In this article

Your comprehensive guide to the design, installation and care of decorative pebbles and stones

Decorative stones and garden pebbles are wonderful additions to a garden, providing practical benefits whilst also transforming the appearance of your flower beds and pathways.

Pebbled areas offer a permeable alternative to hard paved areas, where water flow is an issue.

Central Landscape Supplies Waikato Fleck for pebbled pathways

Central Landscape Supplies has a comprehensive range of decorative pebbles and stones for pefect garden pathways.

Our landscaping experts have created this detailed customer guide highlighting the different types of landscaping stones, explaining the benefits they each offer.

We show you how to choose the right garden stones for your project, how to incorporate them into your landscape design and how to ensure they look their best all year round.

The shift from traditional lawns to landscaping stones

The picturesque large scale lawn is rapidly falling out of favour with New Zealand home owners, architects and landscape designers.

Time-poor consumers are ditching the weekly maintenance and ongoing cost that traditional lawns require and choosing maintenance-free, landscaping alternatives such as landscape rocks, stonepebbles and pea gravel.

In addition to the obvious practical advantages, landscaping stones have significant environmental benefits as they conserve water, reduce chemical use and are perfect for drought prone areas, a factor we all need to be conscious of.

The diverse range of decorative stones and garden pebbles available from Central Landscape Supplies appeal to Kiwi gardeners as they inspire endless creative landscape options, regardless of your garden style.

The Appeal of Decorative Landscape Rocks

Every garden needs structure and decorative stones, landscape rocks and boulders provide the hard landscaping structure required to cohesively pull your garden design theme together.

Following your initial investment, stones and pebbles should require little maintenance and upkeep but will reward you with their beauty, practical and environmental benefits for many years.

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Create a sophisticated garden design with larger decorative pebbles and stones from Central Landscape Supplies.

Versatility in Design

Consider the style of your home:

When choosing garden stones and landscape rocks, consider your home's style first. A contemporary home will be enhanced by a modern landscape incorporating chipped rock and large highly textured boulders.

A more period property would look better with a combination of giant pebbles or cobblestones with smaller river pebbles.

Crushed shells will add texture and colour to a coastal home, whilst a house set amongst native bush with a natural water feature would be complemented by the round, smooth blue/green aesthetic of natural river stones and rocks.

Consider the function of the space being landscaped:

Choose smooth, rounded pebble stone for areas you plan walking barefoot on, whilst crushed stone might be better suited to heavy duty paths and driveways.

Focal points in the garden could be enhanced by dramatic river rock or boulders, combined with various sizes of landscaping pebbles.

Flower beds and vegetable gardens may benefit from the use of pea gravel, stone chippings, river pebbles or limestone chip as a layer of mulch around plants.

Create shape and flow through the garden:

Decorative stones can be used to define specific areas of the garden and draw the eye away from less attractive spaces towards your focal points.

Stone pathways can direct traffic around and through the garden and bring previously difficult to access areas into reach.

A small garden can give the illusion of being larger by incorporating larger landscaping stones, conversely, smaller pebble stones will have the opposite effect of making a space feel more compact and intimate.

Add a stunning water feature:

Adding a water feature into your landscape design is a simple way to introduce a peaceful area for rest and relaxation.

Garden stones can be used to carve out a mini waterfall or fountain with trickling water, a shallow flowing babbling brook through native planting, or a static goldfish pond.

Rocks, cobblestones and river pebbles are perfect choices for water features and look wonderful as the sun and water glisten across their surface revealing multiple shades and colours.

What are the benefits of using landscaping stones?

Weed control

Installing small decorative stones or gravel over a weed control membrane will create a compact barrier that prevents weed seeds from germinating, so you’ll spend less time weeding and more time enjoying your beautiful garden.

Drought resistant moisture retention

Decorative stones and pebbles create a thermal barrier protecting plant roots against the stress of extreme temperatures. In dry, hot, windy climates, they also reduce water evaporation and retain moisture in the soil for longer.

Erosion control

Gardens on sloping sites can be prone to soil erosion from rainwater and strong winds.

Installing irregularly shaped interlocking stone chips and gravel can help to stabilise the soil and protect it from slipping or being washed away.

