Last Modified: April 6, 2024

Garden Ideas Using Slate Chippings

an introduction to the fundamentals

Water feature in a slate garden

By Ben Parrot - Landscape Gardener & Amateur Geologist

Overview

Welcome to our introductory guide for creating garden ideas using slate chippings. The aim of this article is to provide a general and informative resource for readers of any level of experience, that covers most of the important aspects to consider when planning to incorporate a slate feature into your garden. Whether you are planning to build an elaborate slate path on a sloping hill or just thinking of creating a beautiful, low-maintenance border for your bulbs and shrubs, there are some handy rules of thumb and fundamental aspects worth considering that will generally apply to building any and all projects with slate chippings.

As we delve into the world of garden slate ideas, imagine transforming an outdoor space with an eye-catching slate mulch. This can be done just by adding something as simple as a plum slate ground cover, and voila, you have quickly and easily created an enchanting slate chippings front garden feature. The magic really begins to happen when the slate majestically contrasts against your favourite flowering plants and shrubs in full bloom.

Just a quick message regarding our newest addition – the 'Pebble Picker' tool – now accessible in the sidebar or menu. It facilitates effortless browsing and selection of decorative aggregates, categorised by colour and type.

Blue slate rockery with conifer

Coming up next, we will briefly explore slate and the different colours available. From there, we take a look at their benefits before delving into a selection of popular slate garden ideas to provide you with inspiration and useful insights about designing with slate. So, it's time to pique your imagination with some hardscaping ideas that should get really your creativity flowing and garden glowing!

Key Takeaways

  1. 1
    Colours: Choose from the different colours of slate chippings for garden and outdoor design.
  2. 2
    Benefits: Discover the many benefits of slate chippings.
  3. 3
    Applications: Explore the creative ways to incorporate slate into your landscapes.
  4. 4
    Installation: Get installation tips as well as the low-down on maintenance to keep things looking great.
Blue slate mulch around spring bulbs. Jpg

Why Choose the Majestic Slate?

In the realm of garden landscaping, the inclusion of slate creates a captivating allure. The very presence of slate seems to resonate with a subdued cadence, reminiscing its ancient origins from deep within the Earth. This fine-grained, foliated metamorphic rock's testament to the enduring legacy of our planet, is in it's gradual creation by the low-grade regional metamorphism of shale or mudstone, over millennia. Slate exudes an aura of permanence, and it's symmetry a beauty and elegance rarely found in other decorative aggregates.

The Colours of Slate

Decorative slate chippings come from the family known as decorative aggregates. Each type offers its own distinctive colour and texture and the potential to create eye-catching and unique landscaping designs. As we already cover every kind of slate chipping, in detail on our website, here we will briefly cover the different types.

Grey

Grey slate chippings are popular for those seeking a sleek, modern look in their garden. They have a neutral tone that pairs well with any landscaping style and can create a stunning contrast against natural greenery and foliage. These chippings are durable and low-maintenance, making them a practical choice for any garden.

Plum

Plum slate chippings are a fantastic choice for garden design due to their rich, purple-pink hue, amplified to absolutely stunning when wet. The striking textures and colours suit forming a focal point or accenting multiple areas, significantly upgrading your outdoor space's appearance. Applications of note are water features, ponds, and waterfalls, mainly due to the electrifying colour of plum slate when wet.

Green

Green slate chippings offer a subtle blend of natural allure and serene elegance. With rich, earthy tones of varying shades of grey and green, they can create a harmonious and soothing visual contrast against a backdrop of lush foliage or vibrant blooms. The aesthetic virtues of green slate lie in its ability to evoke the tranquillity and beauty of nature while adding irresistible elegance to any landscape design.

Blue plum and green chippings

Black

Black slate chippings are dark, flat stones that provide a striking contrast to vibrant green foliage while offering a low-maintenance solution for ground cover. Their sleek, contemporary appearance adds a touch of sophistication to outdoor spaces while retaining their functionality. They really come to life when wet, glistening and reflecting light as they colour darkens noticeably.

Blue

Blue slate chippings offer a cool, contemporary vibe for modern gardens. Their mid-to-dark blue hue adds a pop of colour while maintaining a sleek aesthetic. They add contrast to your garden and are perfect for use in most garden areas, from borders to pathways. They are an excellent choice for homeowners seeking to use stone to introduce blue-grey colours into their landscapes while also being low maintenance.

