Monday, April 1, 2013

An Ode to Gravel Paths

Just a few weeks ago,
the J.P. Stone Contractors crew
laid gravel paths
around the perimeter of my garden.
I wanted the paths to keep my feet from getting muddy
during the wet months of the year.
I also wanted to hear the crunch of gravel
under foot, a satisfying sound indeed for me.

What I didn’t anticipate,
but which pleases me greatly,
is how the paths
clarify the garden,
carving chaos into organized, defined space.

Suddenly it seems more obvious
what needs to be done
to make the garden feel more cohesive and complete.

Can gravel paths “make” a garden?
After the gravel paths were laid,
it was obvious where a dry creek bed should go.
After the gravel paths were laid,
it became obvious where raised vegetable beds should be.
After the gravel paths were laid,
suddenly I knew (almost) exactly
where plants should be placed.

It’s not the gray of the gravel
that makes the difference per se.
But the fact that the gravel paths leads the eye
and create a better story
than the one I was trying to tell.


  1. Nothing like a path through a garden to give it a sense of perspective. I'm going to lay some path soon at my place. Hopefully it will give the backyard some structure.

  2. I too like gravel and it's nice crunchy sound. However, in the yard revamp I am trending to more formality - so I am going to have larger (and visually stronger) alleys/spaces through the garden. Your new paths look great in your space!

  3. I'm finding the moles don't mind building their little mounds in the paths. Between the moles and the debris from my big conifers, it will require some effort to keep it tidy. I am finding that my epimediums and pulmonarias easily poke their lovely stems and leaves through the gravel, which is great. It will make it feel like a natural--and long-standing--addition to the garden.

  4. What kind of rock is used for the path?

  5. The underlayer is quarter-minus gravel (small chunks of gravel with some crushed bits and powder) to create a more solid base for easier walking. That layer was topped with quarter-10 gravel (considered to be clean gravel with no powder and bits). The next time I top dress the paths I'll use the quarter-minus gravel.(If you add gravel to your soil to improve drainage, use only the clean gravel.) Thanks for asking!

  6. Something good to know for public spaces, if you install a path of 1/4- and compact it correctly, it is considered ADA accessible.
    By the way, John Stone is an awesome contractor!