This section is from "The Horticulturist, And Journal Of Rural Art And Rural Taste", by P. Barry, A. J. Downing, J. Jay Smith, Peter B. Mead, F. W. Woodward, Henry T. Williams. Also available from Amazon: Horticulturist and Journal of Rural Art and Rural Taste.
The comfort and enjoyment of a garden, especially in our moist climate, depend in a great degree upon the condition of its walks; for unless these are smooth, firm, and dry, they can scarcely be passed over during a large portion of the year except in very fine weather, and rarely indeed by invalids, more especially at those times when gardens are most enjoyable, viz. morning and evenings, as well as after showers. A main feature in the formation of a garden should therefore be walks so made that they could be walked on in all weathers with comparative comfort.
In forming walks, the first thing is to determine the position of the verges. In doing this it must be kept constantly in view that in nearly every case, whether on level ground, ascending or descending inequalities of surface, the verges at right angles across the walk should be on the same level, and for the following reasons: First, each half of the walk will receive only its due proportion of rain, which tends in so many instances to disfigure and disturb the surface; secondIyt walks so made will be found more agreeable to walk on than if they had an inclination from one verge to the other; and lastly, by this arrangement the eye of taste will neither be offended or annoyed. The mind will receive that kind of satisfaction which it derives from looking at a perfect architectural elevation, and to affect this appears to me equally important in matters of gardening as in those of building, especially where the utmost refinement in the art is aimed at.
The next point to be considered is to make provision for carrying off water, and this should be so contrived as to meet the maximum amount of our atmospheric precipitations, particularly where the inclinations are rapid and of great length; on level surfaces and when the natural soil is loose and friable, this will not be so urgent, provided the walks are otherwise properly formed. The best material to use for conveying the water will be the earthernware tubing now so well known everywhere, and of a diameter in proportion to the width of the walk and the length the water may have to run before it is discharged. This will be easily determined by persons accustomed to such matters, or at all acquainted with draining. The most convenient place to lay the tubing will be in the center of the walk, with communicating tubes to the sides, where square cesspools about nine inches square and eighteen inches deep, built in brickwork, should be formed to receive the water and sand or other earthy matters which may be carried along with it The water will pass into the drain near the surface of these cesspools.
A grating fitted into a stone frame must be placed over each cesspool, so that by lifting up the grating the cesspool may be readily cleaned out; where the walk takes a precipitate fall, and for a considerable distance, provision must be made for the water to run in fore it reaches the gutters, without allowing it to rut the gravel. This can be effected by means of surface guttering both sides of the walk with tiles made for the purpose, or where sea pebbles abound these may be used with good effect One of the main points which conduces so largely to the beauty of a garden is the perfect keeping of the walks, and unless precautions are taken in their first construction to guard against those natural and unavoidable causes which disturb the surface, there must be continual repairing and unsightly patching, producing at beet a most unsatisfactory result, which a little extra trouble in the first instance would have effectually obviated.
The materials of which walks should be formed is a subject depending in some measure upon the geological formation of the neighborhood; for where the most fitting material is not readily accessible, few are inclined to incur the expense of distant carriage, although railroads have in many instances assisted in this matter. In nearly every part of the country some kind of rough and hard material can be had, such as broken stones, rubble, or even clinkers constitute a good foundation. Walks for ordinary purposes do not, as some imagine, require a great depth of bottom, beneath the fine gravel which constitutes the finish; nine inches in most cases will be found ample. This foundation has been mistaken by many for drainage, but no such thing is meant, as the surface of the walk when finished ought to carry the rain to the sides; as little as possible should be absorbed by the gravel, because where there is great traffic, in a short time the walks would become a complete puddle, and hence the necessity of rendering the surface impervious to wet This has induced many persons to cover the tops of their walks with concrete or asphalte, but when good gravel can be procured at a reasonable expense, I think under all circumstances it is to be preferred.
It is more congenial to our feelings and harmonises better with the surrounding scenery of the garden. Under particular circumstances necessity will suggest other expedients, but then let necessity also justify their use. Two inches of fine screened gravel are sufficient wherewith to cover the surface as a finish to the whole, and where this is found to be an expensive article, one inch carefully laid on will suffice. Therefore when the cost of a cubic yard of gravel is known, it will be easy to ascertain exactly the expense of coating any given extent of garden walks.
I shall now direct attention to the form which the surface of walks should have when finished. This I apprehend has been but little understood by those who have attempted to lay down rules for our guidance, inasmuch as certain requirements, as well as peculiar situations, have a considerable influence in the matter.
Perfectly level walks, like the floors of a house, are not only more agreeable to walk on, but they are also strictly in conformity with good taste in geometrical gardening, where sculptural and architectural decorations pievail, and indeed in all kinds of gardening; the only plea that can justify a deviation from this rule is, that our garden walks are exposed to the atmosphere, while the floors of our houses are protected. To render walks available, therefore, for the purposes for which they are introduced, becomes a matter of primary import, otherwise the level rule might be made absolute, as is the perpendicular in the elevation of a building. Now on terraces surrounding buildings, and in elaborate parterres similarly or identically circumstanced, the nearer walks approach a level surface, just in proportion will a mind imbued with taste and a correct eye appreciate their execution. Walks so laid down are only available in perfectly dry weather. Situations which are elevated, either naturally or artificially, and thus rendered perfectly dry, afford the best opportunities for a close approximation to this rule.