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GARDENING: Chips with everything; IF YOU'VE FOUGHT THE LAWN AND THE LAWN WON.. OPT FOR EASY AND STYLISH STONE CHIPPINGS.

Byline: ADRIENNE WILD

GRAVEL is a good replacement for grass, a cheaper and instant paving solution and can even help to burglar-proof your property, so what are you waiting for?

1. SPACE

THE ideal ecological alternative to a lawn, gravel doesn't need watering or mowing, and it fits well into an urban and contemporary-style landscape, offering an intermediate texture between bricks and mortar, timber decking and soft plants, creating a sense of space.

EXPERT TIP: Gravel comes in different colours, textures and sizes. Black granite chippings give a more formal look and the most decorative for low-traffic areas are worn rounded pebbles, which are soft and easy on the eye.

HOW MUCH? Black pebbles and cobbles cost pounds 9.98 for a maxi-pack at B&Q (0845 850 0175, www.diy.com).

2. CONTRAST

GRAVEL is less formal than paving but crisper than grass. Here evergreen box balls are contrasted with gravel laid over a weed-suppressing membrane for a low-maintenance feature with year-round interest.

EXPERT TIP: Topping up and occasional raking is all that's needed to keep it looking good.

HOW MUCH? Weedblock path, patio and drive stabiliser fabric, from pounds 15.98 (90cmx1.20m), B&Q (0845 850 0175, www.diy.com).

3. PLANTING

TAKE your inspiration from the wild and substitute grass for gravel with drought-tolerant flowers like poppies or lady's mantle, eryngium, euphorbia and verbascum randomly planted through it.

EXPERT TIP: When planting in gravel, first scrape away the surface gravel and dig a hole slightly larger than the root ball in the soil below. After planting, replace the gravel around the crown and then water in.

HOW MUCH? Grow plants from seed - from 99p per packet at garden centres.

4. SECURITY

GRAVEL is perfect for the security-conscious as it has a reassuringly crunchy sound when walked on. Use angular, chipped stone for paths along access routes past windows and doors and to prevent it feeling like you're walking on quicksand, make sure that it is no deeper that 2in and laid on firm ground.

EXPERT TIP: For heavy-duty paths, dig down to about 4in and lay a 2in sub-base of crushed hardcore. Use a vibrating plate to compact it down thoroughly before topping up with gravel.

HOW MUCH? Decorative stones and ballast available from around pounds 5 from Wickes (0500 300328, www.wickes.co.uk).

5. STEPS

USE gravel made up of small angular chips of mechanically crushed granite or sandstone for paths and combine it with stepping stones to make crossing easier. Loose gravel will tend to disperse so give the path a slightly raised edge to retain it - this can be made from tiles, brick or wood to fit with your design.

EXPERT TIP: As gravel has a tendency to get caught in the deep ridges of shoe soles, it's advisable to lay a more solid surfacing material by doorways to avoid it being carried indoors.

HOW MUCH? Pay around pounds 3.50 for stepping stones at garden centres.

6. PATTERN

GRAVEL is a fluid material and can be poured into any style of garden. To break up the monotony of a large expanse of gravel make patterns and island beds mulched with coloured aggregates to make a striking floor. But be aware that light colours spread over a large area can produce glare on very sunny spots.

EXPERT TIP: Randomly place cobbles to form a visual punctuation, to discourage people from walking over particular areas or to provide additional interest.

HOW MUCH? Decorative aggregates in nine natural colours cost pounds 4.98 for a maxi pack at B&Q (0845 850 0175, www.diy.com).

Gravel is an ecological alternative to grass - it needs no watering and fits well into a contemporary or urban landscape

To break up the monotony of a large expanse of gravel make patterns and island beds with coloured chips

CAPTION(S):

Gravel provides texture between timber and bricks and mortar, creating a sense of space; 1. SPACE; 2. CONTRAST; 3. PLANTING; 4. SECURITY; 5. STEPS; 6. PATTERN Pictures; MARIANNE MAJERUS/GARDEN PICTURE LIBRARY/GAP
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Copyright 2007 Gale, Cengage Learning. All rights reserved.

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Title Annotation:Competition/Offers
Publication:Sunday Mirror (London, England)
Date:Sep 30, 2007
Words:676
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