One of the most attractive paths or patios that you can easily create in your garden is one that also allows you to plant things between the pavers, so the concrete or stone doesn’t look as harsh or barren. Planting wispy or grassy plants around your pavers can make the area look more like a meadow. In fact, there are some very nice flowering plants that actually seem to prefer growing in the gaps left between concrete or stone (probably because they’re less likely to be overwatered or because the pavers keep the roots cool).
A screed rides between two wood rails and levels the sand base for pavers or steppingstones.
Photo Credit: Robert Smaus
Achillea tomentosa is a good plant for those paver gaps.
Photo Credit: Robert Smaus
What’s more, creating such a look is pretty easy to do.
Start by deciding what you want to pave the area with – concrete steppingstones, real stone or something similar. Then carefully measure the area you’d like to pave and ask your local supplier how much material you’ll need for that allotted space, as well as how much sand is required for setting the stones on a 1-inch-thick base.
Once your materials have been assembled, excavate some soil from the area to be paved. The pavers should end up about a ½ inch above the soil, so remove enough soil to allow for the inch-thick base of sand, plus the thickness of the pavers, minus that ½ inch that protrudes aboveground.
Level the sand base with a homemade tool called a screed. The screed travels on 2x4-inch or 2x2-inch lumber guides held in place with short stakes, on either side of where you’re laying the paving. (The picture can help you visualize this.) Make sure the top of the lumber guides are the same height as the finished path or patio (about a ½ inch aboveground). You can make a custom screed by attaching a piece of hardboard or other wood to a 1x1-inch piece of wood. The hardboard should hang down from the wood so it equals the depth of the pavers. Then when it’s dragged along the guides, it’ll level the sand base and leave enough room to set the pavers on top, so they end up at the intended depth.
Give your screed a test run: Set one paver, checking to see that it’s the proper height above ground level. Then pour in the sand for the others and level it all off. (The screed is easy to manage if you do one row of pavers at a time.)
Make the gaps between pavers about 2 inches wide, so there’s enough planting room. Low-spreading plants like creeping thyme (Thymus serpyllum) or Corsican mint (Mentha requienii) work well, and both herbs smell great if you accidentally step on them. Paver gaps are also the prefect spots for a low mat-making yarrow (Achillea tomentosa), many little bulbs or any plant that likes it a little on the dry side and stays short enough so that no one can trip over it. Fill the gaps to within a ½ inch of the top so the plants are just below the surface of the pavers.
If all paver-laying and planting is done properly, your path will be flat enough not to trip anyone – even at night. It’ll only make visitors stop in their tracks as they admire the beautiful meadowlike look you’ve brought to an otherwise regular boring path or patio.