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One of the most versatile materials around, try landscaping with pebbles as it's the perfect accompaniment to plants, trees, water and pavers, as well as working as a decorative element to add texture, color and interest in your yard.
It's a landscaping trend that's popular right now because it's so versatile. You can achieve so many different looks, but pebbles are also practical. They can be used to help drainage, create structure, mulch plants and make a garden look more established, as well as to create an interesting surface or edging for paths and patios that will add character to your hardscaping choices.
These multi-purpose qualities explain why landscaping with pebbles is very on-trend at the moment. Whether you’re seeking to create a modern, traditional, Zen, country or Mediterranean garden you'll find that pebbles that will slot perfectly into your landscaping ideas.
14 inspirational ways for landscaping with pebbles
If you're looking for a quick way to transform your garden, pebbles are one of the most versatile and affordable options around. There's a great choice of decorative pebbles out there and lots of creative ways to use them. If you're already a fan of landscaping with gravel it's the next step.
Just remember to mix it up. 'A top tip for landscaping with pebbles is that size matters,' says garden designer Alice Meacham (opens in new tab). 'Don’t be tempted to skimp and use only small stones. Large pebbles like smooth glacial boulders really add volume and depth. They also help to tie in any surrounding pebbles to give a more natural feel, as though the stone was already present and has just simply been uncovered.'
Along with some expert help we've picked some of our favorite ways to use pebbles in your yard.
1. Choose pebbles for a low maintenance design
Pebbles are a great look for contemporary low maintenance landscaping to create a plot with minimal upkeep and are a good choice if you're thinking of getting rid of the lawn as part of this. If you like the thought of including some Mediterranean garden ideas or want to create a dry garden it's a natural fit too.
'For this design I took inspiration from dry lands like steppes and prairies where there is little tree-like vegetation but lots of grasses,' explains Alice Meacham. 'Using stone paired with ornamental grasses gives a nod to the rocky outcrops and soil-less ground you might see in these regions.
When pebbles and boulders are combined with gravel in this way, they are as much a feature as the planting. All the stone is light reflective, providing a backdrop to the diaphanous and airy landscaping with grasses that accompanies it.
'A scheme like this can be designed for drought resistance with the pebbles acting to reduce moisture loss, and ornamental grasses are often used in ‘dry’ schemes,' adds Alice, 'but in fact many of the popular grasses cultivars such as Stipas, Miscanthus and Molinia are actually quite tolerant of a wide range of conditions.'
2. Smarten up your front yard design
Pebbles are also the go-to choice if you're looking for easy front yard landscaping ideas that look good 24/7 with little input from you. Rectangular designs top dressed with a layer of crisp white pebbles always look smart as part of low maintenance flower beds and work particularly well with modern properties.
The joy of pebbles is that you can choose a color and shape that matches your exterior, so it doesn't matter whether you live in an urban apartment (choose black, maybe) or country cottage (Cotswold stone, say) – there will be a style to complement your set-up.
3. Use pebbles to create a centerpiece
Pebbles will bask happily in the limelight and take center stage as part of your backyard design. They can be used to add visual interest to a fire bowl or other fire pit ideas, with the varied tones of the pebbles providing a textured surface in contrast to the smooth bowl. As well as buying fire bowls with pebbles included, it's also possible to buy concrete and ceramic fire pebbles, available from Amazon (opens in new tab), that look and feel like the real thing in a variety of shapes and sizes so you can retro fit an existing design.
The sleek fire bowl design shown here really makes this entertaining space. 'The pebbles in the fire bowl contribute to a subtle use of textures throughout the hard landscaping in this garden,' says Sam Proctor of Chiltern Garden Design (opens in new tab). 'We wanted to break up the large format porcelain patio paving with more artisanal textures. Subtly patterned tiles form a 'rug' under the fire bowl to anchor the lounging area.'
4. Opt for pebble inlays to break up hardscaping
Also known as decorative aggregates, pebbles add color, texture and interest as part of your paving ideas. Use them to break up large areas of hardscaping by softening the look. Pebbles can be used to fill deliberate spaces left between paving slabs to enhance the overall look with a more subtle touch.
Smooth textured pebbles work well in 'pockets' to contrast with the sleek, crisp lines of contemporary porcelain pavers, while soft buff colored pebbles will complement sandstone paving perfectly if you're more interested in rustic cottage garden ideas for your plot.
5. Add pebbles to create a zen-style space
If you're interested in creating some tranquil Japanese garden ideas, pebbles are a key addition to the look. Japanese-style spaces (or Zen gardens) are used as a place for contemplation, so it’s the perfect opportunity to go clutter free and keep the style simple when it comes to landscaping with pebbles.
Stones are a fundamental design element in the Japanese garden. They’re rarely used alone. Instead they are found in repeat patterns, with each stone placed in a particular position or group.
Blocks of bamboo planting with pebbles arranged simply at the base looks striking and adds a feeling of seclusion to your garden sanctuary. Gravel garden ideas are also important for Oriental-inspired outdoor spaces.
6. Continue the theme by top dressing containers
If you're landscaping with pebbles and have some left over or have made some landscaping mistakes don't leave them lying around in a forgotten corner. There are lots of ways to use them in other projects.
Decorative pebbles are the perfect finishing touch for pots and garden planters. Use a layer of pebbles to cover surface soil to add texture, color and interest as well as smarten up the look. Pebbles work as a mulch to retain moisture too. Position the pots close to where you've already used the pebbles to add continuity to your design.
