Table of Contents

The Art of Garden Path Design

Trysts and Trysting Places

I invariably ask guests at dinner parties around dessert time – to tell me about the “trysting places” of their lives. Some are confused – what is a “trysting place”? Once I define my terms, however, everyone has something to say.

The word “tryst” – derived from the Scandinavian for “watch post” – is an agreement as between lovers to meet. So a “trysting place” is a place of assignation for romantic activities, somewhere to go to get away from the world in order to contemplate one’s soul mate and, through him or her, one’s own soul.

As I’ve written before, my guests describe coming upon mossy glades and perching at pondsides. They tell of nestling in pine-needled bowers and nuzzling within abandoned boxcars on a remote railroad siding. One young man recalled mounting his college’s stone tower with a lover, another remembered hunkering down under an overturned canoe on a beach along a remote riverway up in Maine. Adolescent fantasies, adult desires – romances on the land.

Courtship Patterns

When I think carefully about it, I find that courtship tends to follow a particular path – a journey through time and space that, with a clear sense of design, can help you create a landscape that mirrors one’s sense of a “penultimate tryst” in the form of a garden.

What does the traditional “Meeting of the Eyes” – a moment of electrical attraction and visual connection between two individuals – look like as a part of a garden? In diagrammatic terms, it suggests a meeting point that widens where two opposing paths come together – an expanded gateway, perhaps, deep enough to be nearly gazebo-like, with opposing benches and framed in climbing vines in flower. From this point, a new direction is suggested, one whose design can be very different in character depending upon the “trysters” themselves.

The “Meeting of the Eyes” is the gateway into the garden of Love. The next part of this romantic garden journey might be called the “Meeting of the Hearts” – a phase in which longing kicks in and one’s imagination runs wild. This is a long phase in a courtship, a path that winds and dips, stops and starts, parts and comes together. It can be a short, intense path that goes straight ahead to a destination, or long and circuitous, a set of trails that come together and move apart in an almost dance-like set of patterns, as with the parterre-like forms of the Minuet.

Next is the “Meeting of the Bodies” – the most physical and palpable part of this courtship ritual, where ecstasy is the goal and for which a stopping place is necessary in a garden. The destination point can be any of the trysting places already described, or any new ones that you can think up. I once saw a flower show exhibit called the “Garden of Dreams” in which a moss bed, complete with sphagnum pillow and twiggy bed frame, was featured – not a bad place to experience the delights of the Other. If not a place to lie or a bower in which to nestle, shouldn’t a place designed for two actual bodies to come together feature one or a set of focal points that symbolize the act that takes place within its confines?

For the “Meeting of the Bodies” is the literal and figurative climax of a garden experience, and this pinnacle encounter can be registered from the male point of view or the female, depending upon the designer and his or her orientation. Obviously, a garden with a pool filled with upward-spouting fountains suggests a different climactic experience than one whose focal point is a pool with softly bubbling waters or, better yet, one whose bubbler moves water down and inward rather than out and upward. And the real trick of all is to have these two symbolic experiences happen simultaneously – if you combine a quietly flowing spring with an upward-pluming spray jet, you recreate in three-dimensional form the climactic pleasures of physical union.

Finally, after numerous trysts and meetings between the two Bodies, comes the “Meeting of the Souls” – where physical satiety is complete and spiritual union sets in, where garden paths are designed for a twosome to stroll arm-in-arm and to meander aimlessly from one beautiful place to another. This is a time of bodily enervation combined with contemplative awareness – a kind of beautiful lassitude that comes from straining the limits of one’s physical energy and, in the process, freeing one’s mind to relax its usual vigilance towards the world. With this kind of sexual enlightenment, when accompanied by reverence and love, comes a concurrent merging of two souls as a kind of mutual mini-enlightenment, bigger than both together.

At the end of the garden path lies one final element – the “Return to Real Life” – where longing and memory become fused and the emotional becomes real. This may be a return to the original threshold through which you entered the garden, or better yet, a quiet back exit – as at a Japanese “Love Hotel,” seen by no one except one’s lover, so that the tryst remains a secret to the outside world.

The simplest garden path, imbued with the meaning and magic of a significant tryst, becomes an icon, an image that is resurrected twenty years later at dinner parties such as mine when the mind’s eye recalls in exquisite detail the meanders and moods of a lover’s stroll through a garden, forever captured and transformed.

The Garden Path as Canvas

As I’ve learned, the garden path can serve as a canvas for artistic expression, a medium through which the designer can tell a story and guide the visitor on a sensory, emotional, and even spiritual journey.

One of the most captivating ways to bring this to life is through the use of pebble mosaics. These intricate designs, crafted from an array of colorful stones, can transform the path into a work of art that captivates the eye and sparks the imagination. By carefully selecting and arranging the pebbles, the designer can create stunning patterns, shapes, and even figurative representations that lead the visitor through the garden, each step a new discovery.

But the garden path is not just a canvas for visual delight; it can also be a tactile experience, engaging the senses of touch and sound. The choice of materials, from smooth river stones to crunchy gravel, can evoke a range of emotional responses, from the soothing crunch of a woodland path to the playful scattering of pebbles underfoot.

As landscape designer Benjamin Vogt suggests, the garden path can also be a means of connecting with the natural world, guiding visitors through a verdant tapestry of native plants and offering a sense of discovery and wonder at every turn.

By incorporating elements of texture, color, and natural design, the garden path can become a truly immersive experience, leading the visitor on a journey that transcends the physical and taps into the realm of the senses and the soul.

The Art of Meandering

One of the hallmarks of a well-designed garden path is its ability to invite the visitor to meander, to lose themselves in the winding curves and unexpected discoveries that unfold before them.

This art of meandering is not merely a matter of creating a serpentine route; it’s about crafting a path that engages the senses, sparks the imagination, and encourages a state of mindful exploration.

At Today’s Gardens, we believe that the garden path is more than just a functional means of getting from point A to point B. It’s a canvas, a stage, and a storytelling device – a way to guide the visitor on a journey of discovery, wonder, and even self-reflection.

Through the careful placement of focal points, the use of materials that invite the senses, and the incorporation of unexpected twists and turns, the garden path can become a living, breathing work of art – a path that invites the visitor to slow down, to savor the moment, and to connect with the natural world in a way that is both deeply personal and universally resonant.


In the end, the art of garden path design is not just about creating a practical solution for navigating a landscape; it’s about crafting a sensory experience that transports the visitor to a realm of imagination, emotion, and spiritual connection.

By drawing inspiration from the timeless rituals of courtship and the innate human desire for connection, the garden path designer can create a space that not only delights the senses but also nourishes the soul. It’s a canvas for artistic expression, a medium for storytelling, and a means of forging a deeper bond with the natural world.

So as you plan your next garden project, I encourage you to embrace the art of the garden path, to let your creativity and your heart guide you on a journey of discovery and transformation. For in the end, the true magic of the garden lies not just in the plants and flowers, but in the pathways that lead us through it, inviting us to lose ourselves in the beauty and wonder of the natural world.

Today’s Garden is Garden and Landscape Company, provides all you need about Garden and Landscape Design to get better garden decorations.

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