I have used hazelnut shells as pathways in my garden for many years. I think that I first saw hazelnut shells used as pathways in a display garden at the Northwest Flower & Garden Show in Seattle. It looked like a good idea and so I decided to try it and that was probably at least twenty years ago. I have had them ever since.
Hazelnut shells have a brown natural look, and a crunching sound when walked one and I like both the look and the sound. Like any natural product, they will gradually break down into the soil over time and so will need to be replenished. To keep them looking fresh, I replenish them once a year by adding a light layer of new shells over the existing ones.
While I do not know if there is any natural weed suppression in hazelnut shells, we rarely have weeds appear in our pathways and we used no weed barrier. There is also some belief that hazelnut shells tend to repel slugs and snails and this may be true on a limited basis. I think that if I were a slug or snail and I had a choice of crawling over hazelnut shells versus garden soil, I would probably pick the soil rather than the sometimes sharp edges of the shells. This does not mean that hazelnut shells prevent snail and slugs as I have seen snails crossing my pathways in the early morning, but the shells probably do act as a deterrent.
Each year when a new supply of shells arrives, we see an influx of blue jays and squirrels but this is only temporary as some of the shells still have the meat of the nut in them. Soon the ‘meat’ is gone and so are the jays and squirrels.