Garden Edging Ideas & Key Considerations
Lawn edging inspiration for your garden renovation
By Thomas O'Rourke
Often used to beautify the garden but packing many other benefits, edging is an essential landscaping element. Lawn and garden edging keeps mulch where it belongs, provides you with a clean lawn manicuring line and prevents invasive grasses from entering your flowerbeds.
In this guide, we focus on creative edging ideas and aim to teach you the considerations you should make for planning and designing the edging in your landscape.
From space and usage considerations to tips on selecting the right edging type and materials, we’ve got you covered. We also have a host of conventional and unconventional garden edging you’ll love.
In this guide - inspiration and ideas for your garden edging and borders, including...
Section 1: How You'll Use Your Garden Edging
Edging creates crisp delineation lines between various landscape elements. We typically utilise it between a garden and the adjoining lawn, but you can use it to define the transition from patio to garden, to highlight a flower bed, or add aesthetic value to the shrubs. Regardless of how it’s used, it undoubtedly creates a focal point.
Before considering the artistic considerations however, it’s essential to understand how you want to integrate edging in your garden and lawn. When using such an element in your garden, style and function have to work together.
Select how you’d like to use your edging for more information:
Many homeowners prefer to use lawn and garden edging for purely aesthetic reasons.
Decorative edging doesn’t have to be particularly robust and can be installed in various ways. Use your imagination when choosing your materials. There are many ready-to-use solutions in home & garden stores, or you can use conventional materials in an unconventional way for creative DIY solutions.
Natural decorative edging is a perfect alternative to the traditional solutions proposed by the speciality stores.
Garden edging is often used as a transition element between the patio and the garden or to divide the garden from the lawn.
The former often consists of nobler materials that constitute an attractive focal point. River rocks, pebbles and wood chips are commonly employed in the construction of transitional edges, often flanked by bricks, concrete blocks or landscape timber.
The latter can be as simple as a trenched edge or V-shape ditch, and its primary purpose is to prevent stubborn grasses and weeds from reaching the garden beds.
Edging can help to make mowing less of a chore by creating a solid foundation for the wheels of the mower. This decorative and functional element is easy to achieve with flat edging materials including pavers and bricks.
The trick is to create a flat and level surface suitable for the wheels of a lawn mower but short enough to allow the machine’s blade to reach and cut the grass at the desired height.
Keeping mulch where it belongs is more difficult than you might imagine, especially if you’re placing it in a flower bed.
Garden edging can create a sturdy barrier to keep it contained and also doubles as an aesthetic landscaping element. Metal or plastic edging is perhaps the most adequate for the purpose. Resistant enough to hold a heavily mulched bed in place, flexible, and durable, this type of edging is also easy to install.
Make sure the material extends at least five centimetres above the ground and ten centimetres below it to ensure stability.
Section 2: Ideas & Inspiration For Your Garden
Section 3: Defining Your Edging
As highlighted above, edging has more than just an aesthetic function. From a practical point of view, this essential element prevents weeds and turf grass from spreading into the flowerbeds or vegetable garden.
It also keeps soil or mulch inside the flowerbeds, preventing them from spilling onto the lawn.
But its benefits go far beyond this. You can use landscape edging to corral pathways made of loose material like pebbles, seashells, gravel or wood chips. This can help maintain your walkways clearly defined or design transition pathways between your deck or patio and the lawn.
There are three critical things to consider when scoping the edging for your garden – your existing space, your chosen style and the longevity of your project.
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Your existing space
Your landscape most likely has a personality of its own, and unless you’re projecting a full redesign of your outdoor area, the most important thing to consider when choosing landscape edging is the style of your existing space.
The new edging doesn’t necessarily have to match the existing style, but it must integrate flawlessly with all elements of your home and garden, either complementing or contrasting with what you have.
Once you’ve decided upon a type and style, check the quality of the edging. Low-end materials are unlikely to resist adverse weather for more than a couple of years.
Asking you to think of your style after you have considered the space is not a mistake. When it comes to aesthetically embellishing a space, taste comes after the objective design considerations that create harmony between garden elements.
But when it comes to preference, you can decide whether to make a statement with your edging by transforming it into an essential visual element – or if you want a more discreet solution, you could look to hide it with your garden plants.
Regardless of your choice, edging will no doubt make garden maintenance easier.
Visual appeal is important but so is the durability of the materials employed in your landscape design.
