Gravel and crushed stone provide a low-cost, fast-draining surface. These nonslip materials come in a range of colors and sizes, and are also easy to install. Here, a meandering path of gray stones narrows between small boulders to focus attention on the two urns just beyond. Gravel 3/4 in. in diameter or smaller is easiest on feet. Edging is required to keep the stones from traveling, while occasional raking will keep the surface free of leaves and twigs. Gravel is sold in bags and in bulk by the ton or cubic yard. Bulk stone costs less than bagged, although delivery is usually extra. Prices vary by stone type. You'll pay anywhere from $8 to $80 or more for a ton, enough to cover about 100 sq. ft. at a depth of 1 1/2 to 2 in.

Mixed materials like the brick, ceramic tile and broad stones that compose this bold path, create a unique look. This path is a distinctive feature in itself. Yet the repetition of path colors in garden ornaments, bed edgings and flowers helps all elements work together. More traditional paving combinations include stepping stones and gravel, or brick with pebbles. Test materials you're considering by laying out samples in your garden to see how they work together and with the surroundings.

Brick can be laid in countless patterns, including the intricate herringbone design that makes up the straight path shown here. It's relatively affordable, requires little maintenance and is easy to work with because of its uniform shape. Choose a basic end-on-end pattern like running bond or stack bond for curved paths to avoid extensive brick cutting. And always use paving bricks, not wall bricks. Besides being solid, paving bricks are harder and more durable—especially in cold or wet climates. For safety's sake, choose bricks with a rough surface. And install a stout steel or plastic edging to contain the bricks and prevent them from spreading and shifting under foot. Paving bricks measure about 2 in.thick 5 4 in. wide 5 8 in. long. Costs range from 45 to 65 cents each, or $2 to $3 per square foot.

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