Gravel is an inexpensive and flexible alternative to paving or a lawn, although it is not suitable for a patio. Gravel blends beautifully with plants, needs little maintenance, and can be used in both formal and informal designs. It is also a useful "filler" material to use alongside hard surfaces, or in irregularly shaped areas where paving will not easily fit and a lawn would be difficult to mow. Just follow a few guidelines and you can install your own gravel garden.
Explore options and select the gravel for the garden. Gravel comes in many different shapes, sizes and colours. Some types are angular, others rounded, some are white and others assorted shades of green or red. The gravels available will depend on where you live, and which ones can be transported economically from further away.
Ask to see the gravel wet. All of them will look different in sun or shade, when wet or dry. The subtle change of colour and mood is one of the appeals of gravel.
Shop around first going to garden centres and builders' merchants to see what is available in your area before making your choice.
Clear and excavate the area to the required depth, about 5 cm (2 inches) of gravel is sufficient in most cases, but it can vary according to the area.
Level the ground. Lay heavy-duty black polythene or a mulching sheet over the area
Overlap strips by about 5 cm (2 inches). Then tip the gravel on top and rake level.
Install plants in through the polythene. To plant through the gravel, draw it back from the planting area and make a slit in the polythene. Plant normally, enriching the soil beneath if necessary.
Fill in and pack the soil around the plant. Then pull back the polythene before re-covering with gravel. Gently even the gravel out around the plant.
Choose heathers for a colourful contrast to the gravel.