garden I did notice the same bags under the patio did give me a bit of a margin, and they were easier to pull.
I've also left one section unlined. Why? Gravel is actually provides an excellent environment for starting some seeds, because it holds in some moisture. I remember back in Iowa, our best evenin primroses grew out of the layer of rocks on our patio, and the Verbascum olympicum I saw on Uludağ was also often growing in gravelly areas. So it will be a bit of an experiment. I don't think I'll regret it!