Border control

Get your greenery into shape with these edgy ideas


Visit any garden design show and the one thing all the displays have in common is edges. The gardens are created in a defined area, usually with partitions on three sides, and everything is neatly contained within that space.

The designers are not plagued by kikuyu forcing its way under the fences, cats digging depressions in the mulch and spreading it all over the paths, or ground cover plants forgetting where they’re supposed to stop and the paving is supposed to begin.

Despite being devoted to symmetry, I’m not great with edges. I’ve always preferred free form, meandering garden beds that join the lawn where they feel like it, but it’s not a strategy that works particularly well on our property. The Partner has drawn the line – literally and figuratively – at messy transitions from soft landscaping to hard.

So our garden beds are being edged, and I have to admit it’s a good look. If you’re creating a new bed, you can use either a garden hose or a can of spray paint to sketch the edge. Then use a half-moon edger or spade to create your border. Once the edge is defined, cut into the turf at an angle and remove it.

You can leave it at that, but because of our battle with kikuyu and weeds, our edging of choice has been railway sleepers sliced in half. You could also use concrete pavers, cobblestones, timber or ponga logs.

You can sink your edging material into the ground so you can mow up to, or over it. Or you could have raised edges, which look great with delicate ground cover plants spilling over them.

Your choice of edging plants will be directed by environmental factors such as slope, soil type, moisture and aesthetics. The edges of our main areas are a combination of pimelea, lobelia and other creeping ground covers interspersed with the occasional grass, tiny astelia, miniature agapanthus or liriope.

Consider what’s in your “second row” of planting. If you have shrubs that grow attractive foliage right down to the ground, low, hugging plants will be fine. But in one

area where we have lavender in our “second row”, we’ve planted catmint and abelia ground covers to hide the woody bits.

The best thing about edging plants is that you can have anything you like. Just make sure they will keep tidy habits should you want a formal edge.


Fresh from the gorgeous designs at the Ellerslie Flower Show, I was stopped in my tracks in Christchurch’s Madras Street by a funny, makeshift garden growing in the rubble next door to a café. It was developed by Greening the Rubble, a community project in Christchurch which unites a team of volunteers to respond creatively to the damage caused by the earthquakes. They’re creating temporary public parks and gardens on the sites of demolished buildings, usually in commercial rather than residential streets.

Licence agreements with site owners, modest financial support from these owners and extensive sponsorship of the construction materials and design process make it possible for the volunteers to build and maintain these projects. If you want to know more about these amazing gardens, go to


Double take

This pretty edging in a cottage garden has box topiaries as its second layer. The trunks are virtually hidden by the plants in front, so the topiaries seem to float above the flowers.

Paving the way

Try laying pavers in a gentle curve along your pathways. This gives an elegant and subtle separation of the lawn from a stone chip or gravel path.

In the rough

These grasses, used to border a lawn in a large, spacious country garden, give a wilder edge to an otherwise manicured look.

Ahead of the curve

Thanks to random planting in this bed, a well-behaved lawn and curvaceous border rise to a mass of coloured blooms and foliage.


In complete contrast to the theme of recycling inspired by recent events in Christchurch, Ben Hoyle’s Ellerslie award-winning garden, “A French Kiss in Akaroa”, was the epitome of order and perfection.

An exquisite tapestry of grass-covered walkways and elegant garden beds oating in a lake of black water, Ben’s creation was inspired by the journey of early French settlers to Akaroa. It’s not something many of us would be likely to try at home, but hopefully it will become a permanent and inspirational addition to Christchurch’s landscape.

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