Gravel Garden Ideas: 10 Low-Maintenance Dry Garden Projects

Gravel garden ideas can create depth and structure in your garden, as well as add a decorative touch depending on the type of gravel you use.

Whether it’s a path leading to your front door, a driveway that winds around your back garden, or a destination path that leads to a particular location, a gravel garden path can improve the appearance of your garden.

There is a wide range of plants that struggle without very well-drained soil, and creating a gravel garden is a great way to take advantage of this. Plants from the Mediterranean, South Africa and California in the USA thrive in light, stony conditions and are – on the whole – very low maintenance. There is no need for minimal watering and weeding; Additionally, aromatic and silver-leaved plants that enjoy such dry soil tend to be more resistant to pests and diseases. The only difficulty with a gravel curb is its creation, and this can be started now.

Gravel Garden Ideas

These gravel garden ideas will inspire you to create your own low-maintenance outdoor space – and it’s just as well that now is the time to start creating one, big or small. The benefits of gravel gardens are endless. Count the paths…

1. Use gravel in a small backyard garden

Gravelled courtyard garden ideas with tall boxwood hedges and a Buddha statue.

(Image credit: Future/Mark Bolton)

“Keep it simple – don’t get too carried away when planning a gravel garden,” says Dan Bowyer of Fisher Tomlin and Bowyer. “A carefully chosen palette of materials and plants is often the most satisfying. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t be experimental with your small garden ideas. Remember that trying to fit too much into a compact space will make it cluttered and reduce usability.

It also pays to keep the material in mind when designing your small yard ideas. For example, gravel is not only low maintenance and affordable, but it is also one of the most safety-conscious garden path ideas, as the noise it makes underfoot can be a good deterrent against burglars.

2. Use recycled and biodegradable materials for an eco-friendly course

An example of backyard ideas in a side return, with gravel and paver flooring and a wooden table.

(Image credit: Future/Matthew Williams)

“Recycled or recycled materials offer great options for gravel driveways. Used scaffolding planks or partially recycled composite materials, such as decking, are a good choice,” says Amelia Bouquet, owner, Amelia Bouquet Garden Design.

“Treat scaffold boards with an environmentally friendly wood preservative to prevent rot and ensure they are not in direct contact with the ground. For a flood-resistant gravel path, try clay pavers. Set them on a free-draining, pointed sand sub-base to make your path permeable, with edging set on a mortar base for added stability.

3. Choose gravel to deter burglars

Garden Path Ideas

(Image credit: Future/Helen Cathcart)

Gravel is not only cheap and low maintenance, the often loud creaking noise it makes underfoot can be a good deterrent to burglars.

Invest in a stone size that won’t easily stick in show footings and get “walked” around the house. Gravel can also be used to soften paved edges and to even out unbound areas in the garden.

4. Choose the best plants for a gravel garden

Gravel Garden Ideas With Raised Beds

(Image credit: future)

“Gravel is great for borderline hardy plants,” explains gardener Derry Watkins, “because it’s usually the winter humidity that kills them. Mediterranean plants hate having wet roots. Plus, rock retains heat. You don’t need to mix the gravel into the ground – just plant it in. Gravel isn’t cheap to start with, but it’s low maintenance in the long run.

Do the groundwork now, then in the spring, plant drought-tolerant gems such as yucca, rosemary, helichrysum and verbena in the gravel and the roots will end up in the ground. When they bloom happily above attractive stone, requiring minimal TLC, it’s easy to see why this style of waterless gardening is becoming so popular.

5. Create a walkway with durable materials

Garden Path Ideas

(Image credit: Future/Paul Raeside)

“When selecting materials, think first about practicality, then about the design effect you want to achieve,” says the garden designer Phil Hirst. ‘A durable material like gravel is an excellent choice for a well-traveled path near your home. Ideal for an informal path, gravel feels softer than solid paving and comes in a range of colors. It’s also relatively inexpensive, easy to install, and allows rainwater to seep through, which helps prevent flooding.

