UP to the present we have merely been browsing amongst various possible designs for the home garden. Actually no definite decision can be taken regarding them until the question of materials has also been considered. Most of us have somewhat limited purses, and quantities and costs enter largely into the design of our gardens. Let us take each section in turn.
When a builder leaves a plot entirely undeveloped, without paths of any sort, the first practical work which every householder will want to do is to make clean, dry, service paths. The size of these naturally depends on the purpose for which the path is to be used. Four feet wide is a minimum for the main path of the flower garden, and ten feet a minimum width for a carriage drive.
In making a carriage drive, the first essential is to excavate theso that some sort of good drainage material can be used as a foundation. If only occasional traffic is to pass over the drive it will be quite sufficient if a six-inch layer of clinker or chalk is put below some gravel. This will be well rolled before the gravel is laid, and the gravel will be sifted before use and the finest portion reserved for top dressing.
Paths should be made with a slight camber, that is to say, the centre portion will be an inch or two higher than the sides. This will encourage the rapid drainage of surplus water, and prevent the path becoming soggy in bad weather.
It may be desirable to put in one or two side drains, or if the site is particularly difficult, it may even be necessary to put in a drainage pipe along the centre of the drive.
As each layer of clinker, gravel and fine sand is laid, the drive will be well rolled, watering it at the same time if the weather is very dry. A tarred surface over the whole considerably lengthens the life of the drive, since it ensures the rapid disappearance of water. Tar has to be applied hot, however, and the up-to-date gardener uses a bituminous preparation which can be applied cold, and which is just as effective as tar. There are several of these preparations on the market, and they are well worth their cost because they save the expense of repair in after years.
Over the top of the dressed path a little fine sand or ashes may be strewn, to improve the colour of the drive. All this work can be undertaken even by an inexperienced amateur in any ordinary garden.
Gravel paths in the flower garden are made exactly the same way, that is, with an underlayer of clinker or rough stones, topped with gravel, and surfaced as already suggested.
Paved paths are, however, even more picturesque than gravel, and if the cost of paving is not prohibitive, they are to be recommended, because of their greater durability. Whether the paving is rectangular, or of crazy pattern, is a matter of personal preference. The secret of success in making paths of this kind is to lay the paving dead level. The path is otherwise made precisely as the gravel path, over a layer of rough material.
If a path is to be straight and flat it is as well to drive in a few pegs at intervals along each side of the length reserved for the path, and to test the surface of the paving stones by placing a board across each pair of pegs and using a spirit level.
Crazy paving should never be laid entirely in cement, though cement may be used between some of the stones, while soil cracks are left here and there to be set with carpet plants. A perfectly safe and even path can be made if the paving stones have a level surface, and if they are laid accurately. A subsoil of clinker is recommended here as for the gravel paths, so that good drainage is ensured. Over this, a little line soil or sand is spread evenly and the paving stones then put into position. A board is used as straight-edge to test the evenness of the surface.
Between the cracks of the paving stones (where cement is not employed) a good soil mixed with sand should be rammed, the stones being made very firm, so that they do not move when trodden on. Tiny plants are, with advantage, set at the same time as the path is laid, or seeds of suitable plants (such as Cotulas) can be mixed with the soil put between the stones. In a very short time such a crazy-paved path will assume an old-world appearance.
An alternative to the crazy pathway or the more formal path of rectangular flagstones, is one of ornamental tiles or bricks. Extremely decorative paths can be made in these materials which are useful in a very tiny garden, especially a shady town garden, for the colour in the paths to some extent compensates for lack of colour in the flower borders.
The bricks can be used in various patterns, herring-bone, or any other desired fashion. Several suggestions will be found in the diagrams given, and other designs will be worked out from these by the ingenious garden-maker.
