I'm not posting this to stir up any controversy - just trying to get some expert advice to help cut down on maintenance of my landscaped areas. Currently, I have several large landscaped areas around and in front of the house that have been covered for several years with shredded hardwood bark mulch. I am looking for something that will not require me to weed and refresh every year, but still give me a decent level of weed control and allow for good water penetration for the trees and plants in the landscape. A friend has recently gone with gravel in his landscaping (he calls it "boater's mulch" ), and he advises that I remove all of the mulch and lay down black plastic before spreading the gravel. My question: wouldn't this be detrimental to the roots of the trees and other plants? Can I just lay the gravel over the existing mulch (which by this time is fairly compacted), or will I have massive weed problems? I have also considered just going with the large (3" or so) pine bark nuggets as a good middle ground, as I have heard that they generally do not need to be "freshened up" as often as the shredded mulch. Has anyone had experience with this? Anyone who would like to pipe in with an attractive, yet relatively low-maintenance covering is most welcome. Thanks for any tips you can provide!