The purpose of putting down solid edging, between a lawn and a bed, is threefold: to make it easier for the person mowing, to reduce the time it takes to clip the edges, to bring style and elegance to a garden by clearly defining the shapes of the beds and borders; and to keep certain weeds out of the bed.
OK, that's slightly more than three...
I recently wrote about the "best" form of solid edging, ie a solid plastic strip, inserted vertically, which can make straight edges or curves, and which fulfils all the above requirements of edging.
However, it's not exactly stylish, in itself: plain black plastic - meh! Or, so said one of my Clients, a few years ago. They presented me with a huge stack of vintage rope-top edging tiles, which had been reclaimed from the garden of a house which was being demolished, and I spent a merry afternoon installing them.
They were hard work to install, because they were short sections: and in order to get a perfectly straight line, I had to spend a lot of time setting each one very firmly into the soil, then carefully backfilling, in order not to push them out of line.
They did look nice, though, once I was finished..
A couple of years later, the Client called me back, in a bit of a panic, and asked me to weed the bed, because it had somehow become infested with Bindweed. Sure enough, there was miles and miles of the stuff, so I had to clean out the entire bed, which meant lifting every single plant, cleaning the bindweed out of their roots, digging the whole be over thrice (I have written about this joyous task elsewhere...) then replanting.
"Where did it come from?" asked the Client, in bewilderment. (Actually, they were in Oxfordshire.)
In answer, I pointed to their elegant vintage rope-top edging.
As you can see, the bindweed - those fat, white, roots - has run all the way along the inside, the grass edge, of the tiles: and has then sneaked through the joins.
No matter how tightly "one" butts these tiles up to each other, they will always have tiny gaps between them, and pesky weeds will always take it as a challenge, crying "Woo hoo! Narrow gap! Come on chaps, let's squeeze through there, and infest that nice big border!"
And, of course, in order to get the bindweed out properly, I had to lift every single one of the blasted tiles, many of which had been pushed out of line by the bindweed anyway: then dig out the bindweed, then replace the tiles - which took another whole afternoon - and all in the sure and certain knowledge that the bindweed would soon be back.
In this case, a solid edging with no joins would have been a much, much better option: but, as the Client said, it doesn't look as nice.
We did consider installing the plastic edging first, then adding the fancy tiles on the soil side, in order to hide the black plastic... which might have worked... but in the end we decided (and when I say "we" I mean "they", of course) to stick to the stylish, elegant edging tiles, and the Client was therefore tasked with checking the bed more often, and calling me back at the first signs of a re-incursion of bindweed, so that I could catch the infestation while it was small.
And the moral of this tale? Sometimes, modern plastic alternatives are actually better than the traditional version!
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