By Your Call Publishing | ,

Blue Daisy Garden Diary - June/July 24

Borders – More Is More! By Nicki Jackson

The term ‘less is more’ is used a lot, we say it ourselves for many reasons, however, when it comes to borders, more is most definitely more!

We are often asked to develop a planting scheme for people that haven’t had their garden designed but have had their garden changed and built by landscapers who’ve ‘left the borders ready for planting’. Unfortunately, what we sometimes find are very narrow borders, often just placed around the perimeter of a garden.

Whilst this is by no means a criticism of landscapers, or clients, very narrow borders do make it difficult to create an impactful planting scheme. Sometimes narrow borders are simply due to either landscapers or home owners not realising or understanding the potential for borders to be used to change the whole look and feel of a garden; to bring ambience, for instance, or create surprise, to draw the eye or direct it, to create balance and proportion to the space; and that it is far better to have one or two large borders than lots of really tiny ones; or it could be that homeowners want a low maintenance scheme and think that a narrow border means lower maintenance, when in fact, a very narrow border can make it difficult to achieve lower maintenance status.

To illustrate this final point let’s consider an evergreen shrub such as a Choisya – a great, low maintenance shrub that flowers in spring – once you plant it, there is very little to do to it. Whilst there are a number of Choisya varieties available, for this example our shrub will naturally grow to around 1m width once the plant is established. The borders we are sometimes asked to design are only 30-40cm deep, which means that if we did use it, our poor Choisya would have roughly a third pushed up against a fence and another third hanging over the border edge, often getting in the way of a lawn mower, resulting in the plant never really looking that attractive and homeowners never being that happy with it. 

As such, so many garden staples that are lower maintenance just can't be used in these spaces and if they are, would outgrow the available space in a matter of a couple of years. Had the borders been wider a lower maintenance scheme can be more effectively achieved.

Picking up on some of our earlier design points, narrow borders also make it virtually impossible to create any sense of depth in a border which, if available, brings with it opportunities to utilise other design principles such as using various textures, sizes and shapes of plants to create drama and visual impact. Instead, in a very narrow border a row of similar shaped plants might need to be used to fill the space in order to create some sort of cohesion, but the downside of that strategy is that it can often end up looking a bit like peas in a pod or sentries in a row. Even a very contemporary garden – which often uses a more limited planting palette – would still benefit from deeper borders.

When faced with narrow borders we do usually try to extend at least one border if it is at all possible to allow for a richer tapestry of shapes, form and colour in the garden, as well as to bring more balance to the overall feel of the space. When we design a garden, we will always design it with a more balanced proportion of planted to non-planted areas, utilising deeper borders and the positioning of them to allow us to create a planting scheme that delights the client and wildlife/pollinators too.

If you are designing the layout of your own garden consider the size and positions of your borders because where they are concerned, more is most definitely more!

© Nicki Jackson, Blue Daisy Gardens 2024