Plants for Garden Paths

Written by denise schoonhoven
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Plants for Garden Paths
(Michael Turek/Photodisc/Getty Images)

Integrate your garden path into the overall landscaping scheme with the clever use of plants along the walkway. Whether your path is made of concrete, flagstone, pavers, or if it is simply a well-trodden line through the yard, soften and define its edges with judiciously placed plants. Choose from herbs, shrubs and perennials to create long-lasting interest through the seasons.

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Line a garden pathway with the delicate, leafy herb that releases fragrance when it is brushed or lightly crushed under foot. With over 100 varieties to choose from, thyme plants provide a full palette for creative gardeners. Set a row of Alba thyme along darker coloured stones where its delicate white flowers and mounding foliage provide visual contrast. Plant creeping woolly thyme amongst flagstones, and a variegated or pink-flowering variety beside a basic concrete walkway. Thyme grows well in dry conditions, sun to partial shade and well-drained to sandy soil that often surrounds paths. Thyme grows in U.S. Department of Agriculture hardiness zones 2 to 10.

Border Privet

In a formal garden setting, place border privet (Ligustrum obtusifolium) in rows along a path for definition. Ideal for pruning into a hedge form, the plants may grow as tall as 12 feet, but are typically kept lower to allow views across the landscape. Covered in small shiny green leaves from spring through late fall, the bare twigs add winter garden interest in the coldest months. Regular pruning keeps border privet from bearing flowers, a bonus along paths since the blossoms have a slightly unpleasant odour. Border privet is tolerant of poor soil conditions, drought and pollution, making it suitable for urban gardens. Grow border privet in hardiness zones 3 to 7.

Carpet Bugleweed

A sturdy ground cover plant, carpet bugleweed (Ajuga reptans) ranges in foliage colour from deep bronze to bright green, depending on variety. In spring bloom, the low-growing foliage has spikes of small blue, violet or pink flowers that reach up to 6 inches high. Use bugleweed as edging along a path where it can spread over the walkway sides and outward into surrounding plantings. Ideal for paths that are partially to fully shaded, carpet bugleweed grows in zones 4 to 10.

Mondo Grass

Mondo grass (Ophiopogon japonicus), a perennial also known as monkey grass, creates an undulating border of green planted in clumps along a walkway. Suitable for garden paths where trees and shrubs cast shade, mondo grass forms tufted mounds of arching, very narrow leaves. At 8 to 16 inches high, a strip of mondo grass separates the path from taller landscape elements. For added interest, select cultivars with variegated, striped leaves or those that bear tiny flowers in the summer. Grow mondo grass in USDA hardiness zones 6 to 9.

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