Last Modified: May 26, 2024

Border Garden with Gravel

Designing border Gardens using decorative Gravel

Limestone chippings with timber edging

By Ben Parrot - Landscape Gardener & Amateur Geologist

Overview

Planting a border garden with gravel is not just a trend in garden design; it is a practical, stylish choice for gardeners, homeowners and landscape designers. Border plantings are popular due to the combination of minimal upkeep and the transformative effect they have on the appearance of properties. The use of decorative hardscaping products, which include ground covers like gravels and rocks, offers a DIY-friendly way to renovate your outdoor spaces that's affordable and can last for many, many years.

This guide is designed to walk you through the essentials of establishing border gardens using gravel, focusing on considerations like design, complimentary plants, material selection and maintenance. The information presented here can benefit seasoned gardeners, amateurs interested in DIY landscaping and even professional landscaping services.

Also, don't miss out on our 'Pebble Picker' tool in the menu. With it you can choose and browse every decorative aggregate by colour and type with ease.

Decorative palms growing with nordic granite gravel

Key Takeaways

  • Low-maintenance: Using a gravel mulch offers stylish solutions for border gardens that are also minimal upkeep.
  • Colours: The various types and colours of gravel allow for creative and unique border garden designs.
  • Budget-friendly: Decorative aggregates like gravel are very affordable as ground covers.
  • Versatile: Planning a border garden with gravel offers almost limitless options for customisation.
  • Easy Installation: Establishing a gravel border garden is very easy for people of any level of experience.
Red flame gravel garden with palm trees

Why Choose Gravel for Your Border Garden

Using gravel as a ground cover  to mulch your border garden offers an abundance of benefits, making it a popular choice among gardeners. Here are some key advantages for choosing to use gravel as a ground cover:

  1. 1
    Improved Appearance: First and foremost, tidy border gardens are attractive. Not only will they bring a smile to your face and impress your friends and neighbours, but they can add to the overall value of your home.
  2. 2
    Aesthetic Diversity: Gravel comes in a variety of colours, sizes, and textures, allowing for endless design possibilities. No matter your preference, there's an enormous range available, featured exclusively in the encyclopaedia section of our website.
  3. 3
    Texture and Style: The texture of gravels can range from smooth pebbles to layered, undulating slate. The effect of texture cannot be understated in hardscaping design.
  4. 4
    Functionality: Using gravel as a mulch on border gardens is not just decorative; it serves functional purposes, too. Aside from weed prevention, it can provide a clear separation of different areas while preventing soil erosion and improving drainage.
  5. 5
    Durability and Low Maintenance: Unlike other garden border toppings, such as rubber or bark mulch, gravel is ultra-resilient. Stone mulches also don't require frequent trimming or weeding, making it a time-saver.
  6. 6
    Eco-Friendly Option: Using local or recycled gravel reduces environmental impact, and its non-toxic nature doesn't leach chemicals into the ground, unlike rubber or plastic mulches.

In the next section we consider the nuances of selecting garden border gravel in landscape design, from the different textures and functional aspects of gravel through to the wide choice of colours.

Plum blue and green slate chippings 40mm. Jpg

Design Considerations

Gravel is a very versatile landscaping material that, when added, can quickly improve the vibe of any outdoor space. Imagine a gleaming carpet of smooth black basalt pebbles and tranquil, undulating seas of blue or green slate chippings. From the uniform, sophisticated look of polar white marble gravel, which can bring a bright and polished look to your outdoor space, to the coastal theme of flint or golden quartz gravel, there is literally something for just about everyone.

Edging

Edging is a crucial part of establishing a border garden, in particular those which utiise stone mulches such as slate or gravel. There are many alternatives that may be employed to create an edge around your plot or landscaping features. In the following article, we cover the essential elements to consider when planning your edging for gravel borders.

Texture

The texture of gravel not only creates visual interest and depth but also affects walking comfort around the garden. This is something that you should keep in mind, especially if you intend to plant within your border gardens and will require regular tending. So, choose wisely, and let the texture of your gravel change your garden into an oasis that also makes a statement about your individuality.

Smooth river rocks close up. Jpg

Practical

Gravel border gardens are not just decorative; they perform functional purposes, and with minimal upkeep, too. They provide a clear separation of different garden areas, prevent soil erosion and offer excellent drainage, which is crucial for plant health.

Colours

Colours are more than just a statement of your taste; they are intrinsic to our appreciation of everything we see. Stone chippings and gravel come in a wide spectrum of colours meaning that there few limitations when it comes to choosing the right decorative aggregates for your project.

While matching the colour scheme to your surrounding flowers and shrubs is one popular alternative in design, it is always worth considering the overall colour palette of your garden and home exterior. For that reason, gravels in neutral tones like grey slate chippings or grey granite chippings and alternatives like Yorkshire cream gravel or Cotswold stone chippings offer flexibility in that regard. However, there are bold colours, which range from white marble chips to black slate chippings, which can be used to create dramatic contrasts.

Then there are the wonderful blends that come with built-in contrast. Think of the tropical peach and buff blends, such as flamingo gravel and Italian rose gravel, or ice blue chippings, all of which can provide a feature in themselves or an interesting contrast that ties in surrounding flowers and shrubs.

Polar ice gravel around paving stones. Jpg

Finding the Right Gravel by Colour or Type is Now SO EASY!

As we just mentioned, the range of decorative aggregates that is available in the UK is the widest in the world. The only limitation for British landscaping enthusiasts is knowledge and access to them. The good news is that our website was built around the idea of creating the first encyclopaedia of decorative aggregates to solve this problem. Now, readers can access the entire range of materials available for hardscaping, all in the one place.

