garden notes - tips on creating a gravel garden

Photo by Tom Deacon

To make a high-impact, low-maintenance gravel garden:

  1. Select a sunny site.
  2. Make sure the drainage is excellent?gritty, sandy soil is ideal.
  3. Add a small amount of humusy soil to give the plants a good start.
  4. Choose drought-tolerant plants?those with succulent, silver, fuzzy or needled foliage are usually best.
  5. Lay landscape cloth over any areas where weeds or self-seeding plants aren?t wanted.
  6. Cover the entire surface with pea gravel; a few large boulders here and there add emphasis and provide microclimates for more tender plants.

Tom Deacon?s top performing gravel-loving plants.


  • Brazilian verbena (Verbena bonariensis) *
  • Foxtail lily (Eremerus stenophyllus)
  • Giant silver mullein (Verbascum bombyciferum) *
  • Rattlesnake master (Eryngium yuccifolium)
  • Thistle (Onopordum)


  • Asphodeline (Asphodeline damascena)
  • Bear?s breeches (Acanthus hungaricus)
  • ?Golden Sword? yucca (Yucca)
  • Red-hot poker (Kniphofia), especially ?Shining Sceptre? and ?Alcazar?


  • ?Big Ears? lamb?s ears (Stachys byzantina)
  • Globe thistle (Echinops)
  • Miss Wilmott?s ghost (Eryngium giganteum)
  • ?Munstead Blue? lavender (Lavandula)
  • Sea holly (Eryngium planum, E. alpinum; E. bourgatii; E. amethystinum ?Sapphire Blue?) *
  • Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia)
  • Silver sage (Salvia argentea)


  • Canada wormwood (Artemisia canadensis)
  • ?Cragg-Barber Eye? artemisia (A. vulgaris)
  • ?Gracillimus? maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis)


  • Bergenia (Bergenia cordifolia)
  • Hens and chicks (Sempervivum)
  • Prickly pear cactus (Opuntia humifusa)
  • Stonecrop (Sedum)

Those marked * will self-sow in sandy spots and pathways.