How to Build a Stylish Gravel Garden For Your Landscape

Gravel gardens are low-maintenance and clean. There’s no worry about having to weed it or mow it; it just simple is there. Here are some tips and tricks to keep in mind If one you’re considering redesigning your garden and from the grass to the gravel. 

How to Build a Stylish Gravel Garden For Your Landscape

Time Saving Tips

1. Lay a gravel bed and plant ground cover instead of a lawn.
2. Plant drought-resistant species instead of high-maintenance roses and herbaceous plants.
3. Cover a wall with climbing plants rather than paint it.
4. Lay areas of gravel and paving.Use horticultural fleece or membrane to suppress weeds.

Order of Work

The first task is to arrange for a tree surgeon to remove the pine tree that is growing too close to the shed. The next is to remove and dispose of the lawn – another job for a professional landscape gardener, who can then rotavate the soil and dig in plenty of sand, to a depth of about 20cm. This can be done during winter, when professionals tend to be less busy. If you don’t mind a little DIY, you can erect the pergola and timber decking yourself on frost-free days in winter and create the base for the bog garden, again on frost-free days. You can also clear the herbaceous border yourself.

Make a start on the foundations for the patio, gravel pathway and natural stone flagging. This, too, is a job for a professional landscape gardener, who can also lay the railway sleepers, the patio decking and the natural stone flags. It would also be wise to ask a professional to source and position the larger individual rocks.

Now it’s Your Turn

Plant the shrubs, climbing plants, herbaceous plants and grasses, spread gravel or crushed stone over pathways and between plants. You might feel that such a radical redesign is rather drastic, but your courage will be rewarded as early as the following year, when you will find garden maintenance work has been dramatically reduced.

Option 1: First remove the topsoil. Then line the base and sides of the bed with horticultural fleece or a geotextile membrane. Next, pour in a layer of prepared sterile growing medium such as gravel or coarse sand with a 20 per cent humus content. Plant shrubs and grasses in the newly prepared bed 20-30cm apart, and cover the bed with a 2-3cm deep layer of gravel or crushed stone. Depending on the species, the plants will propagate themselves by spreading their roots, creeping along the surface or dropping their seeds. You will have to thin out the plants after a few years. Although weed seeds will end up in the gravel, they rarely germinate.

Option 2: Remove the topsoil and then break up the subsoil to a depth of about 30cm, mixing it with sand or crushed stone to make it poorer and to improve drainage. Then cover it with a layer of horticultural fleece or a geotextile membrane. Cut X-shaped slits into the membrane and insert the plants and grasses through them. Then cover the bed with a 2-3cm deep layer of gravel. After a few years, you may need to replace old plants. Again, seeds from weeds will stand little chance of survival here.

Lay horticultural fleece or a geotextile membrane covered with a suitable growing medium. Spread a decorative layer of crushed stone or gravel between the plants.

Things to Watch Out for

Water sparingly; drought-resistant gravel plantings must not become waterlogged. They can survive hard winters, but persistently wet roots will rot.

Low-growing plants and grasses for sunny gravel beds



Flowering period/care notes

Catmint (Nepeta)

grey-green leaves; 20-40cm

blue flowers (May-Sep); cut back after flowering if necessary

Lavender (Lavandula angustifolia)

narrow grey-green leaves; 20-40cm

purple flowers (Jul-Aug); cut back in spring if necessary

Sage (Salvia officinalis ‘Icterina’)

yellow variegated leaves; 30-80cm

upright blue flowerheads (May-Jul); prune in spring if required

Thrift (Armeria maritima)

cushion-forming; 5-15cm

bright pink, white, pink or red(May-Nov)

Rock rose (Helianthemum nummularium)

low-growing, loosely mat-forming; 10-30cm

single yellow flowers (Jun-Sep)