If you already have a colour or a stone type in mind, you can jump up to the menu and start using our colour picker. From there, you will see all the different types of stones available in your chosen preference, and you will be able to mix and match with our colour-picking technology. So go ahead and give it a try and have some fun, thinking about how the different colours will look throughout the seasons.

Dove grey limestone chippings with wood edging and rosemary border. Jpg

Colour Schemes and Planting Combinations

Whether established or not, trees and shrubs can also serve as an enchanting backdrop for a new border garden. When planning your planting area, consider the following colour schemes and their complementary UK shrubs:

Prairie Dropseed (Sporobolus heterolepis): This grass has golden-brown hues in autumn. Pair it with golden or light brown stones to highlight its seasonal changes.

Pale Purple Coneflower (Echinacea pallida): Displaying pale purple flowers, this coneflower is beautifully set off by pale pink stones or plum slate chippings, which intensify its natural hue.

'The Blues' Little Bluestem (Schizachyrium scoparium): With blue to purple stems, match it with grey or blue granite gravel for a stunning visual harmony.

There really is no limit to the possibilities other than your imagination. That's why our colour picker is such a giant leap forward in DIY outdoor design.

Purple crocuses in a garden with grasses and cotwold stone chips. Jpg

Need to work out how much gravel your project needs? Try our free gravel calculator.

Essential Tools and Materials

To start your gravel border garden project, you'll need the following tools and products, most of which are readily found in the average garden shed:

  1. 1
    Square edged garden spade, which is ideal for digging and shaping the border area.
  2. 2
    Hoe or mattock, for digging out sections and dealing with roots or pesky weeds.
  3. 3
    Wheelbarrow for moving stone mulch and other materials.
  4. 4
    Weed prevention membrane to help restrict weed growth under the gravel (optional).
  5. 5
    Metal garden rake for spreading the stones or mulch evenly.
  6. 6
    Edging for keeping your gravel garden borders neat and stones in place.

Next, we look at the basics of installation and maintenance.

Gardening tools and weed membrane

Establishing a Border Garden with Gravel, Step-by-Step

Creating a border garden with a gravel ground cover can be straightforward if you follow these steps:

  1. 1
    Marking the Area: First, decide on the shape and size of your border planting area. Use string, garden hose or marker spray to outline it. Remember, border gardens can be curved or straight, depending on your design preference.
  2. 2
    Preparing the Ground: Using your square-edged garden spade, dig a trench along the marked area. For gravel or slate chippings, aim for a depth of about 4-5cm (1.5-2 inches), and for larger stones like cobbles, go for around 10cm (4 inches). At this point, dig deeper holes for positioning any shrubs or trees ready for planting.
  3. 3
    Weed Membrane: Cut your weed prevention membrane to fit the trench and lay it down. Cut holes for the addition of any plants you have planned for your garden, whether new or established. This step is crucial for minimising weed growth. Secure it in place with landscape staples.
  4. 4
    Edging: Position your edging materials around the perimeter and secure with stakes, pins or just lean them against the outside of the trench to be weighed by the gravel, although the last option is not recommended for longevity.
  5. 5
    Add Plants: Once the weed fabric has been laid, add some fertiliser or compost mulch before planting your trees or shrubs. Now you're ready to lay the gravel.
  6. 6
    Lay the gravel: Now, fill the trench with your chosen stones. Use the garden rake to distribute them evenly. Ensure that the layer is consistent throughout the border for a neat finish.

We also have a step-by-step guide on how to make edging for a garden. This is great for when you come to install your edging.

Installing a garden border with landscaping fabric. Jpg

Tips for Maintaining a Gravel Border Garden

Maintenance is an essential aspect of gardening and even with a weed membrane, some weeds may still grow through. Therefore, it is necessary to inspect the gravel regularly and remove any weeds you see by hand. Using chemical weed killers should be avoided as they can harm your plants.

It is also important to occasionally rake the gravel to redistribute it and maintain its appearance, especially in high-traffic areas. Depending on the type of gravel and foot traffic, topping up may be required every few years to maintain the depth and fresh look of the border garden. You can also clean the gravel by gently hosing it down to remove any dirt or debris that has accumulated with a soft broom or rake.

Lastly, if you have included plants within or around your border garden, make sure to care for them appropriately by pruning and watering to keep the overall appearance of the border attractive.

Weeding a gravel border around a patio

Summary

Establishing a border garden using gravel as a mulch is a rewarding project that can significantly enhance the aesthetic and functionality of your outdoor space. With the right tools, materials, and a bit of creativity, you can create a stunning and low-maintenance feature that complements your home and garden. Whether you opt for a rustic look with earthy tones or a modern design with striking contrasts, gravel can offer endless possibilities. So why not grab your gardening tools and start today?

1scottish hearther and conifers within a gold gravel border

FAQs

What are the benefits of using gravel ground covers?

Gravel ground covers offer a low maintenance, aesthetic versatility, while improving drainage for garden areas. Decorative gravels include slate chippings, pea gravel and any number of beautiful stone chippings, each offering a unique look.

Can I use gravel to prevent weeds in my garden?

Yes, gravel mulch, especially when used with a weed prevention membrane, can significantly reduce weed growth.

Are there alternative materials to consider instead of gravel for border gardens?

Alternatives to gravel include wood chippings, bark mulch, or pavers, each with its own look and functional benefits.

Can I use stone mulch to keep cats away?

Yes, using gravel as a topping can make it most uncomfortable for cats and other animals to do their business in your gardens.

Can I mix different colours of gravel for a unique design?

Yes, mixing different colours of gravel can create unique and visually appealing border garden designs. We have a colour-picker featuring the widest range of options available in the UK.

How do I edge and contain my gravel garden border?

Edging can be done using materials like metal edging strips, bricks, or natural stone to contain gravel and maintain clean lines.

We have every type of gravel available to choose from in the UK. Check 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.