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White gravel: not your grandma’s garden

Please don’t do this….

In a wonderful rant on Apartment Therapy this week, I came across Master gardener and author Margaret Roach’s confession: she abhors red dyed bark mulch. As a professional landscape designer, I have to say I second that motion wholeheartedly!

After the article, readers were encourage to comment and I was surprised at how many people rose up to defend the stuff, claiming that it could look good in certain situations. I dare anyone to find one of those situations (and email me a photo- I’ll post it!)

I was surprised, also, that so many people also tried to take black dyed bark mulch down a notch. Unlike its gawky red cousin, I think the black mulch can look wonderful, especially in a modern garden. Can you see it here to either side of the fountain? I love how it speaks to the inky black of the reflecting pond.

Another surprise was how many people objected to white gravel, saying it reminded them of their grandma’s front yard. Okay, yes, I admit that I did like to steal the sparkly white gravel out of my septuagenarian neighbor’s front yard when I was six, but it has made a real come back since then! It can be wonderfully clean and classic, like this elegant Mediterranean garden by AMS Landscape, or oh-so-minimalist-modern like this funky firepit/fireplace patio by Grounded (whose Mid-Century inspired work I just adore).

© Kate Wiseman 2012. In San Diego? Want your own waterwise landscape design? I’d love to help! Please visit for more info.

Sage Outdoor Designs is a San Diego landscape design firm. Kate
Wiseman, the Principal, has been a San Diego landscape designer
for the past ten years. Find out more at