This Garden Gravel Makeover Rethinks Outdoor Space

As an interior designer, this homeowner had a clear vision of what she wanted her outdoor space to look like. The project? To create a low maintenance scheme for a back garden with a lawn, colorful borders, a paddling pool and a patio for relaxing and entertaining.

But she was working on a strict budget. So, a gravel garden makeover was a great front garden idea that would suit both style and practicality. Relatively inexpensive to install and easy to maintain, it proved to be the perfect solution to transform the space into the retreat she had in mind, at the price she could afford. For the rear garden, a beautiful old apple tree has also been retained, while the plastered brick walls have been repaired to create clean boundaries.

Not a keen gardener, but now happy to tinker and mow the lawn, this homeowner loves the way the garden at his West London home feels. “Sociable, welcoming and yet so private – it’s the perfect escape from the city.”

The transformation of garden gravel

The space before

Front garden plain plot image overgrown with weeds

(Image credit: Future PLC / TOM ST AUBYN PHOTOGRAPHY)

When this homeowner bought her 1940s bungalow three years ago, she was eager to renovate the interior of her new home, but the weed-infested 60m² front and 100m² plot outside rear was going to be more difficult. .

Having already designed a small city garden at a previous property, that hasn’t stopped her from trying her hand at the expansive grounds of the new venue. “That was part of the appeal of the bungalow,” she explains. ‘It is not overlooked at the rear and is completely private which is rare for this part of west London’.

Design details

Back garden concrete wall with hanging plant pots

(Image credit: Future PLC / TOM ST AUBYN PHOTOGRAPHY)

Knowing that she would need help to create the project she had imagined, she called on a gardener Joanna Archer (opens in a new tab)before imagining a flowery landscaping plan at the back, with a lawn and a shed to store the mower and tools.

The windows in the kitchen, dining room, and living room all face this space, so the planting also needed to provide year-round interest. Otherwise, this homeowner wanted a pressed-gravel patio, a garden path idea she saw at the Jardin du Luxembourg in Paris, and a small pool to dip her toes in on hot summer days.

Front garden with gravel path and green gate

(Image credit: Future PLC / TOM ST AUBYN PHOTOGRAPHY)

1. Garden Path Plants

Neat topiary balls structure the flowers, which are mostly in shades of peach, pink and yellow. And cool ferns and woodland plants are found under the trees.

In the spring, tulips, daffodils and alliums fill the borders as the perennials grow.

Green garden shed at the back of the garden with table and sun hat surrounded by flowers

(Image credit: Future PLC / TOM ST AUBYN PHOTOGRAPHY)

2. Pots, plants and flower arrangements

Large antique zinc pots house bright flowering plants with wispy grasses behind and balls of Japanese holly (Ilex crenata) bring structure to the scheme.

A bed filled with summer flowers in peaches and pinks creates a graceful edge to the dining room and vigorous climbers of evergreen Clematis ‘Apple Blossom’ and star jasmine decorate the boundary.

All the while, the neighbor’s ginkgo tree provides light shade and a line of pleated Portuguese laurels adds year-round interest along the back wall.

Swimming pool with concrete edges and back wall with plants on it

(Image credit: Future PLC / TOM ST AUBYN PHOTOGRAPHY)

3. Poolside

The water in the paddling pool is kept crystal clear thanks to a UVC filter pump, chlorine granules and algaecide. Jasmine produces clusters of small flowers in summer, which fill the garden with a wonderful fragrance.

Focus on: gravel gardens

Rear garden with gravel in the sun with pots on the rear wall and swimming pool

(Image credit: Future PLC / TOM ST AUBYN PHOTOGRAPHY)

Love this garden idea and want to try it out for yourself? Here’s how you can use tiny rocks to create a low-maintenance garden full of colorful plants:

  • Location – Most plants suitable for gravel gardens come from warm countries and need full sun to thrive, although a few will tolerate partial shade. They also like free-draining soil, so dig in sand or horticultural gravel if you have sticky clay.
  • Preparation – After removing all weeds, designer Joanna Archer suggests laying a biodegradable weed control mat such as Ecomatt ( over the surface to prevent future growth. Then cover the mat with a 3cm layer of 20mm pea pebbles in a natural shade. To plant through gravel, move it to one side, cut a cross in the mat and dig a hole for each plant.
  • Choice of flowers – Choose drought-tolerant plants such as lavenders, cotton lavender (Santolina), roses (Dianthus carthusianorum), sedges and lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis). Once planted, place the mat around the stems and cover with gravel. Keep well watered until established.

Zia Allaway’s Additional Words