This gravel area was started Christmas 2005, the reasoning behind establishing such an area was the fact that every year the grass went brown! It is a south facing aspect and very poor well drained soil. In front of a red brick wall which retains heat and reflects so a very hot area and warm drying winds in the summer. The bed was marked out using a hose pipe (this is a great way of visualizing the shape) the turf was lifted and the soil dug over, a fair amount of well rotted compost was put into the soil as an improver. (As it was to be gravelled this is the only opportunity to do this.) There were already established some shrubs along  the barn wall so any design had to incorporate them.


Many people at this point put down a weed suppressant membrane such as mypex, this will not only suppress the weed but stops the gravel gradually sinking into the soil. We chose not to do this because we like to move plants around so there would be unnecessary holes in the mypex. Also by putting a slightly thicker layer of gravel down there is unlikely to be a problem with weeds.


The gravel area was planted with a mixture of  grasses, shrubs, herbaceous and alpine plants with one specimen small tree Cercis canadensis 'Forest Pansy'. This combination has created interest, by providing colour, form and movement throughout the year                           

It is always a good idea to place all the plants first before planting just to make sure the right balance is created throughout  the area.



Grasses are an important part of the planting as their softness and flowing habit give a delightful atmosphere to the area particularly when their seed heads catch the low light of morning or evening sun. They are particularly resilient to climatic changes. Not all grasses are suitable as some would like a lot more moisture or shade, it is the mid to late flowering grasses that are particularly suited to this type of planting area.




Shrubs are most suitable as they provide a strong structure and will continue to give winter interest. As a general rule grey leaved plants will do well in these hot arid conditions but it is possible to establish deep purple leaved shrubs as well to add a richness and contrast to the greys, or leathery plants such as cistus

Herbaceous plants and alpines will mix well in this type of planting giving splashes of colour throughout the season  either from their leaf colour or perpetual flowering ability.  


                               Choice  Grasses

Chionochloa flavescens,  Festuca glauca 'Azurit',  Hordeum jubatum,  Nassella trichotoma,  Panicum virgatum 'Shenandoah',  Panicum virgatum 'Heavy Metal',  Pennisetum 'orientale',  Pennisetum orientale 'Tall Tails', Miscanthus nepalensis,   Sporobolus heterolepsis, Stipa tenuissima, Stipa gigantea.



Choice  Shrubs

Abelia grandiflora,  Berberis thunbergii 'Atropupurea Nana', Cassinia retorta 'Ward Silver',  Convulvolus cneorum,             Cistus 'Sunset',  Hebe 'Pewter Dome',                           Ozothamnus rosemarinifolius 'Silver Jubilee',                     Perovskia atriplicifolia 'Blue Spire',  Pittisporum tenufolium 'Tom Thumb',  Rosemarinus 'Postrate Form',                                Weigela florida 'Alexandra'   


Choice  Herbaceous and Alpines

Artemisia schmidtiana 'Nana',  Erysimum 'Bowles Mauve'   Euphorbia characias 'Wulfenii'  Gaura 'Siskyou Pink',  Iris pallida 'Argentea variegata'  Origanium laevigatum 'Herrenhausen' Nepeta 'Walkers Low', Salvia 'East Friesland' and Salvia gregii 'Desert Blaze', Sedum 'Coco Cola' Sedum 'Mohrchen'