I was doing landscape work for a friend and fellow cottage garden enthusiast, Carole; helping her move shrubs and divide perennials, plant new plants, and lay fabric and mulch throughout all her beds. Carole had already converted most of her back lawn into flower beds. She had confessed that she hated mowing and wanted all the lawn in her yard to be gone, then asked me for suggestions on a path leading through her backyard gardens that would fit in with the rustic cottage garden look. Bright and early the next morning, I showed up at Carole's with my sketchbook in hand and a wild idea in mind.

What I proposed to Carole was a unique "Recycled Path" created out of these various bits of leftover materials I had from past landscape jobs. I explained that I would have to put it together like a giant jigsaw puzzle, selecting and using each next piece as it would fit. I knew most of my landscape customers would be skeptical of this concept, but Carole loved the idea and gave me the go-ahead. She even dug through her garage and garden shed for bricks and pavers to add to the path. Even broken bits of bricks and pavers had a place in our recycled path, and added to its rustic look.

With only myself and my teenage sons as the laborers, it took three days for us to piece together Carole's unique recycled path. We built it like you would build a solid brick path or walkway, first digging out an area for a 3-foot-wide path. Though not all my bricks were average bricks, an average brick is 3 5/8 inches deep, 2 ¼inches tall and 8 inches long, so we dug the path 3 inches deep. We dug the path from her driveway, around a large tree and its shade flower bed and to the gate on the opposite side of her backyard. Next, we laid one foot of sand in the dug-out frame for the path, and tamped it down and leveled it. Sand underneath pavers allows for quick drainage and keeps the bricks level during freezing and thawing shifts in the soil.

As I laid the bricks and pavers, I made sure that they were all varied evenly, so similar pieces were spread out throughout the whole path, not clumped together making it look odd. The concept was to have it look like an intriguing mosaic path, not like someone started to build a normal brick path for a few feet, then switched to stepping stones for a few feet, etc. It was very important that bricks, stepping stones, pavers and landscape timber be spread out thoroughly over the whole length of the path.

Since I was using this mix of common bricks, stepping stones, pavers and some cut pieces of 4x4 landscape ties, I needed to put the path together piece by piece. I had to add extra sand beneath some of the pieces that were not as deep as others. Using a small level, I made sure each piece was level and stuck ¼ inch above the path’s surrounding soil surface, so when Carole mulched and planted the edges of the path the pavers would not be buried. Between each brick, paver or other piece, I packed down sand and then top soil. I compacted them down so that loose bricks wouldn’t cause twisted ankles or injuries when the path was walked upon. The soil between the bricks and a few small gaps left between some paver pieces were intended for planting step-able ground covers like creeping thyme and Irish moss.

In the end, this unique concept turned out to be the perfect accent for Carole's cottage garden backyard. Since the construction of this recycled path, Carole has participated in many of our community's local garden walks. After each of these garden walks, she always contacts me to tell me the compliments she received on this unique, beautiful garden path.