6. Arrange a seating area in a rock garden

Gravel garden ideas with seating area

(Image credit: future)

Gravel is one of the best patio materials and so if you are using it as part of your modern rock garden ideas, consider leaving space for a serene seating area. Make sure you have a decent sized, completely flat space as shown here with pale stone tiles. Then add a bistro table and chairs or sunbeds to create a private relaxation area.

7. Edge gravel paths to prevent gravel from bleeding into curbs

Garden Border Ideas

(Image credit: Future/Allan Pollok-Morris)

“Not all garden path ideas need an edge, but if you have gravel or grass an edge can help define the route,” says Joanne Willcocks of Gardens by Design. “Metal edging is commonly used for grass paths, or you can lay bricks or tiles on a mortar base to create an edging slightly lower than the grass, making mowing easier. A gravel core stabilization system (a honeycomb-shaped grid that helps hold the stones in place) is a good option. Look for an eco-friendly system made from recycled plastic.

8. Create the Ultimate Easy Garden

Gravel garden with garden path and flowers

(Image credit: future)

If you create the gravel border correctly, it will be the part of the garden that will require the least maintenance. Except for cutting things and removing leaves, there’s not much to do. It’s essential to remove all perennial weeds first and get the soil to gravel balance right – for example, if you don’t put a thick enough layer of gravel on top of heavy soil, you’ll get weeds.

9. Design a winding gravel path

Garden Path Ideas

(Image credit: Future/Allan Pollok-Morris)

“Straight stone or porcelain pavers paths are often used to emphasize a formal or modern style, while more rustic materials such as bricks, gravel or grass are ideal for cottages or wild gardens”, explains Gianna Utilini, owner, Garden designs by Gianna Utilini. “Take a photo of your plot from an upstairs window and imagine how a path could enhance the style, perhaps using two routes that intersect in the center of the space for a formal look.” Brick pavers laid lengthwise along a path can also highlight the direction of travel.

10. Choose a dry, low-maintenance garden

A gravel path with white and purple plantings

(Image credit: Beth Chatto)

If you’re looking for a way to plan a dry garden, go with gravel. “The lawns risk making our gardens bland,” explains nurseryman Oliver Filippi. “Finding ways to replace them is a step against uniformity.” This on-trend design approach is both low maintenance and environmentally friendly.

Poor, stony soil is a plus for creating a Mediterranean-style garden. Weeds grow less readily than they would in rich soil, and ground cover plants can spread comfortably without being overwhelmed by competitors. A gravel garden is a good option, suppressing weed germination almost entirely. This balance between vegetation and stone is characteristic of Mediterranean landscapes.

How can I spruce up my gravel garden path?

“When planning a gravel garden path or walkway, there are many things to consider,” says James Scott of The Garden Co. “For example, is it a route main or subsidiary, who can determine its width and the material you choose?Will the color and shape complement the style of the gravel garden and your home?And how will it direct people around the garden and connect- t he different areas, ensuring a smooth transition from one to the other.If the path is on a slope, you will also need to use non-slip materials to make it safer when wet or icy.

Also think about your ideas for garden borders. When it comes to keeping our gardens neat and tidy, it is essential to properly define the borders of your gravel garden. Popular choices include stone, brick and concrete, while more creative options range from logs and seashells to recycled tiles and coated wire.

How to Create a Gravel Garden

Creating a gravel garden is easy, simple and low maintenance. Here’s how to create a gravel garden, no matter the size or style of your outdoor space.

1. Choose a site in full sun. Many drought-loving plants do not need shelter.

2. Remove perennial weeds. If the area is large, it may be necessary to use a weed killer. An eco-friendly option is to lay down an old rug, but this takes longer.

3. Prepare according to what you have. On very sandy and rocky soil, add compost after removing the topsoil. On clay, remove the topsoil and add several inches of gravel without mixing it.

4. Plant in the spring, making sure to choose drought-loving plants, such as Russian sage, cistus, and lamb’s ear.

A gravel path with white and purple plantings

(Image credit: Beth Chatto)

A gravel path with white and purple plantings

(Image credit: Beth Chatto)