Drought-tolerant plants that originate from arid, rocky places look at home in a gravel garden. Ideal for a hot, sunny spot, a gravel border is easy to make and creates a mosaic of colors and textures.
When to Start: spring
At Its Best: summer
Time to Complete: 6 hours
Dig over the area thoroughly and remove any weeds. You need a well-drained soil to keep drought-tolerant plants happy, so dig in washed sand to make sure that yours drains freely, even in wet weather.
Weed-suppressing membrane or landscape fabric allows rain to soak through to the roots, yet prevents weeds from growing. Lay it over the entire area, overlapping the edges and pinning them down with galvanized staples as you go.
Place your plants in their positions on the landscape fabric, and then arrange them to create a pleasing display. For each plant, cut a cross in the fabric and fold back the flaps.
Dig a hole and plant your plants at the same depth they were at in their pots. Add a little fertilizer to the back-filled soil and firm it in. Replace the fabric to fit around the stems.
Once all of the plants have been watered in, spread a 2" layer of gravel over the entire area. You may need to top this up occasionally to keep the garden looking its best. Water the plants in dry spells for the first year.
A slightly different style of gravel garden uses no landscape fabric. Plants are left to self-seed and create a wonderfully natural effect, but make sure you remove every scrap of perennial weed during the preparation.
Both weeds and seedlings of desired plants will spring up in a gravel bed, and it's important to learn the difference between them. To identify them you may have to allow weeds to grow larger than you would ideally like. In addition, deadhead regularly; seeds will never get the chance to form if the flowers are cut off the moment they start to fade.
Sea holly (Eryngium giganteum), 36 inches high, 12 inches wide (image 1); Welsh poppy (Meconopsis cambrica), 18 inches high, 10 inches wide (image 2); love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena), Persian Jewel Group, 16 inches high, 9 inches wide (image 3); foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), 5 feet high, 24 inches wide (image 4).
Excerpted from How to Grow Practically Everything
© Dorling Kindersley Limited 2010