Your garden can be a delight in a million unexpected ways. From the tiny insects who survive thanks to your planting choices to a well-deserved cup of tea in a beautifully set-up shed: there’s beauty to be found everywhere. But no matter how good your garden looks, no gardener is ever fully satisfied – there’s always room for improvement. One way to add a little extra something is through edging – so simple, yet so effective.
The function of edging
There’s an obvious design function to edging: providing clear lines that visually divide garden areas, but they also have a practical function.
For example, if you’ve got loose mulches or granular coverings on some areas, an edge – to a decent height – will keep them in place. Invasive plants – or even lawn grass – will grow where it can. If you don’t want a mint flower bed or a turfed marsh garden, an edge – to a decent depth – can stop unwanted garden spread.
Edges on lawns can also help make mowing easier and safer, particularly if you use a flat material laid horizontally. What’s more, artificial grass is one of the few garden design choices that really does require an edge to work.
The process of laying edging can be as simple or complex as you want it to be. A lined trench with a gravel or dusted base allows you to concrete in stones, bottles, or wood, but some of these materials are easily laid freehand, without support or adhesives.
Here are 10 ways to make your edges not just successful, but also beautiful:
If you’re lucky, you can save some cash and do your bit for the greater recycling movement by using old bricks. Once they’re beyond their building use-by date, they’re relatively easy to come by, and that warm, worn look works fantastically well in cottage gardens. Modern red bricks cut a sharper line and can even sit in a modernist design. Both function well as hard boundaries, standing upright or laid flat. Like all stone edges, you can lay freehand or use a mortar to provide a more permanent, stable fix.
2. Roof Tiles
Another cheap and cheerful material – if you have a source – is the humble roof tile. Standing on edge, these are a strong and striking edging material that come in a huge variety of colours and finishes that all have their own character and practical advantages – slate is very natural, whereas terracotta’s warm reds are a striking contrast to garden greens.
Railway sleepers are one of the easiest and most effective ways to get timber into your garden. These chunky, rough cuts of wood take a bit of burying, but once safely installed, they are child, pet, and lawnmower friendly. All wooden edging material should be treated to resist damp. Look for pressure-treated wood products to get the best lifespan off the shelf.
4. Fence posts
Repurpose concrete or wood fence posts as straight edges. Concrete is a wonderful material in the garden, and it has become very fashionable. Wooden fence posts, which are often rounded, are a softer edge both physically and visually, and work well against rustic planting. Both are a quick way to get height or depth for a containing edge. Concrete posts take some cutting, of course, but nothing will last longer.
5. Paving stones
Lay them full size for a really striking, modern boundary. Get the angle grinder out and cut stones to narrower widths, whether it be for making mosaic effects or to simply get around corners. You can mix and match or add brick or loose stone edging for a layered look. This has become one of the most popular styles of lawn edge.
Your stone doesn’t have to be big and bulky. A trough – lined if possible – containing gravel drains well, and sits perfectly around structures or at the edge of planted areas. This works very well around ponds, where it can even provide a planting medium and will, in time, support moss and other free-range greenery.
7. Hurdles and wattle
Woven willow or hazel wands in hurdle panels are one the archetypal looks of the British countryside. They’ve never gone out of style, and contemporary garden designs prove that they can fit in the most up-to-date schemes. Buy made-to-measure edging panels or save cash by cutting fencing panels to size, allowing you to dig them in deeper for a better weed or plant boundary.
8. Palisades and logs
Vertically arrange wood is one of the classic ways to put an edge on a border. You can buy logs in wired rolls that make laying them super easy – a sort of miniature fencing kit that can also give you good border height. Or you can construct your own edges using cut-down fencing posts or other round timber. Natural logs, without the uniform sizing and finish of pre-packed edging, give a more rural feel to your vertical timber edging.
Plastic doesn’t always look great in the garden, but there’s no material to match it for value and functionality. Edging strips now come in a dazzling variety of styles and colours, from natural greens designed to melt into the background, to stand-out colours ready to make a design statement. Whatever the look, your plastic edging will certainly be easy to lay and will survive anything the weather, kids and/or pets can chuck at it.
10. Your imagination
Edging has a relatively easy function to fulfill, and a huge number of materials can do the job, as long as they’re reasonably durable.
So go wild and use something that reflects you, your personality and your gardening dreams.
Shells are a popular choice. You can buy large decorative shells – clams are a classic – or use holiday souvenirs if you’d like to create something with some personal resonance. (Always check the law and local regulations around removing things from natural environments, and never take large quantities of anything natural home with you.)
How about used car wheel hub plates for a high tech look? Old wall tiles are colourful and fun. We haven’t touched on metal in this list, and corrugated or plate metal can look both shiny and minimalist or rusty and rustic as an edge. Glass bottles – particularly filled with sand – are more than robust enough to build into a striking edge.