Garden edging can be a great way to define varying landscape zones and add structural definition to the garden. Ultimately edging creates a definitive border between two garden surfaces.
Edging can come in a variety of shapes, sizes materials and forms. Typically it is the functionality of edging which comes first and aesthetics second. Garden edging can range from large, permanent installations in the form of hard landscaping to temporary structures. In gardens today the most common reason for garden edging is to separate flowerbed from the lawn.
Why install garden edging?
There are many reasons why you may wish to install garden edging but typically it is to separate two defined, outside zones. This can have a functional purpose such as preventing lawn grass from spreading into flower beds.
This is the most common scenario. Traditionally lawn maintenance has required seasonal edging with edging spades and shears. There are two main disadvantages with this; firstly it becomes extra work adding to maintenance duties. Secondly over years it can result in a lawns becoming smaller and beds becoming larger. Installing a flush method of lawn edging will not only prevent this it will also make mowing easier.
Garden edging can also aid in the construction of new garden spaces. This can include retaining the hard materials for pathways such as aggregates or concrete.
If re-planning or landscaping a whole garden edging can help set out and define new areas. Using bold materials along these lines can create pleasing lines to the eye. This is especially the case if using artistic or architectural forms. In this regard edgings can become very much a part of a gardens design and planning.
Garden edging can not only mark out shapes and aid maintenance they can also help retain elevations. This can be if there is a change in level or quantity of material that needs to be retained. This can be seen with raised beds and sand pits. Sometimes slightly raised edging creates enough of a psychological barrier to prevent people from crossing over a space.
Flush garden edging
Flush garden edging is simply edging which sits at the same level of surrounding surfaces. This can be the junction between two landscape surfaces such as gravel and flowerbed. Being flush this type of edging has many benefits including defining levels and separating features.
As flush edging is always completely submerged it makes sense to use materials that will not easily degrade. If edging is used to separate two substrates it can be almost invisible by using steel edging strips. If on the other hand it needs to be decorative stone and paving products are typically utilised.
The most common type of flush garden edging is lawn or mowing strip edging.
Mowing strips are generally created by edging a lawn with a wide but flat garden edging. The purpose of this is to allow some extra width for lawn mowers to cruise effortlessly over. This results in easy manoeuvring preventing the mower from slipping over the edge and scalping lawn edges.
The most common examples of mowing strips are when a brick border edge has been laid in the original landscaping. This enables a landscaper to create a perfectly level lawn when screeding the topsoil.
Mowing strips can also be installed around an existing lawn. The only disadvantage of this is you have to build to the existing level of the grass. This makes it troublesome to install with long, rigid edging or paving. For this reason brick is the typical material used for flush mowing strip edging. This is a great way to help you maintain your lawn and stop your grass from spreading.
Lawn garden edging
Lawn garden edging traditionally is a thin strip of material which separates the lawn from other areas. This can be made of plastic, timber or metal. This type of edging is perfect for keeping a clean edge and preventing a lawn from spreading. Lawn edging does help aid lawn maintenance but not as effectively as a mowing strip. This can be tricky and fiddly to install especially to existing lawns.
Raised garden edging
Raised garden edging can come in a variety of forms and materials with differing purposes. In a nut shell any edging that has a slightly raised level can be defined as raised edging. Raised edging is a good way to create a visual barrier to pedestrian traffic.
A raised edging usually indicates a ‘do not cross’ intention even if there is no physical boundary in place. A common type of raised edging is edging kerbs such as bull nose or PC edgings. These are common place where paving meets flowerbed and has some retaining function to them.
Another type of raised garden edging can be low walls or header courses of brickwork. These can add structural lines to a garden or transition a change in material or function. Some other examples of raised garden edging include wooden picket fencing, bamboo edging and low wire boundary fencing.
Retaining garden edging
Retaining edgings are made of materials which are physically retaining a structure or volume of material. Typical examples of these are retaining walls or raised beds. Retaining edgings have to be made of fairly durable materials depending on what they are retaining.
