Turf and grass have a serene appeal to all of us in a landscape. Even the smallest patch of yard is improved with the uniform green of sod. But it’s not necessarily the answer for all areas of your lawn. Poor sunlight and drainage are complicating issues more times than we want to admit, and often, the same lawn will have several areas almost hostile to turf. Yet many homeowners keep planting and replanting, and commercial lawn care services are always there to help. Plus, there can be environmental impact from all those chemical sprays and fertilizers. Here’s an idea, while a bit more European than American, that can save you time, energy, money, and also give your lawn a bit of a boost: use gravel in a problem space, or to create further dimension in your landscape.
I used crushed granite for this space because it’s great for large areas due to uniformity (of color and size), plus cost. The British use this rock for driveways, since it compacts over time, making for a very stable surface. For the side of the house, where a tall privacy fence looms, it’s the perfect answer to the limited growing conditions of minimal light. And, since the gravel is pale in color, it attracts light to this dark area. This neglected strip is now even more of a ‘room,’ since I planted four hornbeams—vigorous and hardy—as columns here. Just plunk down a few chairs and watch your guests gravitate to the spot. An area that was once dim and uninviting is now an important part of the landscape.
And when you find another strip for gravel, like used directly in front of this bed, you will make your flowerbeds more special. The gravel makes your plants pop, your borders more important. You’ll find you naturally gravitate to that strip, as if it were a viewing area.
Finally, gravel adds a nice break in your lawn, so you will now have created rooms to work with, not all that green sameness. I’ve written before about the joy and interest of ‘garden rooms.’ This is the same principle. You can create destinations within your landscape this way, areas that your guests will want to explore and use.
One cool thing about using gravel in your landscape is the sound. Nothing beats that delicious crunch created every time you walk across it. You won’t find a noise element in the plant kingdom, so using rock just means another sensory piece of the design.
You have options for your landscape, and you don’t have to be tied to the same idea every season. Gravel, instead of turf, is a pragmatic way to deal with the elements. But it also adds depth, dimension, texture, visual, and auditory appeal. And if you wish to remove and plant in the gravel area, it won’t take much work. Visual appeal meets ease of use and installation or removal. That’s a good idea every time.
Live Life to the Fullest,
Chris H. Olsen