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Low-Cost Luxury: 9 Ways to Use Decomposed Granite in a Landscape

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Low-Cost Luxury: 9 Ways to Use Decomposed Granite in a Landscape

September 3, 2021

Dubbed America’s first “Notable Pedestrian” in the 19th century, Edward Payson Weston popularized the activity of walking–and declared after 50 years of criss-crossing the country that the surface that feels finest underfoot is humble decomposed granite. “The best that I have walked upon,” he wrote in a travel journal. He should know.

What Weston didn’t mention was that decomposed granite also is one of the best-looking surfaces. Here are nine ways to add style–and low-cost luxury–to a landscape with decomposed granite:

Soften a Surface

In landscape architect Christine Ten Eyck&#8\2\17;s Austin, Texas garden, decomposed granite walkways create a visual connection between stone pavers and planting beds. Photograph by Matthew Williams. For more of this garden, see our Gardenista Book.
Above: In landscape architect Christine Ten Eyck’s Austin, Texas garden, decomposed granite walkways create a visual connection between stone pavers and planting beds. Photograph by Matthew Williams. For more of this garden, see our Gardenista Book.

Decomposed granite (or DG, as it’s nicknamed) is a fine gravel formed from the weathering of igneous rocks such as feldspar, quartz, and mica. To earn the DG label, gravel has to have small particles (typically no bigger than 3/8 inch).

Blur Boundaries

Photograph by Matthew Williams for Gardenista.
Above: Photograph by Matthew Williams for Gardenista.

Decomposed granite is a soft material that will blend in with the borders of planting beds. Because the gravel particles are small, edging material can be flush to the ground.

Carpet an Outdoor Room

On Shelter Island in New York, Suzanne Shaker and Pete Dandridge useddecomposed granite with pavers to define the area of an outdoor dining and lounging space. Photograph by Matthew Williams for Gardenista.
Above: On Shelter Island in New York, Suzanne Shaker and Pete Dandridge useddecomposed granite with pavers to define the area of an outdoor dining and lounging space. Photograph by Matthew Williams for Gardenista.

Use decomposed granite as you would an area rug, to define the perimeter of an outdoor room or seating area.

Choose a Complementary Color

Photograph by Matthew Williams for Gardenista.
Above: Photograph by Matthew Williams for Gardenista.

Decomposed granite is a local product and its color range typically mimics that of nearby landscape rocks. The range of colors varies from buff to brown, and also includes shades of gray, black, red, and green.

The variety makes decomposed a versatile hardscape material; choose a color to match or complement other hardscape materials.

Widen a Walkway

Photograph by Art Gray. For more of this garden, see Landscape Architect Visit: A Majestic Sycamore in a Santa Monica Garden.
Above: Photograph by Art Gray. For more of this garden, see Landscape Architect Visit: A Majestic Sycamore in a Santa Monica Garden.

Decomposed granite is a low-cost material–from $40 to $50 per cubic yard is the typical price range–and can be used as a border for a more expensive paving material. Its soft, natural coloring visually widens a space without competing with other hardscape elements.

Like mulch, decomposed granite deters weed. It last longer than mulch (which breaks down in a season or two) and is a stable surface that won’t wear away.

Replace a Lawn

fire-pit-capri-hotel-marfa-texas-gardenista

Above: Landscape architect Christine Ten Eyck designed a decomposed granite surface for The Thunderbird hotel in Marfa, TX.

Decomposed granite is a permeable surface that will prevent rainwater runoff and (unlike grass) requires no water, making it an eco-friendly choice.

Pave a Patio

LA-based designer Judy Kameon created a decomposed granite pad to surround a fire pit, creating a patio seating area in a Studio City garden. Photograph by Laure Joliet.
Above: LA-based designer Judy Kameon created a decomposed granite pad to surround a fire pit, creating a patio seating area in a Studio City garden. Photograph by Laure Joliet.

Dress Up a Driveway

 Photograph courtesy of Claesson Koivisto Rune. For more of this project, see Architect Visit: Claesson Koivisto Rune.
Above: Photograph courtesy of Claesson Koivisto Rune. For more of this project, see Architect Visit: Claesson Koivisto Rune.

Decomposed granite is a low-cost alternative to stone, brick, or tile. For a large hardscape project such as a driveway, decomposed granite is also a low-profile material that blends well with other materials. It’s a natural-looking surface that quietly recedes into the background, ceding attention to more dramatic landscape elements such as stone or turf.

Flame-proof a Fire Pit

SF-based Arterra Landscape Architects, a member of the Remodelista Architect and Designer Directory, created a spark-resistant setting for a backyard fire pit in Woodside, CA.
Above: SF-based Arterra Landscape Architects, a member of the Remodelista Architect and Designer Directory, created a spark-resistant setting for a backyard fire pit in Woodside, CA.

Create a safety perimeter free of combustible materials with a surface of decomposed granite.

N.B.: This post is an update; it was first published March 2017.

For more on paths and garden design, see:

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