Generally it is good to use stone materials and not ones that will degrade. Retaining edging typically comes in the form of walls built of brick and concrete. These can be rendered, painted or clad with natural stone. These retaining edges are extremely strong, versatile and can be manipulated in any shape or form.
Retaining structures can also be made out of rocks and loose stone. This can be laid as a dry stone wall or with mortar. Rocks can also be filled into gabions to create raised edgings. Timber can be used as long as it is externally treaded and of a suitable thickness. These can be cut and inserted vertically for curves or laid flat for straight lines.
Bricks come in a wide variety of colours shapes and sizes. Their manageable size and decorative textures allow them to make the perfect hard landscaping material. When laid together bricks create a visual texture which is pleasing to the eye.
Bricks are truly versatile and can be used in a number of ways. They can lay on edge to create a soldier course or laid flat in succession. When it comes to creating garden edging bricks can be the perfect solution. Bricks can be built into a low wall or laid flush with the ground to create mowing strip like edgings.
Concrete block is not the first material most people think of when they think about garden edging. It can however provide all sorts of edging solutions. This is especially the case when there is soil or landform to be retained.
The great thing about concrete blocks is they can be rendered, painted and clad with natural stone. This can leave the door open to be creative when it comes to garden edging. Block work can make fantastic low walls and built to fit any shape or size. It has to be noted that concrete block work should always have some form of foundation and bonded with mortar.
Paving can make the perfect garden edging especially if you want to build a flush edging or lawn mowing strip. Slabs can also be cut and used to edge pathways and create borders to other surfaces.
The best kind of paving to use is natural stone. Natural stones colours do not fade with sunlight and much easier to clean than concrete aggregate paving. Natural paving ranges sometimes come with a setts and edging range which are already the correct width for building edging. These are usually thicker so you can have a slightly raised edging if you prefer.
Copings and capping are generally used to fix to the top of walls and masonry work. They predominantly give a wall a neat finish and prevent water from entering masonry. Cappings sit flush with the walls vertical surface and copings over hang.
This allows rain water to drip away from the wall preventing run marks and algae blooms. It so happens that many copings and cappings are for also edging your garden. These can be impervious natural stone like slate or pre cast concrete. The main restriction with these is they are generally only good for straight features.
Sleepers, typically known as railways sleepers are robust sections of externally treated timber. They can be hardwood or softwood and come in variable specifications. Generally timber sleepers come in 100mm x 200mm x 2.4 metre lengths.
These give you large block like sections which can be bolted together to create garden edgings. Sleepers can be set deep into the ground to become a flush or a slightly raised edging. The only thing to consider with sleepers is they eventually degrade, especially if in contact with damp ground.
The best way to use sleepers for edging is above ground. This generally means acting as a raised border or low wall of some sort. Using lengthways sleepers are only suitable for making straight garden edging. If you wish to create curves try cutting sleepers into sections and laying them vertically in concrete.
If you are looking for a more naturalistic way of creating garden edging rocks could be an option for you. Rocks can be expensive to buy especially graded into average sizes. However if you are in luck you may live in an area with a topsoil layer full of natural rocks. If this is the case these can be retained during excavations and broken into manageable pieces.
Rocks can be laid together in a dry stone fashion with small rocks filling in crevices around larger ones. This kind of masonry is typical in the rural countryside of the UK. It is best to lay rocks together with mortar but can be laid dry if you have many flat shaped stones. Random larger rocks can also be laid out in a line to create a naturalistic edging in the ground.
If you have logs from a tree fell or are friends with a tree surgeon logs make a rustic but ecological garden edging. Too often today we want too many straight lines and clean edges. If you want a contemporary looking garden perhaps logs are not for you.
If you have enough logs of a similar diameter they really can make very impressive gardening edging. Using logs for edging in this way is particularly great for wildlife gardens. Insects and beetle larvae use the decaying outer layer of wood for food and shelter. This can give a boost to local wildlife and natural ecology in the garden.
Log roll is a garden edging product consisting of treated softwood timber cut into semi-circular lengths. The log rolls are connected with an interweaving wire centre. This allows the logs to be rolled out to create a consistent garden edging. These are usually used to line flowerbeds with a higher soil level from the surrounding area.