Grass paths are made exactly in the same manner as grass. They are perhaps the finest of all settings for flowers, especially for roses. But a grass path is quickly worn bare if it is constantly in use, and it is, of course, quite unsuitable as a service path where a heavy wheelbarrow may have to pass along it in rainy weather. A very happy idea is to combine grass with flagstones, tiles or bricks. Rectangular flag-stones placed alternatively lengthwise and breadthwise along the centre of a grass path make an attractive feature in any garden, and have the advantage of creating a clean pathway usable at all seasons, while the severity of an entirely paved walk is softened by the grass edges.
The essential thing is to arrange good drainage, and to raise the centre of the path very slightly above the sides so that rain never collects where the path is most trodden.
In the case of sunk pathways, where there is great danger of water collecting, side drains should be arranged with small gratings at intervals through which the surplus rain will quickly pass.
Across the vegetable plot, a simple rolled soil track may be sufficient in some places, or a path covered with a clinker or gravel or household cinders or ash can be made; but as already suggested, paths of this kind should not be clearly visible from the pleasure garden.
An important point for the one-man gardener to consider is the treatment of the path edges. Grass verges need constant attention if they are to be kept neat and tidy, and a broken outline, or ragged overhanging grass, becomes at once unsightly. It is also a source of danger to the border, since long grass at the edge of the path harbours slugs and other soil pests. Generally speaking, therefore, in the strictly amateur garden, grass edges are best avoided and some form of permanent edging used instead.
A grass path, if it is especially wanted, is best edged with flat pieces of stone let into the grass with their straight edges along the path side. This method allows the use of the mower along the centre grass portion of the path and obviates the necessity for trimming the edges.
If the border edging plants, such as Pinks, do encroach a little over these flat stones, no harm is done; in fact, the outline of the path is softened and improved by such vagabonds from the border, and the severity of a formal garden is tempered without destroying its formality.
A still more formal edge can be made by the use of ornamental tiles, but this will be less attractive than if the border plants creep slightly over the edge of the path. Wood edgings between the border and the path should not be used, even if the wood is treated with preservative. It will in time decay, and form a source of trouble. Moreover, the use of tar and similar preservatives on the wood make the edge of the border unhealthy for dwarf plants. Bricks are sometimes used, but the amateur is warned against the use of bricks set with points upwards like an even row of teeth 1 This type of edging has been overdone, and is now generally regarded with disfavour. It is far better, if bricks are to be used, to lay them lengthwise, straight along the edge of the path. Even then, the appearance will be improved if the border plants are allowed to roam over the bricks.
First Steps in Lay-out
When the new gardener has planned his garden, more or less on paper, and intends to begin the work of layang out his plot, he is sometimes at a loss how to proceed. The garden as left by the building contractor often presents a sorry spectacle. It is possibly smothered from end to end with rough heaps of sticky clay, and all kinds of rubbish. Perhaps an unsightly cement patch in one corner, and a number of old tins in another. The first step is obviously to clear all this away, and stack the hard rubbish together, for use as path foundations.
The next step is to find out whether the garden level has to be altered in any way. If it is intended to make a sunk garden, the necessary excavations are best made immediately. Otherwise lawns and paths may be damaged during the removal of heavy loads of soil.
Pegs, that is, pieces of wood from a foot to two feet long, pointed at one end and flat at the other, are used for levelling. They are driven into the ground at important points, for instance, at the corners of the lawn, and at the junction of paths, etc., etc. Levels are then tested by laying a straight-edge of board from peg to peg and using a spirit level, which costs a few pence.
The garden-maker can take his choice over the boundary of the sunk garden made on a slope, when he discovers how much difference in level exists in the first place. A high wall can be made at one end, to match the opposing retaining wall, or some of the soil removed from the site can be banked round the lower end to make the banks of even height all round. The easiest way is to leave the surrounding ground undisturbed, and merely to level the sunk portion, testing its new surface with the straight-edge and the spirit level. Differences in height of the surrounding walls do not adversely affect the formality of the sunk garden-or the beauty of its treatment.