The thin dark line coming from the pencil anchored itself at one end of the front steps, then formed a generous curve on the paper that moved in one smooth flow all the way out to the parking area. I watched as this fresh walkway seemed to emerge from the paper—the essential backbone of a brand-new landscape—and I started to feel a tingling that this might be the one.
Husband, wife, and I had been struggling with a complicated but necessary set of three interconnecting paths that all converged in the front yard! Parking area, garage/office, and the way down to the dock—each wanted a path of their own—the challenge was to keep the utility of the paths but rescue the landscape from the aesthetic confusion they created. We were working with the idea of making one path primary, emphasizing it by making it very broad and gliding, in a grand, eye-catching arc. At this point it was easy to see how the other two paths, narrower and now comfortably secondary, could link in.
“Wow, that’s beautiful,” the wife said. “Could we do that lovely curve in brick, do you think?” In that moment we all knew we had the key element of our new design. And I felt again the joy that is unique to co-design: the deep satisfaction of having the design flow from the input of all of us working the design process together. I may (or may not) be holding the pencil, but the ideas are coming from all present.
Later the husband told me, “We hadn’t been thinking of a broad, curved path. I didn’t think that would fit here, but it’s perfect. Now I can’t imagine it being any other way.”
The couple was eager to get the hardscaping decisions made so that work could commence during the winter. Paths will be constructed as time and weather permit over the next few months, and then by spring this industrious pair will be able to turn their attention to planting.
I am similarly busy at my own, new home in Annapolis. A stepping stone path went in during December, and a low, stone wall was just completed this month. It will be easy to schedule the last little bit of grading and prep work while I locate the plants I need, all well before things get crazy in spring.
I also get to enjoy keeping busy in winter…instead of longing for spring, preparing for it.
by Chris Pax
Lead Designer, Adkins Arboretum Native Landscape Design Center