The Paths

Our garden is in full, bright, hot Mauritian sun.

I considered and quickly dismissed the following “hard” surfaces:

  • Brick – expensive, too formal

Plus it requires outside help – I could hear the plants begging me not to do it

  • Gravel – the Mauritian norm, as it’s cheap – and there’s always a big pile left over after your builders finish

But it’s heavy to move, grey, uncomfortable to kneel on, and awkward to walk on. Also collects dead leaves and other unsightly things.

We used it along the side and back of the house where no-one can see – we forgot to have it trucked away when they took the rubble

  • Crushed Coral – beautiful, don’t know the cost – white and therefore extremely reflective – too bright.

I will use it in small areas. But I won’t buy it – part of Pointe aux Cannoniers beach is covered in it, just sitting there, calling my name.

Besides, all of these would make a full-sun garden even hotter than it already is.

Wood Chips don’t exist here unless you buy it in tiny bags at expensive French hardware stores.

So I went with an old favourite, Sawdust.

Or sometimes shavings. It depends on the day.


  • Very cheap – we buy it from our cabinet maker – although we need to find a new source as he is also selling it to a woman who has horses. Traitor. I bet she didn’t get all of her cupboards, built-in robes and furniture made in his shop!
  • Easy to lay – tip it out of the sack and spread it. Water it in a bit and it’ll compact down within a week or so – will need topping up in places as it settles.

Surprisingly, even with our windy weather, it doesn’t get blown around much

  • Looks good and adds colour to the landscape
  • Absorbs heat and light
  • Is organic so will slowly break down (so again will need topping up – I don’t know how often as I’ve only just started) thereby improving the soil. Although why do you need to improve the soil under a path? Never mind…
  • Easy to push between the edging plants
  • Doesn’t look messy when it gets covered by leaves from next door’s deciduous tree.

It just looks natural – I imagine the way an old-growth forest looks after the loggers have been in with their chainsaws. Ah, beautiful!

Things I Learnt the Hard Way

  • Kill the grass and weeds first – make Roundup your new best friend
  • Do not lay down thick sheets of newspaper – the sawdust just slides around on it when you walk, making it slippery, and exposing the paper to the sun, which makes it brittle, which makes it split, and voila, the grass has found the light again (notice my excellent French)
  • If you poison the grass once the sawdust has been laid, you end up with dead grass on top of your sawdust WHICH IS UGLY AND MUST BE REMOVED!!!! Or covered with more sawdust.

I think that’s all. I need a drink.