Slowing down long enough to enjoy the beauty of Nature is good for one's emotional and physical health as well as adding to your spiritual health, but looking at one's entire grassy backyard and wondering where to begin a garden pathway can be daunting and stressful.
Good planning is what makes gardening easier, less expensive, and more fulfilling. Start off with asking questions such as: what purpose will my garden serve? Do you desire a working garden, full of vegetables and fruits? Are you into colors and fragrances? Do you want to easily meander through your flowers and shrubs and just enjoy their beauty? Is your family lifestyle one of activities and playtime? Do you need privacy and quiet time to meditate? All these desirable aspects of gardens can be accomplished thinking about the right path in your landscape.
If you have a blank slate and want to know what the best views could be, take a chair (any chair will do!) and set it out in your yard in various locations to peruse various vistas from a variety of vantage points. What glaring blemishes or irritating noises should you block with thick, large-canopied trees or fast-growing shrubs? Can you admire relaxing sunsets or inspiring sunrises from any location? You may want to sit at different times of the day during different seasons to make decisions regarding a permanent sitting location. What architectural elements of your home and property do you want to show off? When you consciously identify what you have within your boundaries, you can then create gardens to accent those highlights or mask eyesores and create a more aesthetic ambiance by hiding them.
In a working garden, your objective in creating a pathway requires making sure your utilitarian obligations are met while addressing aesthetics. Your walkway needs to withstand the punishment of a full wheelbarrow or someone carrying heavy bags of composting materials. Your pathway need to be sure-footed and sturdy.
Details matter. Create a hidden garden by choosing plantings that have varying heights to screen the secret location from the world. Select garden furniture that will invite you to sit for a spell. A cool water garden with trickling splashes to mask urban (or even your own family's) sounds can be incorporated with relative ease.
Plot a path from your entrance of your garden to a destination, possibly with several stopping points along the way. One specimen tree, bird feeder, flowering topiary, signage, or artistic garden ornament could magically appear around a hidden corner. Something unique and unexpected is delightful on a garden stroll and always appreciated in loving memories.
Remember these critical landscaping points when designing a pathway:
Who will be using the garden pathway? Any young children, individuals with physical disabilities, or seniors, demand that safety issues need to be addressed before you start.
Make pathways at least 3' wide to accommodate two people walking.
Curve pathways to establish a slower pace and hide the destination.
Use different materials to represent beginning and ending of multiple spaces or outdoor rooms.
When constructing a steppingstone walkway, lay it out and use it for a few days before final installation to see if it feels natural when walking on. Don't hesitate to move pavers or stones to increase or decrease stride to ensure ease and comfort.
Think magically - you don't have to see the end of your garden journey, even if you have a small yard.
Satisfaction in creating in a garden pathway may encourage you to name your home and garden and put signage in your front yard, just like they do in Britain. As I was driving through Orlando a few years ago, I laughed and appreciated one brave gardener's efforts, who dared to name their accomplishment - the garden sign in the front of their lakefront home stated boldly "Wit's End." By starting off on the right foot and getting from 'step one' to the 'last step,' installing a walkway can be accomplished with good planning and your own creativity. Putting a little spring into your step can be good for your soul.