In areas that require more solid ballast, gabion rocks can offer a rustic look when lining drainage channels along driveways.

Aesthetic appeal

Landscaping stones can enhance the visual appeal and beauty of your garden by introducing new colours, textures, shapes and contrast to your space.

Low maintenance

Once installed, garden stones need minimal maintenance, apart from periodic surface cleaning with a garden hose or pressure washer in the Spring to remove any dirt, stains or moss.

This is also a good time to replenish stone and pebbles in worn or bare areas to maintain the appearance of flower beds and paths.

Drainage

Gravel and pebble stone can be used to line the bottom of large plant pots, which helps with water drainage and prevents the plant's roots from becoming waterlogged.

Decorative pebbles can also be added as a top layer of mulch to pot plants to protect against temperature fluctuations and extremely hot, dry weather.

Where water flow is a concern during high rainfall pebbles and stones help water absorption to the soil below unlike smooth concrete or paving where water flows to the lowest point.

Versatility

Decorative stones, rocks and landscaping pebbles are incredibly versatile throughout the garden, defining spaces, enhancing focal features, adding drama and creating structure.

Ease of installation

Landscaping stones and gravel are so simple to install and can be poured or shovveled over weed matting, then lightly raked into position.

Using garden edging stones such as cobbles around flower beds will help to keep smaller gravel, chips or pebbles in place.

Larger landscape rocks and boulders may need to be mechanically maneuvered into place which would normally be done before you start planting.

Fish and pet friendly

Most decorative stones are safe for use in fish ponds and swimming pools and will enhance any water feature in the garden.

Understanding Different Types of Decorative Stones

There are 4 main varieties of decorative stone

There are four main varieties of decorative stone used in garden landscaping here in New Zealand. They are shells, river pebbles, stone chips and cobbles.

We explain the differences between these and their suitability for various landscaping applications below:

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Landscape rocks and boulders

When you want to make a dramatic focal point or design statement in the garden, large river rocks and boulders add the necessary scale and drama to meet your needs.

River rocks are generally smooth and rounded in appearance, whilst boulders have a more rugged, natural aesthetic.

Available from Central Landscape Supplies in a wide range of sizes and colours - from creamy gold tones of limestone rocks perfectly suited to a natural, earthy decorative style, to the more contemporary ethereal blues and greens of volcanic rocks which look fabulous alongside water features, especially when illuminated at night.

Best used for: Dramatic features and focal points throughout the garden and around water features and pools.

Stone, chip and pea gravel

Stone chips and gravel are derived from crushing larger stones like basalt, limestone and sandstone, into smaller, irregular shaped pieces which are also referred to as crushed stone or chips.

They’re available in a wide range of sizes and attractive colours and are generally used as a base material under patio flags and retaining walls, where the angular surfaces prevent unnecessary movement and form firm foundations.

Gravel and stone chips make great garden paths, driveways and parking areas. Limestone chips are white garden stones that are particularly good for mulching around garden shrubs and plants, but only those which are not acid-loving.

It raises the pH of the soil whilst providing essential nourishment in the form of calcium and magnesium and promotes healthy growth and flowering in shrubs.

Pea gravel, normally the smallest grade of decorative stones is often used in drainage projects and aquariums.

Best used for: A base under patio flags, top layer for driveways and walkways, mulching around non-acid-loving plants.

River pebbles and decorative pebbles used in landscaping

Landscaping pebbles are beautifully smooth edged stones and come in a variety of shapes, sizes and colours.

Differentiated by size, landscaping pebbles generally average 10-60mm in diameter and are graded into group sizes e.g. 10-20mm, 20-60mm.

Larger stones and boulders are like giant pebbles, ranging in size from 40-150mm.

River pebbles and decorative pebbles are often combined with larger size stones and boulders to create unique garden design features, with boulders making the perfect garden edging for smaller stones and pebbles, the infill.

Their smooth surfaces rub smoothly against each other making these a perfect stone for walking on. However, extreme care should be taken when walking on pebbles installed on a sloping surface as they can tend to slip underfoot.

Pebbles make an attractive ground cover or mulch for garden beds and when layered over weed matting will reduce the need for weeding, improve water retention and insulate the soil.

