Show off some shingle in your backyard for timeless outdoor style
Houzz Contributor. I’m a London-based journalist with years of experience writing… More
It’s good value and easy to lay, but gravel doesn’t have to be the poor cousin of flagstones, bricks or other paving – as these gorgeous gardens all demonstrate.
Embrace country charm
One of gravel’s great strengths is its rustic simplicity. Cheap-as-chips pea gravel looks great in this intimate seating area, along with the raised wooden beds and café-style furniture.
If you’re uncertain how much gravel you need in your designated area, you might find one of the many online gravel calculators pretty useful.
Dreamy garden spots to lure you outdoors all year round
Spread the (gravel) love around
Don’t confine gravel to one tiny area. If you love its natural look, have the confidence to use it over a wider area, as in this tranquil walled garden.
Breaking it up with plenty of sculptural plants and attractive pots adds to the atmosphere of an idyllic urban retreat – albeit one that’s super-easy to maintain.
Go front of house
Gravel can be a stylish way to fill in small areas in a more complex design. In this smart front garden, it frames a small area of grass beautifully, while letting the other elements shine.
There’s a vast range of gravel materials, sizes, shapes and colours, so do your homework. You can choose from stone, flint, granite or beach pebbles, to name just a few. Angular stones are good for drives, as they won’t scatter under wheels as much as rounder shapes.
Smaller, 10-14mm gravel pieces bed together better on pathways – though tiny pieces can get stuck in shoe treads. Larger, 20mm-plus stones add decorative texture to borders, but may be less comfy to walk on.
Plump for pale and interesting
This expanse of light gravel lifts the whole garden. The effect is softer and less clinical than paving stones would have been, and it won’t cause run-off when it rains. Source pale limestone aggregate for a similar look.
Over time, dead leaves and other debris may blow in and become mixed up with your gravel, so expect some maintenance – you’ll need to rake and refresh every now and again to keep things pristine.
5 things you never knew you needed in your garden
Walk on the wild side
If you’re after an informal, natural look, gravel is the perfect solution – think Derek Jarman’s famous shingle garden at Dungeness.
In this unstructured coastal garden, flowers grow in clumps for a pleasingly wild look. Mixing up different-sized stones is another way to add interest. Here, the owners have contrasted smaller gravel with large, smooth pebbles.
Style with slate
Flat slate chippings look modern and stylish, and suit this Zen retreat perfectly. Consider the kind of mood you’re trying to create in your garden, and what works with the other colours surrounding your gravel. Here, the grey contrasts beautifully with the wooden shelter; pea gravel would have been too ‘brown’.
11 garden retreats for the creatively inclined
Keep it classic
Traditional pea gravel never goes out of fashion, as demonstrated in this leafy haven. It has an elegant, country-house look, thanks to its varied, honey tones. It also beds in well, so is soft underfoot.
If you’re using it on a path or patio, plan how you’ll keep it in place. This type can spread around, but here a stone trim keeps it neat. Explore other edging options in your local DIY superstore or garden centre, or try timber railway sleepers.
A certain amount will probably be lost over time, due to footfall. Top-ups may be required, so take note of what you’ve used or keep a couple of bags spare.
Venture into the woods
This path meanders through trees for some fairy-tale drama. If you’re on a budget or stretched for time, gravel is a good solution for pathways – and it’s less of a long-term commitment than paving or other hard landscaping.
However, there’s more to using it than just throwing it down. Laying a special permeable membrane, or ‘landscape fabric’, underneath will stop pesky weeds growing while allowing water to drain. You can also lay sand or finely crushed stone first to create a firm, level substrate that will help your path be more durable long-term.
Move to the dark side
There are endless colour options for gravel these days. Here, a darker grey stone works well with the decking and the interior flooring for a bold, modern look.
Don’t forget to consider how the colour will darken when it’s wet – some online retailers show you, so you won’t get a surprise after that first downpour.
Do you love or hate gravel? And have you used it in your garden? Share your experiences in the Comments section.