A mulch path, including bark, pine needles or the fresh sawdust shown here, is best for an informal path in low-traffic spots. Mulch provides an earthy, casual look and feel. Choose one that fits its environment—a bark-mulch path in a woodland planting or pine needles through a planting of evergreens, for example. Organic mulches eventually decompose and work into the soil, so you'll need to add more periodically.

Stone is an unusually elegant path surface. It's also expensive and among the most challenging to lay. You can set stones loose in sand or in concrete with mortar joints, as shown. A mortared path should be done by a pro, because it will crack unless properly installed. Stone, sold by masonry suppliers, is available in irregular shapes or cut to uniform size—typically squares or rectangles sized in 6-in. increments. Native stone is most likely to blend well with the surroundings. Expect to pay $3 to $4 per square foot.

A grass path of uniform width, shown here, gives the feeling of walking through a single garden rather than through two separate areas of the yard. The even green color contrasts with adjacent flowering plants. A grass path is inexpensive and easy to install using seed or sod. But regular weeding, watering, feeding and mowing are required. And even with the best of care, grass struggles to grow in deep shade and high-traffic areas with compacted soil as well as beneath trees that compete for water and nutrients. A grass path can be formed to most any size and shape. Just remember to make it wide enough to mow easily.
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