Paths, as Gordon Hayward points out in "Garden Paths" ($13, Houghton Mifflin, 1998), are, above all, practical. They take you and friends from one place to another on solid footing while avoiding mud or damp foliage. Beyond that, paths can be an aesthetic pleasure.
"Well-designed paths are irresistible," Hayward writes. "They invite people to explore. Put a curve in a path that disappears around a corner and visitors will yearn to know what is around that corner."
But how do you make a path, one that gets the job done while looking great? Hayward explains what materials to buy (stone, brick or wood?) and how to lay them out. More important, he details steps necessary to design a path that complements your home and garden.
Photos of dozens of paths from simple straight ones to gracefully curving varieties illustrate his straightforward advice.
When it comes to window treatments, you can either hang some drapes or install a blind or two. Better Homes and Gardens' "Window Treatments" ($13, Meredith Books, 1998) makes a big production out of it, but one that an ambitious decorator might get into.
The book tells how to mix and match fabrics and styles in the search for the right curtain, valance and shutter. A section on how to make the combos could appeal to someone handy with a sewing machine.
Not one to get into this stuff myself, I showed the book to a friend who thought the photos were the best part. Cool decorating ideas, she said, ones that showed imagination.
Travelogue of Italian Gardens
Enchanted Gardens of the Renaissance (http://sgwww.epfl.ch /BERGER/) reveals just how amazing gardens can get. This site, the 10th link on this opening page, combines history lessons with remarkable photographs for a tour of three Italian gardens.
The locales, frequently visited by tourists, are the Villa D'Este in Tivoli, the Sacred Grove of Bomarzo and the Villa Lante gardens in Bagnaiau. The site isn't as sophisticated as many other cutting-edge Web sites, but it's worth a look for the shots of these lush environs.
Mike's Back in the Yard (http: //www.acs.oakland.edu/~mjthomas /index.html) isn't hip or especially techno-savvy either. Still, it's a nice destination put up by a guy who has spent lots of time on his gardens and is eager to share.
Mike Thomas describes in detail how he built his pond, summer and "natural" gardens, from the planning stages (complete with schematics) to the finished products. Thomas offers a tour with many photos and useful suggestions on how to get similar effects.
* To have a book or Web site considered for this column, send information to: At Your Fingertips, Home Design, The Times Orange County, 1375 Sunflower Ave., Costa Mesa, CA 92626. Mark Chalon Smith can also be reached by e-mail at mark.smith@ latimes.com.