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Making A Garden Border

Updated on December 8, 2013

Define And Beautify The Edges Of Your Garden By Making An Attractive Border

There are a variety of different ways to create garden borders. Typically people choose their type of border based on their finances as well as their physical ability to assemble and then maintain the border after it has been set up.

Quite often in Scotland you will see gardens outlined in dug out trenches, sort of like an awkward dry moat. Then people plant sporadic bulbs or rose bushes inside. I understand that doing it that way would be relatively easy maintenance however I really hate the look of that style border.

Another option is to remove the grass and then plant something that will fill in and cover the area like periwinkle or ivy. I do like this style of border very much, however I wanted to do something a bit more visually stimulating and whatever I did needed to be inexpensive as well as tie into the rest of the garden.

In this page I have detailed the whole process of laying a border down the side of my fence with photographs. It's not magazine or TV show spectacular, it's something that has been done on a budget and it will take a couple of years as plants fill in for it to meet its maximum potential, but having said that, the area looks a heck of a lot better than it did when I started and I am really happy with the outcome.

The border really started a couple of years ago in front of our shed and around the back panels of the fence. With this new project we extended the border all the way down the right side of the fence because, as you can see, it was quite ugly and plain.

There were big gaps in the bottom of the fence because the ground is really uneven and in order to make the top level, the bottom suffered.

Some of our neighbors kept an annoying small dog which used to come into the yard through those bottom gaps which we managed to quick fix with some pieces of lattice until the dog broke the lattice and now it's all boarded up. You can see the transition in the photo above which was the first step to building our new garden border.

Also you will notice that the fence panels are not spaced evenly in some places. They were like that when we moved in and tearing apart or replacing the whole thing would be really expensive and unnecessary so we just work with what we've got.

Due to Scottish weather being so rotten and the daylight hours being so short (until recently) this project actually took a month and a half to complete. All I really needed was two days of tolerable temperatures and no rain... but those days had to fall on a weekend when I didn't have any other obligations and when I had childcare. Days like that are EXTREMELY difficult to come by here.

The soil in our garden is a clay texture and it's full of rocks so not much likes to grow out of the ground unless you gouge out a big hole and totally replace the dirt. Our garden in particular seems to be filled with a lot of stones, broken bricks and buried plastic. I have no idea where all the plastic came from, it's like our house was built on top of a landfill sometimes.

So as a result of the ground being so awkward to dig holes in, I choose to plant the majority of my flowers in pots. You can see in the photo above about half of my pots for 2013 filled with Dahlias, Lilies, Gladiolas and Iris bulbs. Most of these pots were donated to me by friends and family which is why they don't match, but I don't mind because I love growing things.

Some of these pots were chosen to be part of my border.

In this picture you can see that we successfully boarded up the entire bottom length of the fence with some new wood and some re purposed wood.

The next step was to start planning out what I would do with the bits and pieces I had acquired for making this border.

Materials Acquired

  1. 4 square planters made of woven willow branches to use as a fence
  2. 1 bundle of willow sticks to use as stakes for fastening fence upright
  3. landscaping plastic
  4. 12 baby heather plants
  5. 4 bags of wood chips
  6. 1 Fancy planter to use as center point
  7. 6 pots full of planted flower bulbs

Plotting Out The Decor

Here you can see how I've arranged my pots. The layout is symmetrical radiating out from the center where I have a tall planter secured to a concrete slab. What you can't see clearly is that there are little heather plants in between the pots.

Despite the ground being so difficult I did take a whole afternoon to dig out these holes for the heather to be planted in. In a couple of years they should establish themselves and look as big and full as my other heather plants in front of the shed.

Laying Plastic

Next everything came off and the plastic went down to kill the grass and stop it popping out through my wood chips.

I used a razor blade to cut holes over my little heather plants along the length of the plastic. I also cut little nicks in the back where the fence posts were to help it line up flush with the boards.

This step is challenging if there is any wind because the whole sheet wants to take off like a kite. If you're ever doing something similar make sure you have bricks or stones or something with a bit of weight to it handy to stop the plastic flying away.

As a side note, what I really should have done first was paint the boards at the bottom of the fence, but I couldn't physically access the paint in the shed without killing myself so I ended up leaving that for last!

Landscaping Plastic

Warp Brothers 4CH350-B 4 Mil Consumer Roll Black Plastic Sheeting, 3-Foot by 50-Foot
Warp Brothers 4CH350-B 4 Mil Consumer Roll Black Plastic Sheeting, 3-Foot by 50-Foot

I bought mine for a tiny fraction of this price so it's within your best interests to shop around.


Erecting Short Willow Fence

The "fence" actually consisted of four willow planters that I didn't exactly use for their intended purpose.

When money is an issue you need to think outside the box. Just because something is sold as one thing doesn't mean it can't be used in a different way. They were a lot more inexpensive than anything else I could have purchased for the length I needed.

To secure the panels of the fence all my husband did was purchase a bundle of willow stakes which he cut to size and then he hammered them into the ground on either side. It's very secure.

Down Go The Woodchips

Laying wood chips is messy business. I always start with gloves and then end up using my bare hands because I can't get enough grip.

The bags they come in are huge and incredibly cumbersome. If you have a big area to cover you can just slit the bag open, which is ideal however, since I had the little heather plants to think of it was a slightly more tedious process getting them out.

See the little heather tuft in the middle? :)

Finished View From The Back Door

Finished View From The Shed

I painted the bottom wood panels and I touched up the paint on the fence.

Now we just need to top up the sun bleached wood chips that are in front of the shed and the border going right around will match.

Once the little heather plants are established on the new border I intend to take down and re-purpose the willow fence so that I can define the border with stones the way I've done with the existing border in front of the shed where you can see four really healthy heathers which all started out as small.

At this point the fence will help to keep my daughter from trampling them before they get a chance to spread!

Image Credits

All photographs on this page were taken by myself or my husband (unless otherwise stated) and I do not give permission for them to be used elsewhere.

What Sort Of Gardening Projects Do You Have Planned For This Year?

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    • profile image

      laurenrich 4 years ago

      This is a wonderful lens. Great information and pictures. I am adding more plants in my backyard. Thanks for sharing.

    • LauraHofman profile image

      Laura Hofman 4 years ago from Naperville, IL

      Adding more perennials to my garden. Love your photos!

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Mostly fruits and vegetables