Best used for: Garden beds and borders, walkways and paths. Look stunning incorporated into water features.

Crushed shells

Crushed shell creates a pretty top layer to enhance feature garden beds and pathways, especially in coastal themed gardens.

It should be noted that shell is scarce in many NZ regions and becomes available only as local areas are consented for shell collection.

Crushed shell can be added as an organic layer of mulch around plants in the garden.

When broken down, shells can improve the soil ecosystem and slowly release the nutrients nitrogen, calcium and magnesium into the soil.

Shells provide gardeners with a helping hand to make acidic soils more alkaline, however, don’t expect the pH to rise quickly because, in reality, shells are very slow to break down.

Root knot nematodes can stunt the growth of vegetable plants in hot climates like New Zealand.

Adding crushed shell with fertiliser to the soil in vegetable gardens can help with nematode control.

Crushed shell can also be added as a top layer to plants in garden pots to help control fungus gnats and deter hungry snails.

Best used for: Mulching around vegetable beds, mulching around plants, a top layer for potted plants susceptible to snails.

Find the perfect rock, pebble for your project

What are the design principles when working with decorative stones in the garden?

When designing your garden you need to start by considering where you will sit, where you will move and where you will plant.

You can then begin outlining the line, form and shape of each of those spaces, giving consideration to the scale, balance and simplicity of the overall scheme.

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It’s a good idea to then decide on a theme or particular style that you want to create as this will influence your choice of hard landscaping materials and planting.

The principles of stone-based landscape design

When designing a garden landscape that incorporates garden stones and decorative pebbles, there are some fundamental design principles to follow to guarantee a successful outcome:

Traditional garden design

Warmer-toned Waikato Fleck and smooth river pebbles are both particularly well suited to traditional landscape designs as the natural hues and subtle contrasts complement older, period properties.

We recommend focusing on a single colour throughout traditional garden landscape designs and introducing texture and warmth via wooden timber sleepers and edging.

Modern garden design

Large garden stones and landscape rocks are often specified by architects of modern new homes for their sculptural qualities.

These look wonderful when paired with complementary crushed white lime chip that perfectly reflects the light and illuminates spaces in the garden.

The grey, green and white surfaces of Uruti pebbles look magnificent when part of a white or grey colour scheme, and adding grey Feinwerk pavers adds texture and greater depth of colour when contrast is desired.

We recommend a colour palette of up to three colours when designing a modern garden and these should complement each other and the colour of the home.

Beautiful Waikato Fleck brings creams, golds and bronze tones together that works well with plants of similar foliage hue and garden accessories such as corten steel braziers or pots.

High Contrast Designs

Drama and visual interest can be created by incorporating a variety of colours, textures and stone sizes.

Aim for dramatic contrasts in stone size, such as large rugged boulders which add volume and depth, situated alongside smaller smooth surface river pebbles. These can look incredibly natural bedfellows.

Contrast can also be achieved by combining a mix of dark coloured pavers, embedded in white lime chip with a layer of black decorative mulch spread over nearby garden areas.

Timeless Designs

If you want to create a timeless design, stone is the perfect choice of landscaping material to achieve this.

Grey river pebbles, white lime chip and decorative pebble blends are all timeless, classic materials.

Soft buff coloured pebbles such as Mangatangi Gold perfectly complement sandstone pavers offering a more rustic, but still timeless design.

The dry sandy palette of relaxed Mediterranean garden design is also timeless when coupled with a rustic planting style.

Taking the first design steps

1. Determine the location

When planning your garden landscape take into account the location - is it close to the home or in a particularly dark corner of the section?

Are you going to be placing your garden stones alongside existing pavers, fencing, plants and shrubs, or will they be adjoining grass lawns and colourful flower beds?

Take note of the colours and textures that exist in your garden before introducing any new materials.

2. Choose the right stones

Once you’ve decided to embrace garden pebbles and stones in your landscaping, take time to visit your local Central Landscape Supplies yard and view the full range they have in stock.

Ask for samples so you can place them in the areas intended and assess the colour and texture before making a purchase.

3. Mark the area out

Always mark the area out before you order your materials, this enables you to have a clear impression of the overall layout and scale.

