Katy Elliott

A daily design journal about new england life, home decorating resources, and renovating a 257-year-old house in Marblehead, MA.

Gray Rock Garden Paths

Posted on | May 19, 2010 | 14 Comments

The last few days I’ve been brainstorming patio surface ideas. I spotted rock paths at the Jeremiah Lee Mansion in Marblehead and along a brick sidewalk in Salem. Something about the natural gray rocks scale is so enticing and different. But then my mind wanders to the cons: uneven dining chairs and tippy tables. Maybe not for a patio but what about a pathway?

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14 Responses to “Gray Rock Garden Paths”

  1. Jane Flanagan
    May 19th, 2010 @ 11:59 am

    I love these too! But wonder how practical they are in winter for shoveling snow? Though would be perfect for a garden path!


  2. Katy Elliott
    May 19th, 2010 @ 12:06 pm

    Cobbles, peagravel, stone all suck too shovel.


  3. Cindy Hernandez
    May 19th, 2010 @ 1:21 pm

    Love the idea for a walkway, not so much for a patio. The gray stones would look equally nice with a flagstone patio or one done in brick.


  4. liane
    May 19th, 2010 @ 1:44 pm

    ooo. thanks for the inspiration. i know just a little spot at my house this would look great and i do believe it’s a project i can handle pretty easily.


  5. Cadmium Red
    May 19th, 2010 @ 3:20 pm

    Had a similar situation trying to figure out materials for walkways and a patio in Somerville. We built walkways with river pebbles (a mixture of mostly gray tones) which are much smaller than the ones pictured in your post then placed rectangular slate pavers (a little bigger than legal sized paper) every 1-2 feet as a place for your feet to land (the previous owner had the pavers left over). It looks excellent and they were easy to build. For our patio, I hesitated at first to use non-stone or non-brick pavers, (such as the brand Ideal) as I thought they would look too manufactured, but we looked into it b/c they are much cheaper per square foot than natural stone or brick and easier to assemble. We bought gray colored ones which wound up nicely complementing our landscape, and there were enough real cobble stones lying around the property to outline the patio (another fortunate material the previous owner left behind) and the combination looks great. Basically, we used economical materials for the bulk of the hardscaping projects and more expensive (in our case free) materials for accents and it worked really well. Our sources were: Garden World Saugus (for small river stone–they come in bags) and Proctor Landscape & Masonry Supply in Lunenberg for pavers (cheaper prices than Boston area). Northeast Nursery in Peabody carries Mexican beach pebbles which look like the ones in your post.


  6. Donna
    May 19th, 2010 @ 3:54 pm

    The second picture is of my front “yard”—thanks for featuring it! We had the river stones put in because we never could get grass to grow and there were earlier (much earlier–18th and 19th century) examples on our street. We love them and get lots of compliments but occasionally someone steals a stone! I can’t imagine this type of installation as a patio (or even as a pathway, really), but as more of a backdrop. I guess if you set the stones deeply in the ground it would work as a pathway—ours are a little looser.


  7. Elizabethe
    May 19th, 2010 @ 4:36 pm

    Love this site. Just found it and we are kindred spirits of sorts. We purchased our 200 year old clapboard house October 2007. The bathroom gut began Monday. The first garden went in a year and a half ago. I was a novice northern gardener (southern transplant) and realized the importance of purchasing plants with the 1 year guarantee to assure they make it through the first winter. I am now readying an area for a stone path and patio utilizing large slate slabs that are strewn behind the house. These were originally town walkways that were discarded decades ago. The house sidewalks (to the city side walk) are still these large slate slabs and provide the stone look without the problems of the river stones/cobbles for weeds and shoveling. It’s my understanding that these discarded slabs are throughout the northeast. That’s my 2 cents.


  8. Anja
    May 19th, 2010 @ 5:18 pm

    Hi Katy! We are redoing our patio as soon as we can and we’ve been going back and forth between brick, natural stone and laying patterns with different types of concrete blocks. All of that went out the window when we saw this picture in a magazine with a patio made with wide, untreated planks of larchwood. Fast and fairly simple to put in place, nice and level and becomes more beautiful with every season! Check it out here: http://ograstradgarden.blogg.se/2010/may/uteplats.html


  9. Meganne
    May 19th, 2010 @ 9:02 pm

    I find those smooth stones make wonderful mini-patios for birdbaths or a single bench. I have a love/hate relationship with crushed white seashells as paths (which I believe they use here in Portsmouth, NH at the John Paul Jones House). I love the look, but will I pay dearly for it later?


  10. Patsy
    May 20th, 2010 @ 10:51 am

    We’ve been tossing around the idea of chattahoochee stone for our driveway (which gets shoveled) and crushed shell for a side yard path (which does not).


  11. Barbara Rocha
    May 23rd, 2010 @ 9:10 am

    In Portugal there are small square stones for almost all of the town roads. They are beautiful and great for driveways and paths! But uneven for patios and ankles!


  12. Hilary
    May 23rd, 2010 @ 9:44 am

    Growing up my Dad built me a garden with a bench, we called it “Down the Lane ” because there was a little path to follow and nook for me to hide amongst all the flowers.
    I love a good garden! Here in the heart of L.A. I have my succulent garden, which quells my desire for real garden with a path.


  13. Katy Elliott
    May 23rd, 2010 @ 10:38 am


    So funny I took a photo of your rock path. Love it!


  14. Debbie
    May 26th, 2010 @ 3:52 am

    Donna-Nice yard. Katy-I love it as a path. Has a real feel of elegance. On shoveling snow with stones underneath–we lived in New Mexico for a decade, and almost everyone there has stones for their yard and often on their roof too. The way to shovel a lot of snow with stones is to put the shovel perpendicular to the ground and push it down to the stones. Then you know how far down the stones are, and you just shovel on that level. If there is only a tiny bit of snow you can use a brush/broom like you might on porch steps. I didn’t find stones a problem. Peagravel–that could be more of a problem. Our roof was finished with something similar to peagravel and it was difficult to shovel. (Yes, we had to shovel our roof. It was flat, and if we did not shovel the snow off then it would leak. Unfortunately we learned this the hard way…) Unlike the ground, we had to get every bit of snow and ice off the roof to prevent leaks, and the peagravel made this quite hard. Also, another issue is that peagravel is so light it moves when it’s shoveled and this can cause a mess, while the stones are heavier so it takes a lot more force to move them. Earlier I posted that I thought peagravel would be a good idea for your driveway, but now that you’ve brought up snow, I’m not so sure. I agree with your analysis on stones for the driveway, that they will cause chairs to tip, that’s always annoying at parties. But I think that stones for the path would be good, and I would not worry about the snow.


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