Garden Photo of the Day

READER PHOTOS! Tim’s garden in Ohio, Day 1: The gravel garden

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Photo/Illustration: Courtesy of Tim Vojt

We’re spending the next three days in Tim Vojt’s garden in Columbus, Ohio. He’s got lots of good stuff to show us! We’ll start with his driveway gravel garden. Tim says, “I’ve been slowly creating gardens on our small suburban lot in Columbus, Ohio (USDA Hardiness Zone 6) since 1997, around our 100 year-old, four-square home. There are challenges and surprises that shaped and continue to shape the gardens, but finding plants and creative solutions are part of the fun.

This first set of photos is of my backyard, full-sun gravel garden, between a perennial bed and our our off-street-parking gravel pad. At some point in the history of the house, the gravel parking area (about 9 inches deep) that extended all the way to the house was covered with about 6 inches of dirt.  The perennial garden was created by digging out the gravel and replacing it with soil.  I left a circular area of turf as a visual relief, but it was always a dry, weedy mess.  I decided to take advantage of the great drainage of the dirty gravel and see what would grow.  Now penstemons, cold hardy agaves, creeping thyme, sedum, dianthus, and muhlenbeckia thrive in the dry heat!”

Photos: Courtesy of Tim Vojt

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  1. duckcovegardening 01/25/2012

    That is a really clever take on gravel, and one that would work in the Northeast with the same plants. I have an old farm, and thus some of the same issues - I never thought of just making a garden of it. Now I know what I will do in front of the barn to help with water run off and yet improve the drive up!! I can't wait for Tim's subsequent posts. And, the before and after pictures - totally amazing!

  2. JulieBW 01/25/2012

    I love a garden where many would believe there can't possibly be a garden. Imagine how beautiful the world could be!!

  3. pattyspencer 01/25/2012

    Love it! I really like the bright green against the color of the gravel. Hey Tim - I'm probably not too far from you (Grove City) When you're done with your garden - come over to my mess and beautify me!

  4. User avater
    meander_michaele 01/25/2012

    What a really nice project...gardeners are masters of making tasty lemonade out of lemons! I especially appreciated seeing the before and after pics. I would have thought that the circle of grass would have worked better than it did. Without a doubt, the gravel garden is much more pleasing and interesting.
    Looking forward to seeing more of Tim's efforts in the next 2 days.

  5. tractor1 01/25/2012

    Isn't Ohio icy cold and covered with that white stuff a good part of the year... that yard will be awfully boring during the cold months, will look like the Ohio State Penetentiary exercise yard, only thing missing are the guard towers. There needs to be shrubs, trees, and especially evergreens/conifers... should be easy pickings with no deer in that yard to contend with... I'm locked into spruce or fence. Sorry but I'm not liking all that moonscape gravelly appearance (says a septic system contractor lives here). No matter how contained that gravel flows like lava, I'd become very annoyed with having to constantly pick up all those pebbles and have to drag them back where they belong... everytime a vehicle backs out at least a pound of gravel will end up in the road. Now that there's a good gravel base rent a vibratory tamper to compress the driveway, add a layer of sand, and cover it with pavers, perhaps an attractive herringbone pattern. From what I can see of the neighbor's yards they look lush.

  6. greengrowler 01/25/2012

    Tim, you've created a very peaceful, zen-like space. I am a huge fan of lime green anything, and living in a semi-arid state, where succulents rule, your use of sedums, thyme, etc. is so perfect here. If you ever consider adding plants, Texas Red Yucca (Hesperaloe parviflora) would look at home here, as well as DWARF Russian Sage (Perovskia - 'Little Spires")- both can be found at High Country Gardens online. Looking forward to more upcoming photos!

  7. Cay442 01/25/2012

    Great solution and something pleasing to look at when you arrive home. I'm a BIG fan of rocks - in our part of rural upstate NY rocks are more abundant than grass blades, and you can have fun exploring the juxtaposition of rocks and plants endlessly. We have a huge quarried block anchoring an island of trees and shrubs, stepping stones in every bed, pyramids of dry-stacked cobblestones at the entrance to a large perennial bed, and, yes, gravel areas that reflect the previous owner's belief that gravel is a low maintenance mulch. We shoveled tons of gravel away from the hardscaping, but then we repurposed it for special beds. Love your gravel bed!

  8. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 01/25/2012

    Well this is certainly fun! I really don't which I love more; rocks or plants. I guess I would say it is the combination of both that I love. My favorite rocks are in the front yard which should be up tomorrow. High Country Gardens has great stuff; always have a wish list to try new things. Unfortunately the ugly gravel parking pad off the alley is what it is; project number 587 on my very own 'this old house'!

  9. MichelleGervais 01/25/2012

    Tim - that's funny! I give my house and garden projects priority numbers, too, and they always seem to be in the 500-ish range... "Oh, you think we should paint the dining room? Project #542."

  10. kzoocookie 01/25/2012

    Well I like it too -- more gravel will be covered as the plants expand. If you do want to try some low evergreens, I've had good luck (zone 5) with microbiota and erica. Both can change foliage color winter/summer. I think gravel is one of those love it and hate it things. Good plants and weeds both love the drainage. Any ideas on how to keep gravel paths weed-free?

  11. KarinCa 01/25/2012

    tractor1: If you read Micheles explanation, the gravel was already there, 9 inches of it, so I guess this is a solutions of dealing with it other than having someone haul it away and starting with soli. I like it a lot!! My question to Tim is: how long did it take from the "before photo" where you planted all the plants to the way it looks like in "after" photo?

  12. User avater
    Tim_Zone_Denial_Vojt 01/25/2012

    The gravel garden is about four years old in the final photo. Regarding kzoocookie's comments about weeds, it seems to me that *everything* loves to self-sow in the pea-gravel mulch that is over the 'dirty' gravel. It is sort of a weeding nightmare....

  13. riverain 01/25/2012

    What a lovely solution, the shapes and colors are very pleasing. I just replaced the half moon patch of weed at the end of my driveway with gravel, these are some good ideas for plants i can add in the spring. So glad not everyone is obsessed with the same old same old!

  14. margoa 01/26/2012

    Okay, doing this backwards - didn't get to catch this yesterday, but I love the backyard too. A taste of the Southwest, simple, peaceful,low maintenance, low water usage, and a smart way to not have to dig out tons of existing rock. Again, gorgeous, just like the front yard!

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