There are several ways to mark out the area you want to cover:

  • Stakes and string

    A simple and cheap method that is quick and easy but not ideal if you plan to have curves and complex shapes.

  • Paint

    Paint the ground using proprietary marker sprays (like builders use) or simply use an old tin of emulsion paint and a brush. Don’t forget to keep the paint away from existing driveways and hard surfaces as well as any plants.

  • String and powder

    This involves laying string on the ground to draw curves and straight lines. Then using sand or flour, sprinkle a small amount along the line. Don’t forget that compared to other methods this can be washed or blown away quite quickly in bad weather.

Colour and texture considerations

Colour and texture are the landscaper's friend, adding detail, depth, contrast and visual interest in the garden.

1. The impact of colour

Your choice of stone colours can influence the mood and style of your garden.

If you’re after a calm, relaxing area, choose subtle shades and warm, muted colours. If you want to liven up a space, bright splashes of contrasting colour will help create a lively and invigorating space.

Garden stones in shades of gold, creams and browns will add warmth to a space, whilst black, white and grey stones will create a cooler palette.

You should also consider the colour of your planting when choosing decorative stone colours and ensure they complement each other without clashing.

The influence of texture

Landscaping stones come in a variety of textural surfaces which can add depth and contrast in the garden. From the mix of gritty pumice to the bronze pebbles in Waikato Fleck, the sleek, smoothness of river stones, to the elegant white lime chip. Each differently textured stone has a valuable role to play in creating unique and highly personal spaces to suit your garden style.

Practical Applications in Landscaping

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Walkways, Paths, and Edging

If you plan to create a functional, attractive path or walkway it’s important to ensure you choose the right landscaping stones for each requirement:

1. Designing pebble or stone walkways

Walkways should be easy to walk on and well compacted down. Laying a base of GAP20 and compacting it, before adding the top layer of decorative stones is a great preparation for a successful path or seating area.

For maximum ground stability where walking, driving and parking is required the Jakmat system (developed here in NZ) is best.

2. Pathway creation

Once you’ve marked out a pathway and edged it with either stones, edging pavers, wood or something similar, apply your preferred stones in piles along the pathway.

Rake them out to an even surface as you go and then walk back over the entire area slowly to ensure they are bedded down.

It’s always advisable after laying the path to hose it down gently with water. This ensures any dust that’s accumulated from when the stones were graded is washed beneath the stones.

Garden edging

Larger stones make perfect garden edging stones around the perimeter of your flower beds and on either side of your paths.

These can be fixed with a layer of mortar for a more durable, attractive finish.

Garden edging stones will help to keep smaller stones or mulch in place and reduce the need for frequent tidying.

The most durable and affordable garden stone options

1. The most durable stones

Some decorative stones and pebbles are more durable than others and will therefore have a longer life expectancy.

Hard stones such as river pebbles, most decorative pebbles and pea gravel, will withstand weathering and maintain their shape and size for the longest time.

Softer stones such as hoggin, pumice and limestone sandstone will erode with weathering, especially when used in high traffic areas. They will require replenishing regularly.

2. The cheapest landscaping stones

The cheapest decorative stones for landscaping are pea gravel, landscape gravel and garden pebbles.

These all have the benefit of being smaller, lighter stones ideal for the DIY landscaper to handle.

Larger landscaping stones and boulders generally cost more because they are more difficult to source and heavier to transport.

Your landscaping budget will go further when you combine a high volume of cheaper stones with a limited number of feature stones or rocks.

To maximise your budget, talk to our landscape experts about the different costs before you plan your overall design.

Planning and preparation before installing decorative stone

Before you start installing your decorative stone, thorough planning and preparation are essential. Here are the main steps we recommend you take:

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1. Assessing your garden

Identify the areas of your garden that you would like to decorate with stone. Take into account the location - is it close to the home or in a particularly dark corner of the section?

Are you going to be placing your garden stones alongside existing pavers, fencing, plants and shrubs, or will they be adjoining colourful grass lawns and flower beds?

Take note of the colours and textures that exist in your garden before introducing any new materials.

Take into consideration the existing plants and shrubs, how good the soil drainage is and how exposed the area is to sunlight and extreme temperatures. T

hese factors will have a bearing on the type of stone you choose.

