Whether you’re creating a brand-new, high-end landscape for your property or are just looking for an easy way to refresh a tired yard, one of the materials you’re most likely to turn to is gravel. It might seem like a surprisingly basic choice, but this humble material has emerged as a star in all kinds of landscaping projects over the last few years, and demand for gravel is only expected to increase in the future.
What’s driving the major success of this simple hardscaping material? Read on for a look at five reasons behind gravel’s popularity.
1. It’s budget-friendly.
Compared to many other hardscaping materials, gravel is one of the most affordable choices available. This makes it a great option if you have a tight budget for your landscaping project, if you have a lot of surface area you want to cover, or if you’re looking to splurge on one particular element of your project and need to offset that expense with savings elsewhere.
To cut the cost of your gravel even further, try choosing a type that is sourced locally from your region. Not only will you save on the cost of trucking gravel in from somewhere else, but your landscape design will also feel more naturally connected to your site.
2. It comes in many varieties.
Did you know that gravel comes in a huge range of types, sizes, textures, and colors? Popular gravel varieties include:
Pea gravel is perhaps the most popular of all gravel types. Named for the size of the stones (roughly the size of a pea), pea gravel features elegantly smooth and rounded stones in a range of grey and brown shades.
Also called crushed stone, crushed rock is known for its more jagged edges (the smooth edges of pea gravel are produced during a “tumbling” process; crushed rock has not been tumbled, so the jagged edges remain).
Due to these jagged edges, it can lock in place more compactly, which reduces rolling and crunching underfoot. Crushed rock can be the same size as or larger than pea gravel, and comes in a variety of colors from off-white to reddish brown.
Formed from the natural weathering and erosion of solid granite (or other rock varieties), this is the gravel type with the smallest particle sizes. Some pieces can be as large as one-eighth-inch (the size of a small piece of pea gravel), while others are as small as grains of sand. Decomposed granite forms a stable, compact surface, and ranges in color from tan shades through to bluish tones.
3. It can be used almost anywhere.
Versatility is one of the biggest reasons why gravel is such a popular choice for budget and blockbuster landscaping projects alike. Gravel can be used for just about any feature of your landscape, including:
Gravel is an excellent choice for all kinds of walkways, whether you want to create a visually pleasing path that meanders through your garden or a functional walkway between your garage and your back door.
Given the high cost of good quality paving stones, gravel has become a popular budget-friendly choice for patios. When used as a patio material, gravel gives the visual appearance of a unified surface but also adds a nice dose of texture.
Gravel driveways work well in areas that get a lot of heavy rain, or in colder regions where hard winter freezes can dramatically shorten the lifespan of an asphalt or concrete driveway. (Note that it’s important to choose a gravel type that will support wheel traffic, and to have the gravel properly installed on a firm foundation.)
Mixed with pavers
If you have a path made from flagstones or other pavers, you can fill the gaps between the pavers with gravel. This is not only an attractive combination that offers great textural contrast, it also requires less maintenance than a paver pathway in which the gaps are filled with ground cover plants.
4. It works well with other materials.
Gravel is an effective way to contrast or complement other hardscaping materials in your landscape, and it rarely looks out of place whether your style is classic or contemporary.
For example, a pathway of crushed rock edged with granite cobblestones evokes a sense of timeless sophistication, while the same pathway defined by a discreet steel border suggests a cottage garden atmosphere.
Similarly, when dark-colored gravel is paired with corrugated metal (such as metal planter boxes), the effect is edgy and modern, while a light-colored gravel set against wood (such as stair treads or deck edging) offers an understated, naturalistic effect.
5. It’s permeable.
Gravel’s permeability is another feature that sets it apart from other hardscaping materials. Because the texture of gravel allows water to percolate through to the ground below, water runoff is greatly reduced, which in turn helps prevent erosion, filter out pollutants, and improve soil and vegetation health.
This makes gravel an excellent choice in situations where good drainage is important. It is also a useful option for homeowners who can’t install other hardscaping materials due to municipal restrictions on a property’s impermeable surface area.