Gravel Garden

Embrace the poor quality rocky soils of commercial lots in Detroit with this mix of succulents in a range of painterly colors and textures.

SunPart Shade










Sun, Part Shade

The Gravel Garden embraces the poor, rocky soils of commercial lots in Detroit by taking the green roof aesthetic of colorful succulents and bringing it down to street level. On the ground, these plants can provide similar stormwater benefits while being visible to all.

Sedums are tolerant of extreme heat, cold and drought. These tough and colorful plants thrive in low-nutrient environments and provide a bright mix of colors and textures. This lot design will encourage the succulents to grow in habitats similar to but distinct from a green roof. The Gravel Garden offers an opportunity to play an exploratory role in Detroit’s vacant lot transformation!

Ideal Location: Commercial lot in full or part sun.


The Gravel Garden is a higher priced lot design. The price is dependent on the planting strategy you select. For each strategy, the volume of seeds, cuttings or mats can be reduced, however, as the number of seeds, cuttings or mats is lowered, it will take longer for the plants to spread and create the visual and stormwater impact of full lot coverage. It is completely possible to install the lot design through the use of volunteer labor. The estimated cost assumes that residents or volunteers have access to basic safety gear and garden tools.

Green Infrastructure

The Gravel Garden provides many of the benefits that a green roof can, including an enhanced ability to manage stormwater through the soil, gravel and succulents that are part of this lot design, while beautifying, reducing maintenance and creating habitat for pollinators.

Vegetation and Visibility

The Gravel Garden is a high visibility lot design, with low growing plants that will not reach above six inches in upright height. This lot design maintains a clear view from the street to the alley.

Planting Type

Most Interesting Season

Other Consideration

Photo © Labert, Rotherstien & Associates

Photo © Lambert, Rotherstien & Associates


Installing the Gravel Garden will make for a fun and rewarding weekend with your friends, family or neighbors. The construction process should not require professional assistance if you, with the help and support of others, would like to build this design. Please refer to the Step-By-Step section for guidance. The installation process does not require any special, mechanized equipment. This is a lot design that can accommodate a large number of volunteers! The most strenuous part of the installation process is preparing your lot with the recommended site amendments, and depending on your method of installation, planting the sedum. Once you have completed the site preparation and gathered your materials—including the hydroseeder if you plan to plant with seeds—the actual installation should take one weekend. Remember that this lot design will require watering the first three weeks following installation—if you have the time or access to a drip hose, you may want to include draping a surface irrigation setup as part of the ‘build’ process. For best results, install this lot design after the spring thaw, but before temperatures reach the mid 70s.

The Field Guide recommends having access to a car or vehicle for transporting your materials. Always hire a professional if you are not up for the challenge, but remember, this will increase your costs. The Gravel Garden works well on multiple lots—all the more reason to include your friends and neighbors in this project.

Build Time Estimate

Six hands or less! With the help of friends, family or neighbors, this design can be installed in one day. The Field Guide assumes the lot is ‘construction ready,’ and all equipment and materials required for the lot design have been acquired and are ready to use.

Build Difficulty

Number of People Needed

Neighbor Labor

Time Taken to Build

Build Season

Transportation Intensity

Permit Requirements


The Gravel Garden is a low maintenance lot design. Sedum will require lots of watering during the establishment period to ensure roots are established.

Plan ahead and remember to think about where and how you will access water for the next month!

Plan to water your lot every few days during the first three weeks after planting—particularly if the weather is unusually dry or hot (above 70° F). The ideal watering plan would include 30 minutes of light irrigation per day for the first three weeks following the installation. After this occurs, sedum should require no watering at all. Lot may require weeding until sedum fully covers the entire lot.

Seasonal Upkeep Levels

  • Spring: Low
  • Summer: Low
  • Fall: Low
  • Winter: Low

Upkeep Frequency

Upkeep Skill Levels

Professional Assistance

Special Tools

Other Upkeep Considerations