Fashionable, variable, colourful and usable.
Four simple words but aptly applied to the range of pebbles used by landscapers and gardeners across Australia.
To think that one day pebbles would be sold in weighted bags sorted by colour and size was unimaginable less than a decade ago. A trip now to your nearest garden centre, hardware store or landscape supply yard will give any shop-aholic sufficient excuses to ponder over the selection.
So how does one choose?
Firstly identify why pebbles will be needed.
If a large volume is required for a walkway where few people will venture, then it is possible to go for a lower quality cheaper pebble, such as crushed.
For detailed landscapes where quality is paramount and the purpose of the pebbles are decorative, then uniform coloured smooth pebbles and stones may be more desirable. If the area is large it is best to select a base size pebble as the bulk quantity and achieve focal textures with the use of different sized pebbles, either larger or smaller. This technique is most successful around water features and ‘dry stone creek beds’.
Pebbles can also be used to create patterns by sperating different colours. A pale pink stone beside red will yield a harmonious blend, black beside white will add contrast. Large angular stones amongst rounded small pebbles provide interest due to texture and size variation.
Rather than the aesthetic nature of the material, pebbles can also be used as a mulch. Although they do not provide organic enrichment to the soil, pebbles can act as a soil insulator from hot dry winds, impact deflector from torrential rains and plant root warmer during winter. Pebbles are undoubtedly longer lasting than organic mulches plus are not blown around in wind or storms. However pebbles can be thrown both children and become projectiles by the mower. Even many dogs have a habit of carrying pebbles around the garden and placing them in unlikely positions.
If concerned about privacy, a pebble walkway prevents any burglar from venturing in your yard without being heard.
Pebbles can be used on the surface of pot plants to link potted specimens to areas that are mulched by pebbles. To make a stylish yet simple statement on the balcony use large pebbles of black or white on the surface of pot plants.
Perhaps the most concerning issue for any landscaper is to ensure that pebbles are sourced from areas that do not strip the environment for the sake of aesthetics.
Article written by Paul Plant, FAIH HMAQ, freelance garden and landscape writer.