In recent times home owners are designing their gardens to suit their busy lifestyle by choosing low maintenance layouts.
These have the advantage over paving, of being cheaper, and easier to install, plus the gravel can complement a plants setting.
Foreign holidays and alfresco dining are also affecting garden design.
In many cases the traditional lawn is being done away with and being replaced with gravel to give a Mediterranean or Alpine feel to the garden.
Gravel gardens are best situated in full sun for reasons such as the outdoor aspect mentioned above, and the type of plants being planted.
Areas destined as planting areas should be designed somewhat differently from the main gravel hard-standing to cater for the needs of the plants.
Firstly, dig over the area/s remove perennial weeds and dig in copious amounts of well rotted manure / compost.
Ideally, a true gravel garden is one sited on gravelly or sandy soil, rather than garden soil.
In the event you do not have gravelly/sandy soil, incorporate plenty of grit or gravel into the existing soil during bed preparation.
Keep the soil level to approximately 50mm (2”) below the general level of the garden to cater for the gravel mulch that will be applied later.
Prior to planting lay a porous weed retarding membrane on the finished soil, plant up the bed, through the membrane, ensuring that each plant has sufficient space to develop, and then water in the plants.
Finally, top up the bed with gravel to the same level as the remainder of the hard standing.
Expect a degree of settlement in the planting areas, save some gravel for topping up the areas to the required level.
Gravel selection is quite important, avoid using limestone chippings where acid-loving plants are being grown, and if there are cats in the area, choose large grade gravel.
All gravel areas will need to be raked over occasionally to keep the surface even and free of fallen leaves.
If fallen leaves are allowed to remain they will rot down and provide excellent rooting material for weeds.
If weeds become a problem, spraying with a herbicide will normally get rid of the problem, but be careful when spraying around structural plants.