There are lots of reasons why you might consider using decorative stone to transform your outdoor space. From driveway shingle to rockery boulders, pebbles for ponds or a black basalt border, decorative stones and garden aggregates are versatile, great for drainage and easy to lay for quick impact. This guide helps you think about which products are most suitable for your landscaping needs, so you can choose the right aggregate for your garden project.
What can I use decorative aggregates for?
As decorative aggregates allow water to run through into the ground, they can be great for reducing the risk of your garden flooding. Use shingle or chippings as an alternative to paving or set paving stones within them to make an attractive path.
Rockeries, alpine gardens and gravel gardens are great options for low maintenance and well suited to poor soils and the uncertain weather patterns we’ve experienced in recent years. Most decorative aggregates can be used in this way and rockery boulders can provide dramatic structure, especially well-suited to sloping gardens. See the RHS advice on how to create a gravel garden.
3. Landscape a pond
If you’re creating a pond, aggregates can be perfect for creating a ramp for wildlife and to soften the edges. Pebbles and cobbles can re-create the feel of a river or beach. Be careful to choose an aggregate suitable for fish. Some natural stone such as that with lime content will affect the PH of the water and make it unsafe for aquatic life. Although most suppliers provide pre-washed stone, it’s always a good idea to wash any stones before you add them to your pond.
Great for a relaxed and traditional look, shingle can also be an economical option for covering a large area of driveway. Angular chippings work best as they fit together tightly so are firmer under foot or vehicles and less likely to roll downhill than rounded stones. The smaller the chipping, the tighter the fit.
As driveway materials need to be able to stand up to heavy loads, slate is not a good option as it can break under the weight of vehicles. Also think carefully about your location. Although a light-coloured porous stone like Cotswold Buff may brighten a shady area, it could attract algae without careful maintenance.
Decorative stone driveways should be laid on a firm base of hard core with a suitable edging and will be applied in several layers, each compacted and rolled separately. A ground stabilising mesh can be a great option to prevent gravel moving around on flat or sloped surfaces.
5. Create a garden path
Most decorative aggregates are suitable for garden pathways, when laid on a suitable sub-base. Self-binding gravel is a great option because it is cost effective and durable. Its fine-textured clay particles bind with the gravel to form a hard surface that doesn’t shift around when walked on.
6. Control weeds
Use decorative aggregates to landscape areas of garden as an alternative to mulch. Choose decorative stone chippings that suits the style of your garden and don’t forget to fit a landscaping membrane underneath. It is important as it creates a barrier that stops weeds seeding and growing up through the chippings. Cut holes around the plants in your bed that give plenty of room for growth.
Chippings and pebbles can be the perfect material to put round the edge of a patio or fill in those small or irregular gaps. Chosen well, they’ll enhance the space and give a tidy, professional finish.
Top tips on choosing the best decorative aggregate
Choose the right size
As smaller chippings lock together well, they are best for areas that will be walked on and can be great for fitting in awkward spaces and gaps around the edges. Paddlestones, cobbles, pebbles and rockery stones can work better in larger areas and as features.
Get the right look for your garden
Choose a stone that complements other hard landscaping materials in your garden, the architecture of your house and the local landscape. As a rule, aim for no more than three or four hard landscaping materials so your textures and colours aren’t too busy. Chippings like slate or polished black pebbles can look striking in a contemporary garden, whilst others like Cotswold Buff might fit a more traditional garden scheme. And remember your aggregate will look different when wet.
Consider recycled stone
Think about delivery
Organising a delivery can be much easier than lugging lots of bags back from a shop. As a rule, buying more works out better value so plan at the outset how much decorative aggregate you need. Choose from decorative stone bulk bags, poly-bags for a smaller amount, or loose tipped for the best value. If you are getting a delivery, make sure you check there is suitable access for a delivery vehicle and decide how you are going to move the stone to where you need it in your garden.