Landscape Elements: Using Borders

When designing landscape beds one of the questions asked is what type of border (if any) should the bed have. Will you have one created from plants, stone, manufactured edging or none at all. This depends on what you like, what matches the house or area and on the budget.

A border is used to separate the bed from the surrounding area. It can be functional when used to keep grass from growing into the flower bed, and there are many ways to accomplish this. Use of polyboard edging, steel edging, manmade blocks / bricks, natural rock, cross-ties, landscape timbers are a few examples of non-plant solutions.

Polyboard Edging is flexible and easy to bend around corners and curves of beds. It usually comes in 20’ sections and requires stakes to hold it in place. It doesn’t rot like wood, it lasts forever so once it’s in you don’t have replacement costs.

Steel Edging is also flexible and bendable. Available in 10’ sections and requires stakes to hold it in place. It doesn’t rot like wood, but it is painted and rusts where it is scratched, it is also long lasting.

Manmade Blocks / Bricks are available in many shapes and colors that gives you a very long lasting boarder. It can be used as a single dry stack on top of the ground or can be built similar to a mini-retaining wall (2-3 blocks high). If you mortar between the blocks make sure to leave plenty of weep holes to help the bed drain or your plants will not do well in the wet soil.

Natural Rock gives you many options of colors and shapes and can be dry-stacked or mortared. It is usually more expensive than manmade stone but beautiful. (Again, make sure the bed can drain well)

Cross Ties have been used as borders for years since they last longer than wolmanized wood.  They are heftier, don’t lend themselves to curves and are difficult to cut.

Landscape Timbers can be used as a single level or stacked.  They are smaller in size than cross ties and are much easier to cut.  Levels can be held together by drilling holes through the top and bottom timber and inserting rebar through both timbers.  They last well, but will begin to rot in several years.

You can also use low growing plants as a border – the trick is in finding something that looks good throughout each season.

Liriope looks great until we have extended periods of below freezing temperatures and it turns brown.  It comes back quickly once we begin to warm up in mid-February, so this is a popular choice.  It is low growing, has upright small purple flowers and comes in green or a variegated variety.

Coral Bells (Heuchera) is a great border for shady areas.  This plant is evergreen and is known for its foliage color since it comes in so many patterns and colors.

Stella Daylily is a short plant with daffodil shaped yellow flowers that bloom through spring and early summer and then again in Fall.  It is a perennial and disappears for a couple of months in winter but starts leafing out again in mid-February.

Groundcover Sedum is usually evergreen and can handle heat and cold.  Available in several varieties, it forms a thick carpet of beautiful colored plants.

Blue Rug Juniper is a low growing evergreen that is a bluish green color.  It grows less than a foot tall and gives a wonderful texture to the bed.

Greenmound Juniper is similar to Blue Rug but it is a bright green color.

Miniature Boxwoods create a very formal looking border when squared off or less so when left more natural.  They require pruning to keep them in check but the bright green year-round color is a definite plus.

Seasonal Annual Color can be used as a very colorful border.  This works well for smaller areas unless budget isn’t a factor.  You will plant for cool season and then replant for the warmer season.  There are so many beautiful annuals to choose from, and you will enjoy blooms 365 days a year.

Another idea is to have no border at all.  It requires maintenance on your part to prevent grass from encroaching into the bed.  There is a distinct, sharp grass line edge where it meets the bed.  It is very clean looking and is achieved by cutting and shaping the grass by hand using a shovel and hand tools.

You can create a border out of quirky items too. As with each element we focus on, you are only limited by your imagination.

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