Rustic

Rustic slate chippingsalso known as 'Autumn slate', offer a rare and distinguishing choice for use in garden features. Boasting a unique 'Autumnal' blend of buff, copper, charcoal and black, rustic slate brings a natural, earthy charm that adds character and depth to any space. Great as a contrast for greenery, but start tying in orange flowering annuals such as Rudbeckia or Eschscholzia, or the orange-red perennial, Helenium, and you are flashing vibrant, golden colours during the spring and summer months!

A Size for Most Jobs

There are more than a few sizes of slate chippings available for landscaping, with each type able to serve uniquely different purposes as well. The most common sizes available are 20mm slate chippings and 40mm slate chippings. However, there are also even larger sized slate paddlestones, which can range up to 100mm in diameter or more, as well as a smaller grade, known as slate mini mulch.

Slate mini mulch is a type of slate that has the finest texture, ranging in size from 4-10mm in diameter. It is an excellent option for many outdoor design applications, especially paths and walkways. However, it is not suitable for driveways, as it tends to crumble easily under the weight of a car.

20mm chippings are an all-around, durable size and shape, best for packing down flat in order to form stable, level surfaces or for smoother-looking finishes. They are suitable for just about any task that involves slate chippings.

The larger, 40mm slate chips are the most durable and able to withstand higher load-bearing than slate of smaller sizes. The larger diameter can be used to create beautiful textures, offering greater coverage at the same time. However, they don't pack as flat and aren't as comfortable to walk on as a result.

Slate rock sizes mini to boulder. Jpg

Benefits

Slate is an excellent choice for chipped slate garden landscaping due to its numerous practical benefits, with its most significant advantage being its durability. Slate is a hard, dense material that is highly resistant to weathering and erosion, making it a long-lasting decorative aggregate. Here is the standout list of the numerous benefits of a slate chips garden:

  1. 1
    Aesthetic Variety: Available in various colours, including green, blue, grey, and plum, allowing for creative landscaping designs that suit different styles and themes.
  2. 2
    Economical: Slate gravel is also one of the most budget-friendly options among decorative aggregates, offering cost-effective pricing compared to mid-priced and premium alternatives.  
  3. 3
    Inhibit Weed Growth: When laid as a ground cover they block UV light from penetrating the surface, effectively hindering the growth of weeds.
  4. 4
    Low Maintenance: Requires minimal upkeep and are easily refreshed by raking or adding new chips, making them convenient for busy homeowners.
  5. 5
    Durability: Slate is a robust and weather-resistant material that can withstand traffic and all climatic conditions, ensuring long-lasting beauty in all environments.
  6. 6
    Water Conservation: The moisture-retaining properties of slate help conserve water in the soil, contributing to the health of plants and reducing the need for excessive watering.
  7. 7
    Erosion Control: When used in areas prone to erosion the provide effective erosion control by stabilizing the soil and preventing run-off, protecting the landscape's integrity.

Collectively, these benefits explain why slate chippings are such a popular choice for landscaping professionals, and homeowners, alike.

Plum edging next to a gravel driveway

Applications

Now that we have covered the different types of slate chippings, their sizes and their benefits, it's time to get creative with slate chippings for design. From pathways and rockeries to borders and water features, the possibilities are endless when it comes to using chipped slate to beautify your outdoor spaces. Whilst the only limit is your imagination, here are some of the most popular uses to start from, with links to related articles.

Beach theme slate rockery with driftwood. Jpg

Ground Cover or Patio Surface

Slate adds colour and texture to outdoor spaces as a ground cover, creating an appealing backdrop for outdoor furniture or striking contrast against border edging and the surrounding trees, plants and flowers. As an alternative to block pavers, it makes a great backyard patio surface, especially when complemented by some seating and laid-back decor. At the same time, slate paving slabs, or 'setts' can add their own touch of old-world character to any property.

