Design a gravel garden

Updated February 21, 2017

Many homeowners like to show their creativity by producing a garden that is attractive, relaxing and functional. One of the most commonly used materials in garden projects is gravel. Gravel can replace lawn in areas where a mower cannot reach. It can be a good choice for a planting bed, instead of adding bark for mulching. There are many creative ways to use gravel in a garden.

Take photos of the different areas of your home's back, front and side gardens. You can use the photos when planning or designing your gravel garden. Make several copies and enlarge the prints if you wish. Get a project scrapbook and place the photos in a folder or plastic slot or tape them onto paper. Do this at the beginning of the project so that you can have "before" photos that you can compare with the "after" photos once the project is completed.

Make a sketch of your plan. Get a sketchpad or any paper with or without a grid so that you can design your garden. The initial sketch need not be perfect. You can use freehand style when creating your lines or you can use a ruler to make the lines straight.

Make a sketch of the outline or shape of your gravel garden first. For example, you may want to use a square or rectangular outline for a linear approach or you may opt to use a circular or oblong shape. You can also get creative with a kidney shaped or amoeba shaped garden.

Draw a sketch of the different subsections of your garden. For example, you may want to create a gravel bed for each flower species. One for roses, one for succulents, one for shade loving plants. You can also create spaces for trees and vegetables.

Make a sketch of the walkways and paths. If you are planning a garden with paths and walkways and you wish to use gravel as materials, sketch those areas next.

Make a design of each area. You can create a rock garden using gravel as fillers. Sketch huge rocks or boulders and strategically place them in each area.

Design a Zen garden area. Zen gardens incorporate gravel in the design aside from sand. The gravel can mimic the flow or movement of water in a Japanese Zen garden. Add a Japanese miniature garden bridge that connects one end to the other to provide an illusion of a bridge over water.

Make a list of plant materials to use in each section of the gravel garden. Choose the ones that best suit each area. For example, sun loving plants should go to the areas that get most sun exposure.

Add water features. One possibility is to add water features, such as a waterfall or fountain in a gravel garden. This softens the look of the garden. Furthermore, the sound of water as it hits the gravel can help filter the outside noise, especially in homes located close to busy streets.

Choose the different colour of gravel to use. You may opt to use just one colour throughout your gravel garden. For more visual appeal, you may choose to have different gravel colours in different areas of the garden. The colours vary, including white, cream, tan, dark brown, green, red, terracotta and black.

Choose the different shapes and sizes of gravel. There are angular or round shapes. You can also choose gravel in different sizes ranging from small pellets to bigger stones. For your Zen garden choose the smaller rounded pellets so that the overall appearance gives a smoother, flat and even look just like water. For a rock garden, use the bigger angular rocks.

Colour the design appropriately. Colour the different plants and gravel sections with the respective colour choices of plantings and gravel to use. See how the overall design and colour scheme work together.

Finalise your design. You can also create two or three designs so you have design options to choose from when it is time to make a final decision.

Make an outline in the garden for the design you chose. You can use a white or coloured spray can to draw the outlines. Follow the outline on your drawing and then mark each area based on your final gravel garden design.


Choose trees that do not shed their leaves often or those that do not shed leaves at all.


Avoid placing gravel over drains.

Things You'll Need

  • Camera
  • Scrapbook
  • Sketch paper or pad
  • Paper with grids
  • Lead pencil
  • Coloured pencils
  • Eraser
  • Ruler
  • Tape measure
  • White powder or colour spray can
  • Pictures of plants and trees
  • List of planting materials
  • Samples of gravel
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About the Author

Josienita Borlongan is a full-time lead web systems engineer and a writer. She writes for, and various other websites. She is a Microsoft-certified systems engineer and a Cisco-certified network associate. She graduated with a Bachelor of Science in medical technology from Saint Louis University, Philippines.