Spanish and Mediterranean gardens need paths


By Clodagh and Dick Handscombe

Spain’s best known gardening authors who have lived and gardened in Spain for 25 years

Importance of paths

In Mediterranean climate situations gardens are in general to walk around and stop to sit or siesta to enjoy the internal and external vistas rather than watch them through windows through frequent rain  falls as happens so frequently in temperate Northern Europe. To achieve this one needs to design an interesting network of paths before thinking about plantings of plants shrubs and trees. But do recognise that paths have a number of distinct uses.


Uses of paths

The first thing is to recognise why we have paths in gardens. The following reasons are extracted from our books.

  1. To link the different areas and features in an interesting way. Indeed to create a mystery tour. One which changes season by season and by time of day and weather conditions.
  2. To enable persons of all ages to move around the garden easily and safely in any weather.
  3. To move things around the garden without fear of tripping or strain.
  4. To move rainwater around the garden to areas where most needed.
  5. To create interesting and often unexpected internal and external vistas.
  6. To make a small garden seem larger by varying the width of paths from near the house to outer areas. A straight path which narrows twenty percent from beginning to end can work wonders as can curving and snaking paths.
  7. To link terraces. Together with terraces a network of paths can reduce the extent of planting areas and need for garden maintenance. Indeed see terraces as wide paths.
  8. To provide a moisture reservoir and shade for the roots of plants lining the path.
  9. To establish a formal, informal or mixed garden style.
If you are having a new house constructed decide on the network of paths around the house while the house is being built and get the builder to lay down what you want for an elegant garden rather than an easy concrete path attached to the house.


Choices of surfaces and edgings

Beyond designing the network the next thing is surfaces and edgings. These days the choice for surfaces  is enormous ranging from coloured concrete to natural stone slabs, from stone chippings to sand, from low growing herbs to grass or plastic imitation grass, bark chippings or compost between rows of vegetables and formal stone cobbles or bricks. Not all paths need to be continuous for stepping stones laid in grass or in areas of stone chippings can add interest in low use areas.

In many gardens edgings to paths are useful to add interest and formality. Also to keep stone chippings from being spread outside the intended path areas and to control the velocity of torrents of rain water running off paths to planted areas. Path edging can range from small rocks to terracotta edgings, wooden slats or small plants and bricks on edge to narrow concrete edging slabs.


Look around your own garden. Would extra or changed paths allow you to better enjoy your property? If so make the changes during the cooler winter weather in time for spring walks.

Clodagh and Dick Handscombe’s books include the following:

  • Your Garden in Spain
  • Apartment Gardening Mediterranean Style
  • Growing Healthy Vegetables in Spain
  • Growing Healthy Fruit in Spain
  • Living Well from Our Mediterranean Garden
  • Making Waterless Gardens a Practical Reality Worldwide

The latter is available as an Amazon Kindle E-book.

More details of each book will  be found by clicking ‘OUR BOOKS’


(c) Clodagh and Dick Handscombe January 2013.