Living Within The Lines
What qualities separate a memorable landscape from a blah blob? Often, it is how edges (real and implied lines) are defined—whether by a crisply edged lawn, hedge (or other plant mass) or a construct, like a path or wall. Take away its dramatic edges, and the Grand Canyon would be just a pleasant valley. Edges are lines that lead your eye through the landscape, giving importance to whatever lies on either side, as well as suggesting what one should do or see next.
Do you remember, as a young child, playing with an educational toy that helped you learn shapes? Square in the square hole, triangle in the triangle hole? The edges of the voids provided clues as to which shape belonged where. The same principle is important in design. Well-chosen edges help make sense of shapes and the transitions from one shape to the next.
Sometimes, when designing a revamp for a so-so or featureless landscape, I'll blow up black and white photographs to help clients see the how edges are defined by the existing planted and built features of their garden. Instant illumination.
Late winter is an excellent time to walk through your garden with a camera. Photographs are quite helpful tools to document and plan.
Edges Share Enough To Shave With
My husband is our grass guy—he sows, he mows, he blows and he edges each week using his excellent power string trimmer. However, I'm the everything–else gal including having responsibility for maintaining the integrity of the design. Since a lawn is part of my design and I obsess about line, a well-defined lawn edge is quite important.
Edge creep can result when one edges the lawn only with a string trimmer. Since I want edges sharp enough to shave with, my grass guy and I sometimes have words.
Since a proper edge is the eyeliner of your garden, at least twice a year, I do a proper edging—one that provides a crisp line, prevents lawn grass from marching into the flower bed, holds mulch in the bed, and that my husband subsequently finds easier to maintain with his beloved power tools.
When edging an existing bed with straight lines, I sometimes peg down a long (10') 1" X 4" kept just for this purpose. When cutting curved bed lines, I sometimes mark the edges with a garden hose. Other times, I just go for it. Using either a straight spade, a half-moon edger or an edging machine, I cut a 4" deep slice 90 degrees to the lawn surface.
On the bed side of the cut, holding my flat spade at a 30 degree angle, I cut and remove soil from the bed. Once done, I'm left with a nifty lip that holds mulch nicely.