Framing your beauties

Framing your beauties (and the lawn)


Life & Style
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Your eye meanders to the edges of garden scenes once it's taken in the initial vista, so edging is important, writes Fiona Ogilvie.

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Bricks edge a border at Upton Oaks, Blenheim, NZ (www.gardens.org.nz/; www.laurella.co.nz). You need more than if you place them end to end, but the result is worth it.

Bricks edge a border at Upton Oaks, Blenheim, NZ (www.gardens.org.nz/; www.laurella.co.nz). You need more than if you place them end to end, but the result is worth it.

WHAT do you notice first when you walk into a garden? My guess is that after taking in the overall scene, your eyes swivel to the edges, especially the lawn edges.

I think this is because we tend to remember shapes before colour, and edges define the shapes of the spaces they enclose.

If you imagine a garden as a combination of masses and voids – solid bits surrounding empty spaces – the edges outline these two components and this why they are important and why we notice them.

If empty spaces are paved you can eliminate your edging requirements entirely, as border plants can flow over the hard surface and will always look attractive, even if you have to cut them back from time to time.

It’s when you have a lawn that edges become an issue.

Few things are as irritating or unsightly as grass growing into a flower bed or invasive snow-in-summer or ajuga creeping into your lawn.

A nice solid edging simultaneously saves a huge amount of time on maintenance while making your garden look unobtrusively elegant and inviting.

Also the lawn mowing person – I name no names – will bless you, as nothing enrages them more than plants tangling with their crisply rotating blades.

A nice solid edging simultaneously saves a huge amount of time on maintenance while making your garden look unobtrusively elegant and inviting. Also the lawn mowing person – I name no names – will bless you.

Even romantic gardeners who yearn for swathes of plants tumbling in all directions can have their cake and eat it simply by making their edgings wide – 30 centimetres should do the trick.

Edgings can be made of concrete, wood or brick.

Their main requirement is to be absolutely flat, so lawnmower wheels can glide effortlessly over them.

Rocks from your property, even flattish slate, never really work, anyway you’ll end up having to weed between them, which defeats their purpose.

Concrete strips are practical but sterile, not what you want in a garden, which is all about growth.

Strips tinted with coloured oxides are available but they still look like concrete.

Wood in the form of 10-centimetre by 5cm planks, anchored with pegs, looks appropriately rustic in a country setting but it won’t last forever.

I made a wooden edge in my first garden and it began to fall apart after six years.

I then moved into brick and since then this has been my edging material of choice.

Bricks are slow to lay as you need to dig a trench and fill the base with 5cm of sand but they’re there for life; mine are going strong after nearly 30 years.

My only regret is that for reasons of economy – you know me – I laid the bricks end to end, so my edges are really too narrow.

An average house brick is roughly 21cm by 11cm by 7cm, so you need two or three times as many if you lay them either flat or on their sides and facing outwards.

The result, though, speaks for itself.

I was convinced of this, to my pleasure, when I visited Sue and David Monahan’s Blenheim (NZ) garden where billowing flowers borders are neatly enclosed by beautifully laid, outward facing bricks.

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