Slate garden with palms and decorative grasses

Borders and Beds

Using slate chippings to create low-maintenance garden borders is another excellent way to spruce up your outdoor space. They are also a practical choice, acting as an effective barrier that inhibits weed growth and seed germination. You can create a polished continuity throughout your garden by using slate chips to edge paths or driveways with timber or decorative brick. Wood, cobbles or other decorative stones make great landscape edging and help to delineate lawn or gravel areas and keep things looking sharp.

Pot Plant Toppers

Deploying slate chippings as a way to spruce up the appearance of indoor plant pots or garden containers can work wonders for the overall aesthetic. By laying a thin layer of slate chippings across the surface, it wonderfully highlights the plants, adding a splash of colour that catches the eye. Additionally, they prevent the soil from splashing onto the leaves when watering, giving protection against fungal issues, as well as aiding in moisture retention and weed prevention.

1slate mulch garden. Jpg

Water Features

The inclusion of slate pieces with pebbles in your slate water feature can yield spectacular visual results, adding another layer of depth to your garden design. Due to its neutral pH, slate is ultra-safe for aquatic life, making it a versatile option for crafting water features such as a pond, fountains, and waterfalls, providing a distinct and attractive effect in natural colours to your garden.

Maintaining the aesthetic of your slate water feature requires inspections for damage or wear and tear for prompt repairs where needed. Additionally, occasional cleaning of the slate is helpful to prevent the accumulation of dirt and debris, ensuring your water features remain a beautiful focal point into the future.

Slate water feature

Aquariums

Slate is a superb choice for aquascaping, seamlessly merging functionality with aesthetics. Its smooth, flat surface provides an ideal canvas for arranging aquatic plants, rocks and ornaments while creating a natural backdrop. Slate caves form visually appealing landscapes within the tank; fish love them, too. Its inert nature also ensures it won't alter water chemistry and cause harm to your pets.

Slate aquarium with goldfish. Jpg

Garden Paths and Driveways

Using slate chips to create an attractive and functional walkway or driveway can be an excellent way to improve the overall aesthetics of your garden.

Pathways

The smaller-sized slate chippings are best suited to pathways, because they pack down flattest and are more comfortable underfoot. Opting for either slate mini mulch (4-10mm), or 20mm chippings for paths is highly advisable. One idea of interest could be to create a stunning slate pathway with lighting leading up to a charming pergola featuring an open fire. Get a step by step guide in How to Lay a Gravel Path.

1diy slate pathway. Jpg

Driveways

For driveways, both the 20-40mm chippings provide a visually appealing surface and durable option for both pedestrian and light vehicular traffic. However, it must be noted that slate is not always suitable for all types driveways. If traffic is heavy or the vehicles large, slate can deteriorate quickly and may be less suitable for the task than other decorative aggregates. Therefore, the smaller sized slate mini mulch should be avoided for driveways. We also have a step by step guide called Installing a Gravel Driveway.

When installing slate chippings for traffic areas, proper methodology is critical. If your plan includes laying chippings on any slope, the use of hexagonal gravel grids will help prevent the stones from ending up in a pile at the bottom. It is also essential to consider the weight of any vehicles, the size of the chippings, and the amount of traffic the area will experience when using slate for pathways and driveways.

We also specifically cover how to lay slate chippings, with a DIY guide for gardeners of any level.

1plum slate driveway

Need a quantity calculator to work out how many slate chips your project needs? Try our free gravel calculator.

How to Install Slate Aggregate

Heavy duty weed membrane with gardening tools. Jpg

Installing slate chippings is pretty straightforward. We cover the whole process in a step-by-step how-to guide, linked above. The following is a general outline to whet your appetite:

  1. 1
    Mark the area for the chippings and dig about 10-15cm deep. Compact the ground underneath.
  2. 2
    Install edging to keep the chippings in place.
  3. 3
    Lay a weed-resistant membrane over the area.
  4. 4
    Spread the chips evenly over the membrane and level with a rake.

Sourcing Quality Slate for Garden Design

Obtaining quality slate chippings can be key to attaining the aesthetically desired outcome for your grand design. North Wales is renowned across the world for its superior slate. In addition to North Wales, quality slate is also sourced from Scotland, Ireland, and Spain, providing local suppliers with a range of options to sell when it comes to these beautiful and versatile aggregates.