Garden edging comes in all styles and can be made of a wide variety of natural or synthetic materials. When making your choice, remember that not all materials can withstand the adverse British weather, regardless of how good they might look on the shelf.
Soft woods, for instance, including bamboo and other Oriental varieties, may rot due to the excessive moisture transferred by the soil. Varnished stones look amazing at first, but their coating often flakes or peels after a few seasons.
This doesn’t mean these materials can’t make a beautiful statement on your property, but you should maybe look to use them in an area less exposed to the elements and choose more robust edging for the rest of your project.
Section 4: Tips For Choosing The Right Garden Edging
We’ve gone through general uses and told you how to scope your garden edging. But how can you make sure to select the right one for you? While there are no general rules, the guidelines below can help you decide which style works best in your space.
1. Evaluate your landscape design
Whether it’s a small backyard or an extensive property, your landscape will undoubtedly have a distinct style. You should probably look to categorise your garden into one of the following categories:
Once you’ve assessed your garden design, try to choose an edging that you feel enhances this existing style.
2. Consider the climate in your local area
The climate varies from region to region and edging installed in a London suburb, for example, will endure less adverse conditions that the edging installed in the garden of a coastal home set in the Highlands.
Metal, concrete and limestone edging are poor choices in areas susceptible to ocean spray. Wood is a more appropriate choice here, although it may rot in particularly shady or rainy areas. Local stone could be a great alternative as it will most likely endure the harsh conditions without losing its character over time.
Treated wood edging is another solution in most areas, but avoid using it near your edible plants, as the chemicals can contaminate your veggies and herbs.
The latest edging solutions include vinyl and plastic materials that withstand most climates, are resistant and reasonably priced.
3. Weigh up the pros and cons of your preferred edging
There are endless garden edging solutions to choose from, but all come with pros and cons. The easiest way to decide whether the one you like is right for you is by writing down both its advantages and disadvantages.
If you’re after a discreet solution, the best option would be the black plastic edging that is easy to install along the borders of your garden beds. Due to the material’s flexibility, the edging bends around the bed and prevents weeds from spreading.
However, sunlight, foot traffic and lawn care tools can easily damage the material. Not to mention its scarce aesthetic value.
To cut down on costs, you can still install black plastic edging alongside a more aesthetically pleasing solution. Wood is versatile and relatively cheap but needs constant maintenance, and you’ll have to replace it when it rots.
Rocks, metal, bricks and other masonry materials make beautiful edges but often come with heftier prices. Metal and concrete can also damage your lawn equipment if not installed correctly.
4. Consider the purpose of your edging
Besides visually enhancing your property, garden edging should have a clear, functional purpose.
- Preventing weeds from spreading: plastic or vinyl edging is perfect for this purpose; it’s cheap, resistant and durable.
- Directing garden traffic: if you want to prevent your guests from stepping over your flower beds or restrict access to certain areas, choose taller edging such as a low fence or hedges.
- Acting as a mowing strip: edging eliminates the need for manicuring the edges of your lawn with a weed eater but can also be used to protect the plants at the side of the bed.
5. Establish a budget and stick to it
Like most landscaping elements, edging can be budget friendly or cost you an arm and a leg. The most aesthetically pleasing products are usually made from costly materials like paving stones, wrought iron or high-quality hardwood.
All these materials add value to your outdoor space and raise the value of your property, but they are quite expensive.
On the other hand however, imitations may add less value to your property but can have the same aesthetic appeal expensive materials have. Vinyl edging, for example, replaces wood with ease, is durable and costs a fraction of wood’s price.
Repurposed or recycled materials can also help to keep costs low. Anything from old bricks to ceramic tiles can double as garden edging. Keep yourself open to new ideas and use all creative solutions to keep from exceeding your budget.
Section 5: Types & Materials
By now you should know the basics of picking the right options for you. It’s time, therefore, to run through the various types and materials on offer.
Essentially, this product can be split into two groups: natural or simulated (made from manmade materials).
This option is perhaps the most inexpensive to create, as it only requires materials already present in your garden. These include plants, mulch, wood and rocks.
While most of these materials seem appropriate for an informal garden, the truth is they blend well in all exterior styles.
Widely used in public gardens and parks, plant edging adds elegance to a landscape. This versatile solution lets you play with textures and colours, and you can even change your outdoor design season after season. The most popular choices include ornamental grasses, small flowers and shrubs, or dwarf trees.
