Welcome to our Blog. Inspiration, updates and industry trends from the team at Landscaping Solutions.
If you’re thinking of putting gravel down in your front garden or driveway, there’s a good chance that you’re attracted by the idea of low maintenance, ease of installation and economy of materials.
Beth Chatto: The Drought Tolerant Garden. Designed by David Ward. RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival 2019. (Stand no. 200) Copyright © RHS. Credit: RHS/Joanna Kossak. See below why this was the perfect inspiration growing under gravel.
Installed correctly, it’s an ideal material for fulfilling all those criteria, but what’s less recognised is that it can be used to create unique and attractive garden that will, not only incorporate all the practical necessities of a front garden, but will also welcome you home at the end of the day.
Designing a front garden to be both practical and attractive, and maybe look just a little different, can be a challenge. You need enough space for parking, easy access to the road for bins, a surface that works well in all weathers, that’s easy for all types of footwear and wheels to traverse, and that complies with required SUDS regulations, removing the potential need for planning permission. Low maintenance requirements are also usually a priority for this area.
Understandably, the practicalities generally take precedence, even to the extent of the whole frontage being given over to hard landscaping. But there are alternatives.
In this article we’ll look at one of the most unusual and one of the most economical to create - the gravel front garden.
A Gravel Garden, not just a Gravel Driveway
Of course, we’re all used to gravel driveways - plenty of which give gravel a bad name. Badly installed, they leak stones onto the pavement, grow weeds with enthusiasm and settle into ridges under the car wheels while, in a worst-case scenario, being extremely hard work to walk on.
By contrast, a well-designed and expertly installed gravel garden will be low maintenance, solid underfoot where it needs to be, won’t migrate, and will offer a lower-cost option that grows a diversity of planting, therefore giving your house a frontage that has all you need and is welcoming and attractive.
Making Gravel Driveways Work
So, how are the gravel driveway problems listed above solved? By using a stabilisation system in combination with the right type of gravel. Here at Landscaping Solutions, we are registered installers of CEDAdrive, the invisible gravel stabilisation system that creates a surface that is very easy to walk on, even in high heels, and is wheelchair- and pushchair-friendly.
It also solves practical issues relating to SUDS and planning permission.
A Quick Word about SUDS
SUDS - Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems - replicate natural drainage, diverting water away from sewers, with the intention of taking pressure off the sewerage system and reducing surface flooding. The system is a requirement in all front garden developments, with more than five square metres of hard landscaping permitted only where the surface is permeable or there is a permeable area for the water to drain into.
We’ll go into SUDS in more depth in a later article. However, gravel front gardens are completely permeable, allowing rainwater to percolate virtually unimpeded into the soil, and therefore fulfil all the criteria with no need for planning permission.
A Gravel Garden by Design
For an idea of how it could look, this year’s Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival in Surrey provided a perfect example.
The sword-shaped leaves of irises make a bold statement against gravel in the Beth Chatto Garden at Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival 2019. Picture credit: Ben West.
Beth Chatto, who died in 2018, was one of the most influential gardeners of the twentieth century. In homage, the festival named her its 2019 Horticultural Hero and featured a recreation of her Drought-Tolerant Garden by David Ward, Garden Director of the Beth Chatto Gardens in Elmstead, near Colchester, Essex.
“I loved the Beth Chatto garden,” says Landscaping Solutions’ director Ben West. “It was mainly naturalistic, colourful, vibrant, with lots of different textures and shapes.”
It included a huge number of plants which thrive under gravel and provided a huge variety of plants which make ideal choices for a front garden design. Included in the planting were easy-to-grow herbs like fennel, lavender, thyme, rosemary, oregano, sage and catmint; the edible brassica sea kale; plants like lamb’s ears, whose furry leaves beg to be stroked; colourful flowers like red-hot Helianthemums, misty-blue Perovskias, and the sunshine yellow Verbascums, punctuated by the pure white flowers of such plants as perennial stocks. This is just the tip of the iceberg as far as choices are concerned.
They’ll even multiply without your intervention. Self-seeding is only a problem when it happens in the wrong place. A huge advantage of installing CEDAdrive is the inbuilt geomembrane that separates the gravel from the soil below, preventing deep-rooting plants taking hold. If other plants show their heads, they just lift away from the 40mm depth of gravel.
A complete gravel front garden
Use of CEDAdrive means that those parts of your front garden that need to be walked on, parked on, and offer a pathway to the main road for the bins offer exactly those capabilities.
With a gravel mulch used across the rest of the front garden, these necessary areas will then blend seamlessly into the whole, creating a sense of air and space unrestricted by driveway edging or strictly delineated flower beds. This in itself will make the front garden feel bigger.