Today, the quarrying process from which slate is sourced generally has a minimal carbon footprint, with much of the chippings derived from off-cuts, or recycled roofing tiles. This can offer peace of mind for people looking to make an eco-friendly choice for their garden.

Bulk Bags: Saving Time and Money

Opting for bulk purchases offers savings in both money and time. Buying in bulk is usually more economical than individual bags, although individual bags make be a more ideal option for those looking to use them in multiple areas of their garden, due to their transportability.

When selecting a bulk bag option, make sure that the size of the slate chippings suits the specific needs of your project. Ordering the right amount is crucial, and using our free gravel calculator is the best way to get unbiased estimates of your requirements prior to ordering.

1handful of garden slate. Jpg

Maintenance Tips

Maintaining the beauty and functionality of your slate chipping feature requires periodic upkeep. This includes the occasional redistribution of chippings to keep the surface even, and sweeping or spot weeding is usually enough to keep it tidy. For stubborn build up, washing the chippings with a hose will usually do the trick.

If you prefer, a pressure washer can also be employed to clean the slate chippings. Set the pressure washer to a gentle setting, and then spray them down to remove any accumulated dirt and grime. For more detailed grime fighting, check out our guide on how to clean garden stones.

1cleaning garden stones. Jpg

Summary

Decorative slate chippings are a versatile, attractive and durable solution for landscape design. With various colours and sizes to choose from, the possibilities are endless for incorporating these beautiful stones into your garden project. From pathways and driveways to borders and water features, slate can be your star aggregate for achieving a stunning result that reflects your unique style and taste, all without breaking the bank!

Now that you’ve explored the possibilities of using slate for sprucing up your home and garden, maybe it’s time to start planning how you intend to stamp your individuality and unique, creative style across your project design. So go ahead, get creative, and take the next step towards creating your little piece of sophisticated paradise.

1shrubs growing on a slate front garden

There are many other kinds of decorative chippings out there for you to choose from for your big project. Check out them out!

FAQs

What do you put under slate chippings?

To prevent weeds from growing through your slate, a weed proof membrane should be placed as a layer before adding the chippings. Fix the membrane with pegs, making holes for flowers and plants.

How often should I clean my slate chippings?

Cleaning them once or twice a year should be sufficient to keep them looking their best. However, more frequent cleaning may be necessary in areas with heavy foot traffic or if debris tends to accumulate quickly.

How deep should decorative slate be?

Decorative slate, under 20mm diameter, should be laid at a depth of 4-5 cm. For larger chippings 40mm, 5-6 cm should be used and 50-150mm slate paddlestones should have a depth of up to 10 cm.

If the project is designed for traffic, the depth should be adjusted accordingly to accommodate a sub-base.

What colour garden slate chippings can you get?

Slate comes in a variety of colours:

Blue: Best known for their contemporary vibe and mid to dark blue hue.

Grey: These neutral-toned chippings are ideal for a sleek, modern look.

Plum: These chippings have a rich, warm hue that becomes more stunning when wet.

Green: These chippings have rich, earthy tones of green that create a harmonious contrast with lush foliage.

How do you use slate in a garden?

Slate aggregates are often used for aesthetic enhancement and weed suppression in flower beds and borders. They're also useful in hardscaping features like pathways and patios, tree base protection, and filling gaps between paving stones.

Will plants grow through slate chippings?

Plants can grow through if the chippings are not too densely packed and if the plants have robust, penetrating roots. However, the dense and impervious nature of slate can restrict water and nutrient access, making it challenging for more delicate plants to thrive. Therefore, it is always best to make a 20 cm space around the stems of young plants and only bring them in closer once they are mature and established.

There is a world of outdoor aggregates out there for your garden project just waiting to be discovered. Check out them out!

About the author 

Ben Parrot is a landscape gardener and amateur geologist. He is the founder of Outdoor Aggregates, with the mission to create the first encyclopaedia for decorative aggregates. From natural stone through to decorative bark, these aggregates are critical to garden and landscape design, universally.

The problem: There isn't any place where all the different types of decorative landscaping materials and construction aggregates can be found, nor are the specifications of each type readily available. So, enriched by his extensive experience, and inspired by the timeless elegance and raw beauty of stone and rock, etched by nature's artistry over millennia, Outdoor Aggregates was born.