Beach pebbles can look great in any garden. Unlike gravel they look smoother and rounded and gentler overall. However, if you decide to place beach pebbles in your garden, make sure they are specifically for the garden and from sustainable resources, and not from a source that will gradually deplete, leaving the area poorer as a result.
It may be tempting to simply set off with you car, a shovel and some sturdy sacks to a nearby beach or nearby river bed to dig up your own supply of pebbles. It's also likely that you could do this easily as there probably won't be anything there to physically stop you.
However, don't! It's very likely that the stones you find lying on a beach are protected by a local government protection order. Taking them without permission will almost certainly lead to the possibility of you being fined heavily, so it's not worth doing.
Instead, find a good reputable supplier, one that uses a sustainable resources. If your chosen supplier is one that gets their pebbles wherever they can, and doesn't care how depleted beaches get as a result, it's time you changed supplier.
An interesting case in point comes from a news item highlighting the problems faced at Chesil Bank in Dorset, part of the Jurassic Coast world heritage site. Following a popular television programme about how stones from the beach could really liven up any garden, amateur gardeners started taking stones, rocks and pebbles off the beach at Chesil Bank by the truck load.
The 18-mile stretch of unique pebble-banked beach, which had lain intact as a naturally occurring protective habitat for thousands of creatures for over 10,000 years, suffered considerably as a result of their thoughtless stupidity. Their illegal action was simply not sustainable.
While these pebbles and other stones can create a wonderful low maintenance garden, and they look so good too, it has to be said that to see them placed miles from the nearest beach, is not entirely natural. But, if you feel that is the only choice you want to make, get your stock from sustainable resources.
Coastal erosion is an unfortunate fact of life. The sea does sometimes eat away coastal stretches, but it also creates them. All the pretty stones that can be seen lying freely on any beach were washed up there by the action of the sea, usually in stormy conditions.
If stones are removed in quantities that are manageable for the beach, they will, in time, be replenished by the actions of the sea. This means that to some degree beaches can be a sustainable resource. It's a fine balance though, and removing too many, too quickly will soon create a situation whereby the beach cannot recover very easily.
There's no doubt though that a garden that uses beach pebbles, perhaps of different colours and different sizes, in an original and artistic way can be the pride of any street.
There has always been something extremely appealing about clean shiny rocks and stones, and coupled with their low maintenance qualities, they have always been a winner with gardeners. So use them in your garden by all means, but make sure they come from sustainable resources.
David A Robinson
Help and information about using beach pebbles for gardens.
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