Icon - Arrow LeftAn icon we use to indicate a rightwards action. Icon - Arrow RightAn icon we use to indicate a leftwards action. Icon - External LinkAn icon we use to indicate a button link is external. Icon - MessageThe icon we use to represent an email action. Icon - Down ChevronUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - CloseUsed to indicate a close action. Icon - Dropdown ArrowUsed to indicate a dropdown. Icon - Location PinUsed to showcase a location on a map. Icon - Zoom OutUsed to indicate a zoom out action on a map. Icon - Zoom InUsed to indicate a zoom in action on a map. Icon - SearchUsed to indicate a search action. Icon - EmailUsed to indicate an emai action. Icon - FacebookFacebooks brand mark for use in social sharing icons. flipboard Icon - InstagramInstagrams brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - PinterestPinterests brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - TwitterTwitters brand mark for use in social sharing icons. Icon - Check MarkA check mark for checkbox buttons.
You are reading

Everything You Need to Know About Filler Stone for Paths

Search

Everything You Need to Know About Filler Stone for Paths

April 6, 2020

When laying a path with pavers, you have a choice to fill the gaps with grout, ground cover plants, or filler stones such as gravel or decomposed granite. As a garden designer, I often advocate filler stones, which are permeable (and prevent rainwater runoff) as well as a design element to create a coherent look for a path.

Is filler stone the right choice for your path or patio? Read on for everything you need to know.

Above: On Shelter Island off the eastern tip of New York’s Long Island, homeowner Pete Dandridge filled gaps between pavers with decomposed granite. Photograph by Matthew Williams for Gardenista. For more of this garden, see our Gardenista book.

What are the design rules for filler stones?

Remember our recent post on using plants to fill the gaps between pavers (see Hardscaping 101: Ground Covers to Plant Between Pavers)? Follow a similar design process to choose the best filler stones:

  • Think about scale. Assess how big your pavers are and how big the gaps are between them. Rule of thumb: The larger the scale of paving, the larger the filler stone can be.
  • Choose a complementary stone. For instance, do you have recurring gray tones in your hardscape? If so, consider repeating these colors in your filler stone.
Above: On Shelter Island, Dandridge created a checkerboard effect with concrete pavers and filler stone. Photograph by Matthew Williams for Gardenista.
  • Think solid. Your choice of filler needs to be as stable as possible. And when I mean stable, I mean it should not kick around and scatter like confetti when you walk on it. There is nothing messier than a path with pebbles dotted all over it. Of course, pea gravel, for instance, shifts when walked on—and this is part of its character—but it shouldn’t become a hassle. To mitigate the mess, lay filler stone between the pavers at a height slightly lower (at least half an inch) than the surface of the paver.
Decomposed granite fills the gap in landscape architect Christine Ten Eyck&#8\2\17;s no-water garden in Austin, Texas. Photograph by Matthew Williams. For more of this garden, see our Gardenista book.
Above: Decomposed granite fills the gap in landscape architect Christine Ten Eyck’s no-water garden in Austin, Texas. Photograph by Matthew Williams. For more of this garden, see our Gardenista book.

Tip: To make sure decomposed granite doesn’t hitchhike on the soles of shoes—which it is notorious for doing—consider using a binding stabilizer. To learn more, visit Hardscaping 101: Decomposed Granite.

What are the best stone fillers to consider?

There are a few proven, go-to fillers that I like to use in garden design:

  • Pea Gravel: An affordable choice that produces a pleasing crunch when walked on and a surprisingly sophisticated filler that blends with most landscape styles. Pea gravel comes in sizes ranging from an eighth of an inch to three-eighths inch and in a variety of natural shades including tan, rust, gray, white, and translucent.
Above: Pea gravel blends well with black bark mulch and bluestone pavers. Photograph by Matthew Williams.
  • Decomposed granite: Commonly known as DG, this permeable material is also wonderfully versatile and inexpensive. Plus, there are more than 30 color choices and varying degrees of particle sizes are available.

Tip: DG is a smart choice for those who want a refined or contemporary look.

  • Mexican beach pebbles: Great for a clean, modern look. Not as cost effective as gravel or decomposed granite but worth the heftier price. Black beach pebbles are sold by the cubic yard and in bags.
 bove: Brooklyn-based O’Neill Rose Architects filled the bluestone pavers near the pool with Mexican beach pebbles and also planted a mix of Irish moss (Sagina subulata) and thyme. For more of this project, see Swimming Pool of the Week: A \19\20s Summer House at the Edge of the Woods in the Berkshires. Photograph by Michael Moran, courtesy of O’Neill Rose Architects.
bove: Brooklyn-based O’Neill Rose Architects filled the bluestone pavers near the pool with Mexican beach pebbles and also planted a mix of Irish moss (Sagina subulata) and thyme. For more of this project, see Swimming Pool of the Week: A 1920s Summer House at the Edge of the Woods in the Berkshires. Photograph by Michael Moran, courtesy of O’Neill Rose Architects.

Tip: I also use Mexican beach pebbles to top-dress contemporary container plantings and as a smooth gray “mulch” under bamboo and palm trees.

Any more pro tips for using stones to fill paver gaps?

Some filler stones are lower in maintenance than others. Black beach pebbles, being larger and heavier than the other choices, require the least maintenance; they are a distinctive look usually fitting for a modern or Japanese-style garden.

Pea gravel, on the other hand, will not break down but will inevitably move around due to people and pet activity, and garden maintenance routines. Pea gravel will also need a refresher at some point.

Landscape architect Bernard Trainor chose “Sierra tan” gravel to temper the bright sunlight in a client&#8\2\17;s courtyard. To see more of this garden, visit Landscape Architect Visit: The California Life, Outdoor Living Room Included. Photograph by Joe Fletcher, courtesy of Sagan Piechota Architecture.
Above: Landscape architect Bernard Trainor chose “Sierra tan” gravel to temper the bright sunlight in a client’s courtyard. To see more of this garden, visit Landscape Architect Visit: The California Life, Outdoor Living Room Included. Photograph by Joe Fletcher, courtesy of Sagan Piechota Architecture.

Recap

  • Stone paver fillers serve many purposes: They solve drainage issues, lend textural appeal, and come in a variety of colors and forms to complement many landscape styles.
  • All the mentioned stone fillers can be bought by the bag, making this a great DIY project.
  • Do not put your filler stone flush with the paver stones unless you really enjoy sweeping pavers.

For more design tips, see our curated guides to Hardscape 101, including Pavers 101 and Gravel 101. If you’d like to plant ground cover plants between pavers, see Coral Bells: A Field Guide to Planting, Care and Design. More reading:

Product summary  

Have a Question or Comment About This Post?

Join the conversation

v5.0