Using Gravel as a Groundcover in Palm Beach Landscape Design

Using Gravel as a Groundcover in Palm Beach Landscape Design

By Pamela Crawford

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Above: These homeowners wanted a manicured look in their home. I used two different types of gravel. 

Using gravel as a groundcover in Palm Beach landscape design is both a joy and a challenge.

I am often asked to use gravel as a groundcover in Palm Beach landscapes. From a design standpoint, I love using gravel because it gives me an additional tool to add character and impact to the project. I carry gravel samples in my car and now have 32 different kinds to choose from. Often, I combine different colors of gravel for interesting design effects.

Before choosing gravel, here are some important considerations:

1. Palm Beach county soil is sand and devoid of much organic matter. To keep plants healthier, we add an organic (usually a wood product) mulch on top of the sand after planting. The mulch breaks down slowly, giving the plants a natural feeding. Gravel in not organic, so the benefit of mulch is lost. So, you may have to replace plants more frequently if you choose gravel instead of mulch. A good happy medium is to use gravel as an accent instead of covering an entire planting bed.

2. Use small stones for good coverage. The gravel needs to be at least two stones deep so use stones 3/4” or smaller. If larger stones are used, they are too large to be placed two stones deep, and the spaces in-between show dirt and allow more weeds to grow. If you prefer the look of larger stones, put two inches of small gravel as a base and sprinkle the larger stones on top. Weeds grow through concrete here so expect them to appear in your gravel.

3. Avoid using gravel in areas of poor air circulation because it mildews.

4. Avoid gravel in areas where leaves will fall on it or it will look messy all the time.

5. Understand that gravity causes gravel to sink into our sand. It needs to be replenished from time to time.

6. It is quite expensive to remove gravel, so be sure you really want it before it is installed.

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Above: Gravel is used only as an accent, like around these bromeliads in this landscape.

Pamela Crawford designs gardens in Palm Beach County, Florida. 

This article is taken from:

“Easy Gardens for South Florida” by Pamela Crawford. © 2001  Color Garden Inc.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopy, on the internet, recording or any other information storage and retrieval system, without prior permission in writing from the publisher.