2. Measuring and calculating what you need

Always mark the area out before you order your materials, this enables you to have a clear impression of the overall layout and scale. There are several ways to mark out the area you want to cover:

  • Stakes and string

    A simple and cheap method that is quick and easy but not ideal if you plan to have curves and complex shapes.

  • Paint

    Paint the ground using proprietary marker sprays (like builders use) or simply use an old tin of emulsion paint and a brush. Don’t forget to keep the paint away from existing driveways and hard surfaces as well as any plants.

  • String and powder

    This involves laying string on the ground to draw curves and straight lines. Then using sand or flour, sprinkle a small amount along the line. Don’t forget that compared to other methods this can be washed or blown away quite quickly in bad weather.

    Once you’ve measured the area, make note of the dimensions, then consult your local Central Landscapes expert, who will help you calculate the volume of decorative stone or pebbles you need. (Note coverage rates may vary based upon the intended purpose and the choice of stone or pebbles).

3. Selecting the best stone

When choosing the best stone to suit your project consider the garden’s overall aesthetic and functional requirements.

Look at the colours, shapes and textures and determine which will best enhance the overall look of your scheme.

Sloping surfaces and areas of the garden to be driven, parked or walked on will best suit chipped, irregular surfaces, whilst round, smooth pebbles and stones look fabulous alongside water features.

Once you’ve decided to embrace garden pebbles and stones in your landscaping, take time to visit your local Central Landscapes and view the full range they have in stock.

Ask for samples so you can place them in the areas intended and assess the colour and texture before making a purchase. Follow the guidance of your local Central Landscape Supplies team for the depth at which the stones and pebbles should be placed.

4. Preparing the ground

Start by removing all the weeds, grass, unwanted vegetation, stones and garden debris. If necessary, level the ground using a garden spade or rake.

We recommend you then lay a weed control material across the area to minimise future weed growth and provide a barrier layer between the soil and stones.

5. Creating room for plants in a pebbled area

Choose where you plan to place your plants and shrubs before cutting an X shape into the weed material and positioning your plants. Clean any loose soil off the weed mat.

You’re now ready to install your decorative stones.

Techniques and tips for installing decorative stone and pebbles

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Start installing at the furthest point and work towards the outer edge

Instead of walking across and disturbing finished dressed areas, we recommend you begin spreading and levelling up as you go, starting from the furthest point away, then working back out towards the outer edge.

Install a single layer of stone in smaller areas and pathways

Shovel the decorative stones onto the area to be dressed and use a metal rake to distribute creating an even surface no more than 40-50mm deep.

Install multiple layers of stone in larger areas and high traffic areas

Wheelbarrow or shovel the stones into larger areas before spreading. High traffic areas will benefit from multiple layers of different types of stone to build up a more stable, durable surface.

A base layer of stone chips or larger stones will create a solid foundation to help with drainage and prevent sinking or shifting of the top layers. Then add additional layers of smaller decorative stone, decreasing in size with each layer.

When installing decorative stones on a driveway or car park you might want to consider laying Jakmat first to create greater stability and minimise movement. Watch our video for Jakmat installation.

Garden edging stones and borders

Placing cobbles and larger garden edging stones along the edge of paths and flower beds and mortaring them in position will create neat, clearly defined edges and prevent smaller stones from tumbling out.

The same effect can be achieved with wooden sleepers or garden edging panels, whilst introducing contrasting colours and textures.

Common installation mistakes to avoid with landscaping stones

  • Don’t skip the planning and preparation steps outlined above as they are essential to the success of your project.
  • Avoid piling the stones too high and creating an unstable or uneven surface which could be at risk of movement.
  • Form a collar of stones around new plants to avoid touching trunks, leaves etc. as this could restrict growth or cause plants to rot if they become too wet..
  • Avoid leaving gaps and exposed weed material as this can create uneven pockets of temperature which could be harmful to your plants.
  • Failure to remove all loose soil from the surface could lead to new weed growth.
  • If you don’t feel confident, always seek advice from a landscaping expert.

