My family and I had taken a trip on the River Line from Trenton to Riverton to visit a friend for ice cream at Nellie Bly’s, which is advertised as an “old tyme ice cream parlour.” We overfilled ourselves with delicious ice cream and needed burn off some of calories.
Because the weather was conducive to walking the streets, we opted to check out some of the architecture and gardens that the town had to offer. Riverton is a quaint, small-town community with manicured properties and houses with Victorian charm that sit on the banks of the Delaware River. It was interesting to note the residents’ different gardening and landscaping techniques.
One particular garden caught my attention with its whimsical use of blue glass bottles. The residents had arranged the bottles on a tree branch that was stuck in the ground. They also installed numerous bottles, neck down, lining them next to each other to form edging for their garden beds.
For edging, I always think of using steel, aluminum or plastic, which seems to be the most popular for the average homeowner. Edging serves many purposes. It helps to separate garden spaces from grass areas and will provide an aesthetic value to your garden. It will prevent the intrusion of grass and weeds into your beds or walks, thus forgoing the need to spray herbicides or to get down on your hands and knees to weed. Edging will prevent washout of mulch from your garden and help in water retention.
The first experience of mine in edging was helping my father install wooden landscape timbers along my mother’s flower beds. It was quick and easy to install but had some downfalls; they can’t handle curves, and within 10 years some of them had started to rot.
My brother-in-law, who is very frugal, was able to procure some used brick from a construction site and made a nice edging laying a soldier course (laid flat) and a sailor course (installed upright) along his garden beds. The sailor course keeps the mulch in place and the soldier course allows him to run the lawnmower with its wheels on the soldier course, giving a nice manicured look to his lawn. Bricks are easy to install, and long lasting.
Plastic edging is very cost efficient but tends be lacking in aesthetic quality. Some of the benefits of plastic edging is that it is easy to install, light weight (hence, easy to handle), can create curves easily and is long lasting. But I have seen many a mower blade hit plastic edging, and it is not a pretty sight.
Precast concrete edging provides borders that are virtually permanent and are fairly easy to install. They have a bold appearance in the landscape, are available in different sizes, colors and shapes, and will not rot or work out of place if installed properly. Many of the box stores carry a nice assortment of precast edging blocks and carry the necessary base materials that go along with the installation.
Metal edging, be it steel or aluminum, gives a clean crisp edge to any garden bed. The heavier gauge steel edging requires two people to install just because of the sheer weight of the material. The edging is long lasting, very sturdy and can be used to make graceful curves.
As seen at the house in Riverton, you don’t need to use conventional materials to create edges in your landscape. I remember as a kid seeing a house in Kendall Park where they used bowling balls as an edging material. Bottles, rocks, metal pipes on end, pieces of pallets painted or seashells can be used as materials for edging if they are arranged creatively.
“A house though otherwise beautiful, yet if it hath no Garden belonging to it, is more like a Prison than a House.” —William Coles, The Art of Simpling (1656)
Craig Dupée is a garden-design consultant. He lives in Ewing with his wife and daughters. Send him your email questions at firstname.lastname@example.org.