EDGING & BORDERS
Options for the Garden
A staple of English Arts & Crafts gardens, edging has practical as well as historical appeal. Choose from buried barriers to brick, stone, iron, or tile.
Edging prevents soil and mulch from overflowing flower beds, and helps keep loose gravel or mulch within their borders for crisp and clearly defined walkways. Using taller borders of miniature boxwood or low fencing directs traffic and keeps visitors (including wayward children and dogs) on the paths and out of the flowers.
A wide range of materials and styles is available today to edge a garden, from reclaimed, rope-edged English tiles to modern bands of steel, plastic, or aluminum. Any type can work in an Arts & Crafts garden if well placed in the landscape. For decorative edging, color is a place to start: Terra-cotta bricks or salt-glazed, red-brown English tiles work well with gardens planted in a fall palette of burgundy, gold, and dark leafy green; borders of soft grey stones or slabs of blue slate complement lighter plantings, such as a springtime bed of pink azaleas. Structure in the garden should coordinate with the composition of the edging. Thus, if you have a brick patio or a tile fountain, consider edging the paths with brick or complementary tiles to tie the landscape together.
Installing tile, brick, or stone edging is not complicated (but you will need a strong back). Be sure to check with the local utilities for underground lines before any digging. Start by outlining the area; a garden hose works well if the border is curved, or use a tight string for straight lines. Lightly outline the final edge with spray paint. Next, dig a trench four to six inches wide and three to four inches deep, using a square spade for cleanly cut lines. Fill the bottom of the trench with an inch of sand to stabilize the edging and prevent grass roots from invading the beds; pack it down well and spray it lightly with water to help it settle.
Then set the bricks or tiles, making sure they protrude at least two inches above the soil, especially if the bed is heavily mulched. Tap any loose pieces lightly into place with a wooden mallet and fill with more sand, gravel, or mulch, packing in very snugly. For a long-lasting, unmoving border, use L-shaped paver edging held with long spikes, like those by Edge-Tite (see Footnotes, p. 71).
To edge between lawn and mulched beds, whether for a flower border or around trees, a buried metal edging works well if it’s properly installed. Typically steel, the edging comes in 4" x 10'-long strips. It’s easy to bend around curves and hills, but it’s heavy (about 225 lbs./100 ft.) and steel can rust. Coated aluminum provides a similar look but is lighter (41 lbs./100 ft.) and easier to work with, and it doesn’t corrode. Plastic edging is available as well, but not as historically sympathetic and looks terrible if it heaves upward. These edgings generally protrude about a half inch and can be mowed over. But metal is sharp, a consideration.
Other materials can be used for edging, of course. New England Garden Ornaments shows a partially buried antique iron wagon wheel to define the wedges of an herb garden! If you use a raised edging—cast iron, cobblestone, brick soldiers—consider trip hazards and always leave an obvious path through or around it.
For a wider division between lawn and beds, or lawn and a stone wall or fence, consider a swath of gravel or a wider border of paving stones or tiles. Pavers are laid in a bed of sand and require minimal maintenance. A wider swath sets off garden structures such as fountains or terraces, and sharpens the overall layout and design of the garden. And that nice, flat edge makes mowing and trimming the lawn much easier. a
In Charleston, a brick border between lawn and hedge makes mowing easier— no whacker needed.
A flagstone patio becomes a wide border of stones and step-able ground cover between planting beds.
A double border— miniature boxwood hedges and flagstones in gravel—is also a path.