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Northeast Gardening: Lessons Along the Garden Path

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Lowe's Northeast garden expert Irene Virag takes a journey along the garden path created by Long Island designers Diane and Earl Bedrick.

A stroll along Diane and Earl Bedrick's path is a lesson in garden design.
Blue star creeper AKA Laurentia fluviatilis stands up to foot traffic, making it a perfect groundcover for a garden path.

A good garden path is not just an invitation to meander among the marigolds. It's also a pathway to learning. It's that way with Diane and Earl Bedrick's garden path on the East End of Long Island. The lessons are visible the minute you pass under the arbor, which welcomes you with golden laburnum, and step onto the walk leading from the patio to the pool. You learn about color and texture and shape and scent, about repetition in garden design and the joy of the journey.

Here are some of the lessons I learned as Diane and Earl (who run their own garden design business) showed me the path that goes boldly forward, with large flagstone squares arranged in a diamond pattern.

Pretty Can Be Practical
A garden path can be beautiful, but you still have to walk on it. Choose a groundcover that can take the traffic. Diane went with Laurentia fluviatilis, AKA blue star creeper, featuring tiny, green foliage that spreads into a cushiony mat, with delicate, seasonlong lavender blooms. Small tufts of 'Little Bunny' fountain grass nestle in the perennial groundcover that's hardy from zones 5 to 10 and prefers moist soil and sun to partial shade.

The chartreuse foliage of Deutzia 'Chardonnay Pearls' keep sparkling long after its creamy springtime blooms  vanish.

Let Perennials Rule--but Make Room for Annuals
Diane devotes a section near the path's end to a seasonal display of cleome, agastache and salvia. When the bleeding hearts have sighed their last sigh, she fills the space with annuals.

Keep the Color Show Going
On a late spring day the dwarf iris is already a memory. But baptisia and perennial salvia stand tall, and Nikko Blue hydrangeas and pink and cream-colored astilbes and a crape myrtle wait in the wings. Throughout the season Diane paints with blue, pink, purple, yellow and shades of green--with nepeta and Liriope and lady's mantle. A gold-leaf variety of deutzia called 'Chardonnay Pearls' shines along the pathway, even as its fragrant flowers fade.

Diane repeats plants and colors, staggering them on both sides of the path, to entice you forward.

As one flower exits, another appears on stage. No matter when you're strolling this path, there's always something to admire--and all of it plays out against a landscape of trees, shrubs and evergreens.

Plant a Few Surprises
Diane provides oomph by adding two deep-pink shrub roses on either side of the steps to the pool. She follows up with a carpet of golden carex at the foot of each bush. At the beginning of the pathway, inside the arbor, she repeats the color with drifts of Hakonechloa grass. And that's not all. She plants Furcraea gigantea 'Variegata', an agavelike succulent with cream-and-green foliage, in an old chimney, which stands like a sculpture on the edge of the path.

An ancillary path offers a side trip to the koi pond and waterfall.

A Fork in the Path Adds Interest
Although the diamond-pattern path is the main lane, there's also a side road. Stepping stones veer off through the plantings to another trail that hugs a koi pond with a waterfall.

There's no point rushing along the garden path. Freckles, the cat, rests for a moment and becomes part of the scene.

The path leads back to the pool in one direction and the patio in another. A curved bench beckons you to sit and listen to the music of the waterfall and the song of the birds. Because a garden path isn't just about the destination--it's about the journey.

Let's take a stroll along Diane and Earl Bedrick's garden path. Click here to watch my video.