I have a permanent argument with at least one good friend about edging. I like to see plants creating their own edge, merging happily with the grass and no bare soil in sight. She likes that carefully edged edge.
As does Thomas.
Anne Wareham, editor
It’s such a simple thing, just a little gully separating the lawn from the flower bed.
Over the years gardeners and garden designers have tried many ways and materials to separate the two. Gertrude Jekyll’s answer was that when mowing one should be able to employ a second gardener to hold the plants up while the first gardener is cutting the grass.
Others edge the gap with a full length paving stone (being York or Purbeck of course.)
Brick has been used both as a plain pattern on edge or in more elaborate patterns arranged on a slant.
Clay rope edging also has had its day, either pushed into the soil or fixed in with concrete – and let’s not forget wooden edging both in its cut form as in gravel boards or sleepers but also in its natural form just as branches cut from a tree.
As time moves on more modern materials have been used: stainless steel, coated steel, plain old let it go rusty steel and the lighter metal form of aluminium.
You might wish for something different for a symmetrical garden where every twist needs to work to a crisp or every line look as if it has been drawn yesterday with a giant ruler, or indeed for a woodland garden where the edges can be merged into woodland beds as simple and as delightful as their setting.
And there are many more different types of edging like glass bottles, old china plates and roofing tiles.
But for me you just can’t beat the simple, easy quick way of just making a simple trench formed using a half moon tool (or spade if you want to avoid the werewolves). There is something that I love just seeing a simple line that has been carefully edged up into the grass. Yes, they are a pain – needing to be redone once or twice a year. And yes, slowly over time they extend further and further into the lawn. This results either in more space for plants to grow (that’s never a bad thing) or the need to lift up a section and rebuild the edge once more in the right place (and that’s just a pain in the backside to do).
For me it’s the pure ease with which you can put an edge into the garden, or move one without the hassle of digging up the metal, breaking up the concrete, digging up the lawn even more to get the concrete and the footings of the previous edge up before you can even start to dig foundations for the new line. You just pick up the half moon (or edging iron if you wish to call it by its more boring name) and edge. If you want to see what it will look like beforehand, a hose, bit of rope or builders line can give you a good idea. Otherwise you just keep going with the half moon until you have the border you like and then feet up, tea bag in cup and telly switched on (to Gardeners World of course).
Infinitely easier than trying to make the slit bigger so the metal edging can be banged in. Or cutting groves into the length of gravel board so it WILL get round that awkward spot. And then using posts, metal bars, very large weights or bags of compost or sand to hold it in place while you try and hammer the peg in,- pushing it around the shape with your knees, then working out where the last place you left the hammer was…all this with a mouth full of nails and trying to mind the bags and metal bars that are now all over the place.
A year later you come out and decide you totally hate that edge like that and you want to move it. With a simple cut edge, you just redo the edge in the right spot, no cost, no waste, no hassle. With all the other edges you spend ages trying to straighten the metal edging, get the nails out of the wood or to knock the cement off your all your carefully laid bricks.
At the end of the day all we want is a clean crisp edge denoting the point from which the lawn finishes and the border starts. It’s also nice to have the soft natural colour of the soil marking this line. Yes the line seldom stays the same shape as it was after you had edged it last but in a small rambling cottage garden with plants softening up the edges, does it matter? It’s ideal for the lovely client who is always wanting her bed shape changed and redone. There maybe a little more work to do afterwards when trimming up, but that’s not a lot of time.
I suppose the bigger question could be whether we need an edge at all? What would happen if we started to mix our lawns with our borders? There’s a thought for another day.
Thomas Stone. MCI Hort
You might also be interested in the edging here
or a small diversionary horticultural conflict