Garden Edging – Any ‘fluid’ surface, whether concrete, tarmac or gravel, will need a firm edge to hold it in place while laying, and prevent it moving once it is down. This is particularly important with gravel. Small-module surfaces, such as brick, setts or pavers, will also require some form of garden edging restraint to hold the bond together. This garden edging can become decorative in itself, provided it is kept simple and in keeping.
Various ‘trims’ can be used, ranging from lengths of pressure-treated timber held in place with stakes, to brick, or granite setts, ‘haunched’, or set in concrete. The last are expensive but durable, and could link well with similar materials used elsewhere in the garden or near the house.
The choice of even costlier trims includes thin strips of steel and, more traditionally, wrought-iron. This produces a beautifully crisp line, useful on curves or between lawn and hard surface. It is important to remember that garden edging adjoining a lawn must be laid below the level of the lawn, both for safety, and ease of mowing.
Long edging units, such as precast concrete edgings approximately 900mm/36in long x 150mm/6in deep, or timber, generally look awkward if laid to conform to a continuous curve. A better solution is to use either a flexible garden edging, such as board or metal, paving slabs, or tightly laid small modules, such as brick or granite setts.
Edging plays a useful role in a variety of important garden situations: where a hard surface like a path meets a lawn of flower bed, and where a border meets a lawn. These edgings can be invisible, but it is also possible to make a virtue of them, as, for example, when good quality stone paving is laid flat along the edge of a straight border. The purpose of edging is to facilitate mowing, to provide an important pathway, and to allow lax perennials to flop over without killing any grass beneath.
Edgings can be used either to define or blur the join between two surfaces, and plants offer as many opportunities to do this as hard landscape choices. For a formal edging to a border, a hedge of box, lavender or other clippable sub-shrubs is an obvious choice. Santolina and Hebe pinguifolia ‘Pagei’ both make attractively sprawling mounds that still look neat and contained, while conversely plants with large leaves make good defining material: hostas and bergenias, for example.
Indifferent hard-surfaced paths and paving can be immeasurably improved by sensitive planting to soften the edges. Ground-hugging plants that creep and sprawl include violas, ajugas, or stachys. Where drainage is good, helianthemums work well. Moving away from ground level, it can be pleasant to brush against aromatic-leaved plants to release their scents into the air: rosemary, the sages, or catmint would be good choices. Ornamental grasses also make fine edging plants.
Some plants will tolerate being walked on occasionally, so could form an edging. Reasonably tough carpeters of this kind include the thymes, all of which release their delicious foliage scent when bruised.