One of the most common requests I receive from clients when designing gardens is to ensure that the planting (amongst other things) is low maintenance. Most of us have busy working lives and don’t have the time for our gardens that we would like to have. As a result, many clients ask for borders to be made as narrow as possible. This is a great shame as it is very hard to design planting with interesting gradations in height and with a beautiful mix of varied forms, textures and colours in a border that is no more than one plant width wide. In addition, with narrow borders there is always the risk of plants flopping over paths and lawns.
But perhaps a bigger issue for us designers is where clients ask for borders to be removed, or restricted to the perimeters of the garden. This is because the shape, size and location of borders are vital design tools in terms of adding interest and structure. For example, by widening and narrowing borders, we can give a nice shape to a lawn; they are really useful for defining routes on and off a path or patio, and they can add real interest in a garden – there is something mystical about walking along a path in the middle of planting and emerging somewhere different.
This was clearly demonstrated in a garden we recently landscaped in Binfield.
Notice in the photos below how the border along the winding path defines routes on and off the lawn. The border also houses the climbers for the arches, but the rest of the planting is intentionally low, so that while anyone sitting on the bench will feel away from the rest of the garden, they can also see over the planting and back to the glade like patio areas.
Also note how the borders around the patios define the ways on and off the patios. The planting here also subtly provides a bit of a physical / visible barrier – useful when (as here) there is a small step down off the patio:
Finally, see how the shaping of the borders is an integral aspect of the curving lawn shape, helping to unify the entire garden:
So, don’t be in too much of a hurry to remove or reduce the size of those borders. Borders might need a bit of weeding, but they give so very much.