Mulch not only enriches the soil with nutrients but also protects plants in the beds from parasites and weeds. Wood chips used as mulch have an impressive aesthetic value too and blend well in rustic, modern or contemporary designs. This solution is inexpensive and gives you the flexibility to change the décor as frequently as you like.
Wood creates a natural appearance and blends well in all landscape designs. From distressed or repurposed items like railway ties to landscaping timber, there is a solution for every budget and style. When using treated wood, remember not to place it near edibles. Untreated timber, on the other hand, will deteriorate faster and needs constant maintenance.
Rocks and stones are easy to source from nature and look great in most landscapes. This type of edging will often complement a rustic or traditional garden, but can also look great in a shabby chic style. Robust and resistant, they are an excellent substitute for the synthetic materials for lining the walls of a flowerbed or the edges of a garden pond.
This type of landscape edging includes preformed materials like plastic, brick and metal. It comes in all textures and colours and can either complement or contrast with your landscape.
Simple plastic garden edging doesn’t have aesthetic value but does an excellent job in preventing the roots of stubborn grasses and weeds from spreading towards your flowerbeds. All it takes to install it is a rubber mallet and relatively loose soil. Vinyl edging addresses the needs of the homeowners looking for an affordable imitation of wood or metal, but has a poor resistance to weathering in particularly cold climates.
Bricks come in all styles and sizes, and they are perfect to use as garden edging in either formal or more relaxed contexts. They look beautiful in a countryside garden complementing the walls of a cottage or in an urban environment, reminiscent of an industrial style. The material is exceptionally resilient and resists all climates; it’s easy to shape around curved beds or walkways and is affordable.
Options here range from preformed edging made from aluminium or steel to short fences made of wrought or cast iron. The former is an excellent replacement for plastic, more durable and resistant but prone to humidity. Despite being more pliable than vinyl, it is less popular due to its higher cost. The latter is another costly solution, but it gives a true visual value to a classic or traditional property. Many would argue that rust can affect the metal over time but in a rustic environment, this worn out appearance can make a statement in itself.
Section 6: Unconventional Design Ideas
By now we’ve covered nearly all of the traditional landscape edging solutions. If you’re aiming to achieve an original look and love all things creative, now you can look to use conventional objects in an unconventional way to create eye-catching garden edging. Here are some ideas to inspire you:
A creative idea for a coastal home. Gather large seashells, like the quahog species, and align them around your flowerbeds. The contrast between the earthy tones, green of the plants and ivory-grey shades of the shells blend in a perfect chromatic harmony.
After you’ve sipped the last drop of that exquisite Chardonnay remove the label from the bottle and use it to create original garden edging. You don’t have to stick to a certain size of bottle or colour of glass. Mix and match various types of glass for a stylish shabby chic effect.
China And Pottery
Either broken or old china can be repurposed as garden edging. This solution looks great in a rustic environment or an informal garden. Broken pottery serves the same purpose and complements the yard of a brick cottage.
Stylish and contemporary, gabions blend well in modern contexts. Fill them with large rocks or pebbles and use them to define the boundaries of a terraced garden.
Their utilitarian construction doesn’t inspire aesthetics, but cinder blocks can double as garden edging and small plant containers. Perfect to use in a rural or informal environment.
If you’re aiming for a unique, urban look to complement your contemporary landscape, palisades could be an original solution. Paint them in a rust colour to achieve a post-industrial effect.
Recycled Wood Panels
Traditional gardens or rustic environments can benefit from an eclectic twist achieved with recycled wood panels. Whether it’s old shelves or panels taken from old furniture, this type of edging is guaranteed to impress.
Corrugated Steel Panels
Another attractive idea for a terraced garden or raised flower beds. Use the corrugated steel panels as a focal point and place timber boards on top of them for a sleek, refined effect.
Woven Garden Hoses
This type of edging complements the edge of your vegetable garden, marking a beautiful transition between the leisure and functional areas of your landscape. Steel pipes add a stylish touch to the woven texture, while hoses of multiple colours make the edging more attractive.
Pallets are incredibly versatile and can quickly transform garden edging. Installed either as vertical gardens or transformed into fences, they look great in rustic and informal environments. Regardless of your choice, this original edging will undoubtedly create a focal point in your space.
Update Sep 2019: And another great guide to garden edging from gardeningcalendar.ca.