It is not really advised to attempt to retain a large quantity of soil with these as they can soon rot. Log roll can be a good way of cladding unsightly concrete or stone work acting as garden edging. I personally do not think this is a good edging solution as they tend to degrade after a few years.
Bamboo garden edging
Bamboo edging is pretty much the same as the log roll edgings and constructed in the same way. The bamboo slices are much thinner than the log roll making them less robust. Having said this, bamboo takes a lot longer to degrade than soft wood and does look more decorative. Once again I would not use this type of edging other than to clad a more solid building material.
Willow garden edging
Willow garden edging can be extremely decorative especially if it is the interwoven basket type. This for me is more low fencing than garden edging but it is sold as garden edging. These can be used to close off small areas including flower beds and do have a natural feel.
These can be effective at creating a small boundary but I would not try to retain anything heavy. Willow edging can be effective but will soon root if it is in contact with the soil or damp vegetation.
Wire garden edging
Wire garden edging is again is more of a low fencing which is used to make a low lying boundary. This type of edging usually comes in a flimsy roll and can be pegged into the ground. I personally really don’t think it’s very good to look and functionally not much better. If you are going to used wire garden edging the rigid decorative panels are the best option.
If you genuinely feel you need this low fence type edging then I find the painted timber picket type the best. These do actually create something rigid and hard wearing along garden edges.
To be honest I never completely see the point of low fencing edging but this type at least can look aesthetic. In terms of a boundary edging this perhaps stands the best chance of creating a physical barrier.
Roll out lawn garden edging
This edging consists of a thin, rigid, tape like roll which can be submerged around the edge of your lawn. It is intended to tightly hug the vertical perimeter or the grass to maintain a neat edge. I have installed this a few times and it can be very fiddly to fix in place.
This material is good for curves but I often wonder if it is robust enough to last the test of time. I personally would not fancy the plastic versions chances against an accidental hit with a strimmer or mower.
Steel garden edging
If you want to install a robust garden edging which is thin and handle curves this would be my choice. Usually made of stainless steel these metre long sections interlock to create a continuous garden edging.
These are rigid enough to be tamped into existing ground but best if the ground is loosened first. This flexible but strong metal edging can be haunched into position using concrete when landscaping. This can frame a new organically shaped garden lawn beautifully. A commonly used brand I have used in the UK is Everedge.
What not to use as garden edging
With new social media platforms there’s been an explosion of great gardening ideas and precedents. I have to say however I am concerned by some suggested methods of garden edging on some of these platforms.
Hence I have put together some bad garden edging examples you should stay away from.
All of these submerged vertically into the ground may seem an interesting and resourceful way of making garden edging but I would not recommend it. Any material which can shatter with sharp edges is not suitable for garden edging.
This is especially so if it is standing upright. I would also stress that glass should never be used in this way. Even small garden tools can easily shatter such materials causing a health and safety risk, especially for children.
I wish you luck in deciding what garden edging you wish to choose. My personal recommendation is try to incorporate edging which complement the existing design of the garden. Never let cost or hard work lead to half hearted solutions.
Effective garden edging should be robust and able to last the test of time. For this reason I always go for masonry over timber products.
If you require a landscape services why not contact Paul and his team. Our landscape gardening teams serve Buckinghamshire and the Chiltern region.
Some of our typical project locations include; Amersham, Aylesbury, Beaconsfield, Berkhamsted, Chalfont, Chesham, Gerard's Cross, Great Missenden, High Wycombe, Princes Risborough and Wendover.
Paul Nicolaides has over 30 years of recreational gardening and 20 years of professional landscaping experience. He has worked for landscape contractors including design and build practices across London and the South East. In 2006 he qualified with a BA Hons degree and post graduate diploma in Landscape Architecture. In 2009 he founded Ecospaces an ecological landscaping practice which aims to improve social cohesion and reduce climate change through landscaping. In 2016 he founded Buckinghamshire Landscape Gardeners which designs and builds gardens across Buckinghamshire and the South East. This blog aims to provide easy problem solving information to its audience and encourage others to take up the joy of landscaping and gardening.