Gravel yards: „petrification“ of green areas with the help of gravel – or: when front yards are covered in stone

Tongue in cheek, some describe gravel yards as „petrified green areas“. Photo: Bbirke / <a href=""target="_blank">Wikimedia Commons</a>

Particularly in Switzerland, easy-care gardens are all the rage

Trade magazines for landscaping particularly in Switzerland have been discussing the theme for some time now. It seems to be a new rage in modern garden design particularly for front yards: covering the entire area with gravel. „Gravel beats Green“ is the motto behind the idea.

Tongue in cheek some speak of „petrifying“ their front yard.

The aesthetic value is in the eye of the beholder.

Home owners praise the ease of maintenance. For them, gardening is not a relaxing pastime but is consideren a chore for anyone thinking of making the change.

In some cases, the elderly, no-longer able to care for a garden, have their yards transformed.

Cemeteries have long used gravel as a decorative element

Such decorative gravel areas are often found in cemeteries, too, nowadays.

But the low maintenance idea is more wishful thinking than reality. So the prospect of a new market seems misguided for the stone branch. More on this to below.

First let us clarify a few ideas. A gravel front yard cannot be compared with a rock garden or Japanese Zen garden.

Characteristically, the gravel yard is sealed by means of a fleece under-layer preventing weeds and trees to root and shoot to the surface. The stone surface above the fleece is dry as a desert and is comprised, at least initially, of only loose gravel or pebbles.
Here and there, an opening in the fleece may provide footing for a miniature tree or bush.

A rock garden – a natural arid living space.

The rock garden, by contrast, is a natural habitat for flora and fauna because it the soil can breathe. It is a dry living space but like any garden it requires maintenance to prevent weeds from taking over.

Zen-garden: gardening as a means for meditation.

The Zen garden, on the other hand, is a type of playground for adults. Here a thick layer of gravel covers the area but maintenance is the object. Drawing regular grooves through the gravel is a form of meditation.

In the Baroque era gravel was often used to accentuate green areas in parks.

Baroque gardens were also designed with gravel surfaces for effect. It was fashionable to demark paths with gravel of a contrasting color or fill surfaces for special highlighting.

As far as the theory of low maintenance of a gravel yards is concerned, it is but a theory. In reality one season suffices to deposit dust and dried leaves on the surface, which soon form humus and provide a base for wild plants and weeds.

An unkempt gravel yard soon succumbs to the forces of nature. Photo: Bbirke / <a href=""target="_blank">Wikimedia Commons</a>

If not maintained, the clean cut appearance gives way to an unkempt, unsightly area. Cleaning the gravel by means of a high-pressure water jet is easier said than done.

There is also some uncertainty as to whether the fleece layer is harmful to the soil below. Of course, the terrain is hardly suitable for flora and fauna.

The micro climate around the house is affected negatively, as stone heats up considerably in the summer.

A Swiss blog shows the extreme case scenario.

Author: Marcelo de Oliveira

(05.12.2018, USA; 12.05.2018)