Beth Chatto: The Drought Tolerant Garden. Designed by David Ward. RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival 2019. (Stand no. 200) Copyright © RHS. Credit: RHS/Joanna Kossak.
Ben loves the natural feel of a carefully curated gravel garden like this year’s feature garden at Hampton Court. “What I like about the Beth Chatto garden is the informality of the planting,” says Ben. “The plants aren’t hemmed in with a hard edge; there is no well-defined border. Instead the planted area weaves in and out, with scalloped edges. It makes it more fluid and interesting.”
If you’d like to discuss the potential of a well-designed gravel front garden for your property, which will bring pleasure for years to come, contact Ben at Landscaping Solutions on the number above or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
The importance of integrating Nature into our everyday lives is something that is really close to our hearts at Landscaping Solutions so we were delighted to be involved with a garden with such an important message at RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival this year.
The CEDEC self-binding gravel was mixed with local mud to create the forest path. Photo: Helen Gazeley.
Michelle Brandon, designer of the Forest Will See You Now, one of the gardens in the Global Impact category, also works as a horticultural therapist at Springfield University Hospital, Tooting, so she knows first-hand what huge benefits working with Nature and being in Nature can bring.
The Forest Will See You Now adds another dimension. Contained within a “wrapping” of a packet of pills, it sends the message that Nature herself provides medicine. “In my research,” says Michelle, “I stumbled across phytoncides and started looking into them.” These volatile substances are produced by plants to prevent rotting and attack from pests; it turns out that they’re also good for humans.
Stuart Dainton, Head of Innovation at The Woodland Trust, explains, “They’re helpful for the immune system and reduce stress. It’s now been proven by science.”
Garden designer Michelle Brandon wrapped The Forest Will See You Now in a pill packet to emphasise the message. Photo: Helen Gazeley.
For Landscaping Solutions, the garden was one of the simpler show gardens we’ve been involved with. Michelle had an army of friends, family and RHS volunteers to help and we came in for the elements that needed more landscaping knowledge. As ever it’s the attention to detail that creates the difference between a believable scene and one that doesn’t work its magic.
“I wanted to make a woodland that recognisable to all,” says Michelle, who created a shady forest path between, among other trees, silver birch bordered by natural planting, including shade-loving meadow grass. “I hope it will encourage people to want to go to woodland in their own locality and take ownership and protect it.”
“If we understand the benefits of woodland,” said Stuart, “then we will protect it.”
The Forest Will See You Now makes an inviting space where Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival visitors can escape from the sun. Photo: Helen Gazeley.
Playing an important part in the realistic scene is the path which, as visitors to Hampton Court are encouraged to walk through the gardens, has to be up to heavy footfall while prepared for any weather. It’s a careful combination of CEDEC self-binding gravel and local mud, mixed with a few stones to create just the right impression.
The garden towers above its surroundings, and there were nine taller trees that had to be firmly fixed in place. “The initial dig out was very strenuous,” says James, who led the Landscaping Solutions team working on the garden. “Once you’re down thirty centimetres, the ground is very stony, like ballast. When you stick in the shovel you’re not hitting, nice soft soil.”
A fallen, decaying tree displays its roots, and invites contemplation of the beauty of Nature in The Forest Will See You Now. Photo: Helen Gazeley.
The solution was a digger. We also employed the Platipus Deadman Fixing System, which requires digging down below the depth of the rootball. “We didn’t see other people using it,” says James, “but it’s a professional approach.” The Platipus Deadman is useful for anchoring tall trees, making them safe in windy sites and ensuring they stay upright and creating an aesthetically pleasing finish without the need for staking. In all, nine trees were installed with the anchor system.
This is a garden very different from our previous Hampton Court builds, but no less enjoyable for it. “It’s good fun,” says James. “Tough, with a lot of planning prior, but good fun. And it’s just nice to have your work on display.”
The Forest Will See You Now at RHS Hampton Court Garden Festival is designer Michelle Brandon’s first show garden. Photo: Helen Gazeley.
Designers often say that after a show they declare “never again”, even though they’re lured into the process again the following year. This was Michelle’s first ever show garden, and she’s made of sterner stuff. “It’s hard core,” she says. “A very, very intense experience, but when in the first year you’ve learned so much, with all that knowledge you’re already signed up for the next one.”
We couldn’t agree more. If you’d like the garden that’s perfect for you or, as a designer, would like to discuss how we can work with you on an entry in next year’s shows, contact Ben West to discuss your requirements.