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GARDENING WITH THE GREEN MAN
Contributor / 2012-01-10 15:37:13
Hello everyone, and a Happy New Year to you all.
I thought I'd write this week about gravel. It’s something I have very mixed feelings about. Given a garden space, having mapped out patios and given height with pergolas, what do you do with the blank space? Obviously there are borders to place but there will still be an expanse of spare area. In the UK we’d fill this with a lawn; here though natural grass is high maintenance and artificial will cost comparative to quality paving. And lets face it, the soil here isn’t very attractive: few of us have a loose dark soil surrounding our plants. Instead it is sandy, stony and likely to blow all over the garden and into the house every time the wind lifts.
So what do we Brits do? – we plant a few specimen plants (palms) and surround them with gravel (large). Functionally this works – just. Design-wise it works – almost. The trouble is that with such an approach your garden will look just like your neighbours and is likely to look like nothing very much at all. DIY and don’t lay the weed-suppressant properly or leave it out and you’ll find weeds popping up everywhere. Irrigate with black tubing snaking above ground and it will look like a job half done – which it is as it’ll probably only half water the plants as water pressure moves the piping around your plot.
However that’s not to say that a gravel mulch is necessarily a bad thing. I’ve seen some lovely examples where different sizes or different colours of stones have been used to create variance and pattern in an otherwise bland space. Get out the paper design and play with echoes of paths and patios to be created in looser stones. Go to the riverbeds and collect cobbles to make mosaics laid in concrete as “bullet points” or use them to make a contrasting pattern with smaller gravel. Garden centres stock more than the one type of stone – some may be more expensive than others, but use these as highlighting lines rather than aim for whole garden coverage. Subtle patterns are not difficult to achieve but are effective in breaking up a monotonous space – and a half-buried strip of metal will prevent stones from mixing. And remember to water the ground thoroughly before laying membrane and this will help keep the water in the soil for planting.
Stacey – The Green Man