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Northeast Gardening: The Beauty of Gravel Gardens

Brought to you by Lowe's Creative Ideas

Want some drought protection for your yard? Think about a practical, attractive scree garden.

River rock, allium, and kniphofia.

By Jane Milliman

Here in the Northeast we don’t need xeriscaping as much as other parts of the country. But drought-resistant gardening is still low-maintenance gardening, and we could all use more of that.

Visiting gardens in England, I fell in love with a particular type: the scree garden. I found that, like many British techniques, this type of gravel garden also worked well back home.

A raised scree garden>

Scree basically means gravel, and it can be as fine or as coarse as you like. I find pea gravel packs nicely, provides good coverage, and stays in place. But I’ve seen gardens made with everything from sand to large river rock.

A clean and tidy garden>

The beauty of scree is that it lets rainwater reach the ground but slows evaporation. It helps keep weeds from spreading, but when they do, they are easy to remove. Scree doesn’t need to be mowed and rarely needs refreshing, unlike wood mulch. Done right, it adds a clean, polished vibe. 

Lavender in formal rows in gravel>

What to plant? Alpine or rock garden specimens are good places to start. Dianthus, which can’t stand wet feet in winter, thrives in gravel. Other great choices: aromatic herbs such as lavender and rosemary, ornamental grasses, and flowering bulbs.

A good edge and weed mat are key>

When making a scree garden, a well-defined edge is key — preferably a physical edge that keeps the gravel in place. While not essential, a water-permeable weed mat beneath the gravel will make weeding easier down the road.

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