Landscaping with gravel: Ways to use this versatile material in your yard

3. Landscape around a water feature with gravel

Crisp beds of gravel always look good in contemporary gardens. They make a nice textural contrast to break up smooth pavers and wooden decks in patio areas. Soften the effect with bold leaf planting arching over or growing through the gravel.

Opt for ‘pockets’ to create little islands of planting that let you still see plenty of gravel. Any plants with a Mediterranean feel are the natural choice. Spiky phormium can be planted directly into the gravel and look stunning in modern spaces. 

Gravel is a versatile material that's perfect for landscaping around water feature ideas to create contrast against a pond or vertical cascade. If you want to use gravel for a practical purpose like this it’s a good idea to choose a medium-sized grade. if it’s too small and fine then it will spread around easily as you walk over it. if it’s too large then it may make walking on the surface difficult.

(Yuliya Mykolaïvna Heikens/Alamy Stock Photo)
1. Combine gravel with drought-resistant planting

Lots of different varieties of flowers grow really well in gravel gardens especially those that are tolerant of dry conditions and ones with gray, blueish or silver foliage. The gravel mulch not only improves surface drainage but also helps retain water deep in the soil to prevent evaporation from the surface. 

Plant large areas with a mix of flowers and gravel and they won't need any watering in summer which makes this approach suitable for Mediterranean-style gardens with minimal maintenance. Leave gravel pathways where the plants are less dense, so it’s possible to walk through the plants and enjoy them up close.

Some of our favorite varieties for landscaping with flowers in a garden design like this include alliums, euphorbia, lavender, santolina and salvias, although there are literally hundreds of plants to choose from that will work well.

(Annette Lepple/Alamy Stock Photo)
2. Include gravel in your patio design

Smooth hard surfaces tend to dominate in modern gardens but designers often use the trick of introducing contrasting materials in a contemporary color palette to maximize texture and interest.

Adding a distinctive detail such as a bed of white gravel set in smooth paving works well in a bold architectural scheme like this one as part of your patio landscaping ideas. Decorative white and cream pebbles are available in a range of sizes and also come polished for a high-gloss finish that can work well with a range of patio materials.

(Arighi Bianchi)
4. Go Japanese with waves of raked gravel

If you love the thought of Japanese garden ideas make sure you include landscaping with gravel in your plans. The aim is to use it in a calming, serene and ordered way. Japanese gardens are used as a place for contemplation, so it’s the perfect opportunity to slim things down and keep the style simple. It’s all about attention to detail. 

Space is organised and connected, whether that’s with a carefully positioned vertical tree or the placement of a series of smooth stones. Hard landscaping materials include circular paths constructed of stepping stones, interspersed with pockets of raked gravel that looks like rippling waves.

(Mabo/Alamy Stock Photo)
5. Segment gravel into eye-catching designs

Gravel is a practical choice for small areas of landscaping that would be difficult to pave. Create impact with a combination of different types laid out in a formal, well-defined geometric pattern such as a striped or chequerboard design. Use different colors and sizes of gravel to create an eye-catching pattern.

If a design like this is used next to grass or a planted area it will need to be contained, otherwise the gravel will spread out and you will lose the definition. Timber, brick or concrete can be used to create a 'framework', as well as metal garden edging ideas.

Make sure the surface is as flat as possible before you start by removing any large stones. The joy of gravel is that it fills holes beautifully, giving a level surface in a relatively hassle-free way. Always use a membrane to prevent weeds breaking through and blurring the edges of your design. 

(Holmes Garden Photos/Alamy Stock Photo)
6. Pick gravel for a Mediterranean-style feel

In Mediterranean garden ideas gravel is often interspersed with rocks and a natural planting scheme that combines different colors and textures.

If you like the idea, try introducing a variety of plants that work well landscaped with gravel and rocks. Many plants are happy to settle their roots straight into gravel. Any gaps will soon be colonised by self-seeding plants that will help your landscaping design evolve smoothly from year to year with very little input from you.

Try drifts of hardy and low-growing plants including lavender, herbs and succulents, then try landscaping with grasses to create a naturalistic look too. 

(Clive Nichols/GettyImages)
7. Border a gravel path with ornamental grasses

Combine gravel with airy types of ornamental grass and soft pillows of perennials in your garden path ideas to create a naturalistic effect. The great variety of colors and contrasts that are available allows you to choose a harmonious palette of colors such as the warm buff scheme used here. 

A design like this has visual impact all year round, irrespective of whether the plants or grasses are in flower as you will get interesting sculptural seed heads during the cooler months. Fountain grass (Pennisetum) is the star of this particular show. The soft golden pink tinted flower spikes and graceful foliage are retained throughout fall and into winter making them the grass that keeps on giving.

(Hervé Lenain/Alamy Stock Photo)
8. Light up your gravel landscaping at night

At night time switch up your gravel driveway ideas using V-shaped washes of light to create a soft and welcoming ambiance in your front yard. Lights can be strategically placed pointing downwards to illuminate gravel to get the best effect. 

'Gravel gardens give you the opportunity to work with some interest and depth when it comes to lighting,' says Piero De Marchis of Detail Lighting. 'Gravel tends to be used mostly to frame pathways or walkways, so it’s important to light them appropriately. 

'If gravel is laid next to a vertical surface, like the side of the house or garden walls, use uplighters in the ground to shine brightly upwards, at intervals of around 1-1.5 metres to create a consistent pathway. Alternatively, if the gravel is in a more open setting, place low level outdoor ground spotlights in amongst the planting and other areas that frame the gravel, to create a clear pattern and outline.'

If you want to try landscaping with lights like this in your front yard, a garden designer will be able to help you plan it.

(Detail Lighting)
9. Use gravel for landscaping around hot tubs

Use gravel to soften the look of the area around your hot tub so it fits more naturally into your garden. Sections of gravel with work well with if you're also landscaping with timber to create a raised deck for your hot tub, for example. 

It's the practical choice too - who needs a ruined lawn when you can have water-absorbing gravel to mop up any overspill. 

For the ultimate privacy for your hot tub zone, you might want to consider landscaping with evergreens to get a look like this one, surrounding your hot tub space with leafy screens.

(Douglas Gibb/Future)

Try landscaping with gravel for a quick and easy garden transformation that looks super professional