Maintenance and long-term care of decorative stones

Once in place, with the right care and attention, your decorative stones and garden pebbles will continue to look beautiful and provide you with many years of service. Here are some maintenance tips for you to implement:

Garden stones and pebbles are low-maintenance solutions for your landscape design.

Routine maintenance for decorative stones and garden pebbles

Stay on top of rogue weeds:

Despite being an effective method of weed control, the occasional hardy weed may still find its way through the layers of stone and gravel.

As soon as you spot a weed, remove it immediately taking care not to disturb the underlying stone. Any delay may allow the weed to take root and spread, creating a much bigger issue.

Repair bald spots

The softer decorative stones such as stone chippings may wear down over time and as they age you may find they need to be replenished.

Walking across gravel and stone surfaces can also dislodge stones and create uneven or unsightly bald spots.

These can usually be repaired by raking across the area to create a more even appearance and if necessary, replacing with a scoop or two of additional stones to maintain its appearance.

Keep your garden stones clean

Being exposed to the elements, your landscaping pebbles and decorative stones will accumulate dirt and grime over time.

Gently rinsing this off with a garden hose or pressure washer will soon have it looking just like new again.

Stubborn stains can be removed with a scrubbing brush and detergent but avoid using harsh chemicals which may damage the stone.

Specific seasonal adjustments and care

1. Stray leaves and flowers:

Stray leaves and flowers from neighbouring trees and shrubs can become an unsightly problem throughout the year, but especially in Autumn.

These should always be removed using a leaf blower on a low setting or a rake to gather them up and add to the compost bin.

2. Watering plants:

Decorative stones and garden pebbles should significantly reduce the need for watering but in the height of Summer your heat sensitive plants and shrubs may benefit from regular watering especially if they are showing signs of stress.

3. Plant welfare checks:

Most plants will thrive unchallenged in a weed free environment. However you may find an occasional plant showing signs of stress which could be due to the heat, lack of shade, use of weed mat or your choice of stone.

Keep a close eye on plant health throughout the growing season and be prepared to relocate a plant which isn’t happy.

Safety considerations with landscaping stones

Before you dash off to plan your landscaping, take a moment to read these safety tips first as they could save a life:

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1. Make sure landscape rocks and boulders are placed on a level surface

Whether you’re installing large landscape rocks or a bed of smaller stones and pebbles, always check that the proposed site is completely level first.

Once in position, confirm that the stones are completely stable and unable to roll or fall into the path of anyone or anything.

2. Prevent gravel and stone from moving

Loose gravel and smooth stones can move and slide over each other making them unsuitable for installation on steep sloping surfaces or areas where they will be subject to heavy traffic.

In these situations consider larger more angular stone chips which will naturally interlock to fit together. Alternatively, tier sloping areas into level terraces that are much safer to walk on.

3. Employ a heavy lifting machine

Poor lifting technique and posture when moving stones and pebbles can result in back pain and serious back injuries.

Our advice is don’t underestimate the weight of stones and rocks and don’t attempt to lift anything heavy without the support of a mechanical digger or excavator designed for the purpose.

Get started with your landscaping project

It’s time to get out into the garden and start planning your next landscaping project and to help you succeed, our landscaping experts have created a series of free buyers guides.

With advice and professional tips on everything from garden mulching to choosing a potting mix, you’ll find everything you need to get you started.

If you don’t find exactly what you're looking for, feel free to get in touch with your local Central Landscapes branch and talk to the experts directly.

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Products covered in this decorative stones and garden pebbles guide


White Limestone Chip

White Lime Chip is a landscape favourite for a clean urban style. Used for paths, driveways, decorative garden mulches and more, white lime chip is a versatile and striking option for your next landscape or garden project.

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Uruti Pebbles

Uruti pebble is highly sought after because it has up to 15 stunning colours in the blend in shades of cinnamon, rust, brown, cream, blue and jade green. It has a wonderful ability to complement contemporary landscaping trends.

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Waikato Fleck

Waikato Fleck (also known as Hoki Poki stone) is a combination of earth tones in shades of brown, cream and gold, highly popular in the landscaping sector as pathways and gravel mulches.

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Gabion Rock

Our Gabion Rock is ideal for placing in gabion baskets for decorative areas or gabion walls. It is angular in shape offering good interlocking.

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