Although there was no garden here when I bought Squirrelhaven, the Woodland garden area was not a tabula rasa. Any paths to be laid out had to account for the trees and the swing bench.
This garden is supposed to be a naturalistic area reminiscent of a forest preserve (minus the doggie doo-doo bag dispenser). Consequently, the paths needed to look natural. The obvious paving material was woodchip mulch. Except for the need to replenish the mulch annually (or even semi-annually), this surface works well in this setting. Inspired by the Ryerson Woods area connected to the Chicago Botanic Garden, I lined the paths with logs and large branches from trimmings and trees in the garden.
I planned the major paths to be wide enough to accommodate my wheelbarrow. It has started to become a matter of serious vigilance to keep the paths that width. The Lamiums, Violets and Geranium maculatum continually spread into the paths. They are pretty, so I let them stay while in bloom, telling myself I'll get serious about trimming them back later. Meanwhile, the paths get ever narrower.
I also tried to lay out the paths where the "natural path" seemed to be.
I started at the patio and envisioned myself and the dogs stepping off the patio to head straight into the garden: Entrance 1. This major path had to connect to the gate to the front and also had to lead to the swing.
The second major path is a straight line back to the compost bin.
Because that was not an attractive focal point, I decided to put in a screening device this year. The trellis for Clematis should provide sufficient screening next summer. I know the angel windchime is a bit on the cutesy side, but I'm not likely to find anything that size for the price: under $30 at the Design Toscano warehouse sale. (Regular retail price for the piece: over $70.) My hope is that the rustic setting is sufficient juxtaposition to overcome the cuteness factor.
The two secondary paths run in front of and behind the swing in a loop connected to the main paths.
There are several smaller paths which act as catwalks, allowing me to weed and plant without stepping in a bed and compacting the soil (or crushing something).
The second photo depicts the encroachment of the Lamium into the little path. It also shows part of the secondary loop around the back of the swing.
Am I satisfied with the layout of the paths? Not entirely, as I wish I had thought more about the garden as a journey, so that there would be enticement to see what is around the bend. There also should be more of a reward around the bend than a leaf mold bin and bags of shredded leaves. Of course I must note that these photos do not show the garden at its best, when the foliage of shrubs provides more screening and a hint of mystery. Time will also help (hopefully), as I expect the Cotinus and the Chionanthus to fill in as they mature. However, the garden should look good throughout the year, which is why I decided to use photos of the paths taken now rather than post photos from summer. When evaluating design, it is best to consider the garden at its least attractive. Inspiration for improvements comes naturally from a consideration of the flaws. On the whole, the paths complement the garden stylistically. Most are wide enough for me to drag some victim out into the garden to see some plant I'm excited about. ("Come on, kids, you've got to see what's in bloom!!") I prefer paths that allow me to share the experience.