Step on It

Paths and walkways become intimately tied to the garden when interplanted with rugged groundcovers that can handle light foot traffic.

Tucked neatly between stepping stones in a courtyard retreat, blue star creeper (Pratia pedunculata) invites a garden visitor to stay a while.
Photo courtesy of Stepables; www.stepables.com

Stone paths, brick walkways, pavers that welcome a visitor to amble throughout the garden; these are elements that tie together a landscape and provide structure and flow. Such components encourage participation and become a permanent part of the site.

But sometimes hardscape needs to be softened, and nothing does that better than the addition of groundcover plants tucked among the rock-hard elements that pave our way. There are dozens of selections of low-growing groundcovers in the trade, but those that are best suited for garden paths are able to take a bit of abuse. So the best way to categorize them is to determine how much foot traffic they can withstand - light, moderate or heavy. Keeping in mind individual cultural requirements, such as sun exposure and moisture needs - not to mention your clients' preferences - you're bound to find the perfect plant for the garden path.

Green carpet rupturewort (Herniaria glabra) provides a lush cover that seamlessly blends pathways into the garden.

Light traffic

Is there a path that's seldom used, where visitors tread lightly? Try any of these handsome plants. An occasional footfall won't do too much damage, and might even release a delightful fragrance.

Leptinella squalida (brass buttons)
Photo courtesy of Midwest Groundcovers

Sagina subulata 'Aurea' (Irish moss)
Photo courtesy of Midwest Groundcovers

Phlox subulata 'Emerald-Blue' (creeping phlox)
Photo courtesy of Midwest Groundcovers

Moderate traffic

If a walkway is used a few times a day, groundcovers that are a bit tougher can fill the voids nicely.

Thymus pseudolanuginosus (woolly thyme)
Photo courtesy of Midwest Groundcovers

Leptinella squalida 'Platt's Black' (Platt's Black brass buttons)
Photo courtesy of Midwest Groundcovers

Who could resist taking a stroll along this path, interplanted with mazus (Mazus reptans)?
Photo courtesy of Stepables; www.stepables.com

Branded plants

There are several brands of groundcover plants that can withstand the abuse of work boots - or sandals - which makes the job of selecting appropriate pathway plants a snap. Remember to verify just how much foot traffic a variety can handle.