7. Landscape with pebbles around a water feature
All the best garden designs have elements of surprise. We love the slow reveal of this stepping stone path to a hidden spot with a tranquil pond. It's the perfect place to relax. Even better, ponds and other water feature ideas are great places to use pebbles, suggesting the water has worn away the soil to reveal a stony ‘beach’.
'When I’m designing with a loose stone like pebbles, I think about the environments in the wild where this look might naturally occur,' explains Alice Meacham, who designed this wildlife pond. 'This gives a clue as to the kinds of plants to use to create a certain look too, so the whole thing comes together.'
It's great, too, if you're on the hunt for cheap landscaping ideas to transform your backyard on a budget.
8. Use narrow pebble beds as an edging detail
Pebbles work brilliantly as a narrow border that contrasts with paving, planting beds, borders or the lawn as part of your garden edging ideas.
If you love the current gray design trend for outdoor spaces you'll be looking for pebbles in the right shade too. Akron pebbles are a natural stone product that comes in shades of gray and blue for a cool, contemporary look. They are porous, allowing moisture to percolate through them into the soil, and work particularly well in urban yard designs.
9. Go large with sculptural pebbles
Large polished pebbles are a nice way to introduce some sculpture into your yard but they're also practical as you can use them as seats too. It's a look that works in both urban spaces and country gardens as an idea for landscaping with boulders.
'A beautiful sculptural piece looks equally at home in natural organic surroundings as well as urban settings,' says furniture expert Jo Alexander (opens in new tab). 'The clean, beautifully sleek lines of these pebbles are smooth to the touch. They look good grouped together, and can also be used as somewhere to perch among the flowers or used as centerpiece in a prominent spot in your garden.'
We think these look great when used for pool landscaping too as they offer a practical seating option in addition to a cool modern vibe.
10. Choose a practical pebble setting for a fire pit
If you're looking for fire pit ideas so you can cozy up after dark make sure you choose the best base. We love the look of pebbles as it reminds us of beach barbecues. Just make sure the fire pit is sitting level.
One of the key things about how to light a fire pit is it's always best to place it on a natural surface, and other options include concrete, stone, gravel, brick or slate. Be careful if putting it on a wooden deck, as sparks and flying embers can ignite nearby surfaces.
11. Create a coastal design with pebbles
Opt for landscaping with pebbles if you're interested in ideas for a seaside garden and materials to work around the best coastal plants.
'This garden already had a lot of pebbles,' says Garden Design Guru (opens in new tab) Barry Chambers, 'as the house is close to the beach. Worn sea timbers with a sculptural quality were placed with pebbles rippling out around them in rings. The important thing here was the base of sharp sand and selecting pebbles of the same size.
'I planted directly into the soil, levelling off where it undulated significantly. Having first planned to plant native sea lavender and deciding that this would spread far too freely, I tracked down some white flowering thyme as a flatter and more controllable option. Then I mulched around the plants with sharp sand.'
If you love this look try landscaping with sand as another way to add a coastal vibe to your backyard.
12. Design a one-off garden path
Pebbles can be used to create an attractive mosaic design for a garden path. You can customize the look to make your path unique too, making the design as simple or complex as you like.
First sketch out your design. Choose a regular geometric look for urban yards or a meandering style to fit into a more natural landscape. Stone sizes can and should vary in size and color, and using pea gravel to act as filler is also a good idea.
Make sure you can see as much of the beautiful pebbles as possible by removing any excess grout to show them off fully.
Once you get the hang of this why not have a go at DIY patio ideas too?
13. Top flower beds with decorative pebbles
If you like low maintenance garden ideas you'll love using pebbles as a decorative mulch. It keeps weeds down, helps the soil to retain moisture and always looks smart. Just make sure the pebbles you choose fit in with the rest of your design.
'Where you have a border next to an old stone wall, using flint gravel topped with pebbles and boulders works particularly well,' says Alice Meacham, who designed this garden. 'The range of colors and textures seems to harmonize beautifully. This scheme was designed to liven up a dry spot that gets baked hard with the sun but never gets watered. A perfect place to combine pebbles with creeping thyme.'
There are plenty of other drought tolerant plants that will work well in a scheme like this too.
14. Combine different shapes and sizes for interest
Using a mix of big ones, little ones and in-between sized pebbles means you can design a unique and interesting scheme that has real standout. A design like this one works for both a modern urban space and a country garden.
How do you lay pebbles on soil?
When it comes to how to lay pebbles on soil, there are several options to keep your design looking good and weed free.
Consider adding an underlay such as landscape fabric, weed mat or thick black plastic between the pebbles and soil. If you opt for the plastic option, make sure to punch holes in it so water can permeate if you're adding plants.
Don't skimp on the pebbles either. Instead opt for a thick layer to create a better look as well as to prevent weeds growing through them.
A few things affect the calculation for pebble coverage. These include the actual size of the area you're covering, the depth, and also the shape and size of the pebbles themselves. So if you're wondering how much does landscaping cost be sure to do your calculations accurately.
Lifestyle journalist Sarah Wilson has been writing about gardens since 2015. She's written for Gardeningetc.com, Livingetc, Homes & Gardens, Easy Gardens and Modern Gardens magazines. Having studied introductory garden and landscape design, she is currently putting the skills learned to good use in her own space where the dream is establishing a cutting garden.
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