Edging Materials in Landscapes

Separating elements is an integral part of the prettiest landscape designs. Thus edging materials  double as not only aesthetic but also as functional elements. Designs as simple as the laid-in rock edging in the picture below separate the walkway materials – compacted gravel – from the enriched and lush soil of the beds of this fine small herb and flower garden in Portland, Oregon. The thing is they also look good.

Garden Edging

(click images to enlarge)

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That one was actually a tough project to make work. The designer asked us to create edges which were nearly perfect – along with the plane of the top edge – which, while not a big deal on the face of it, making it work with the materials at hand required a lot of manual hammer chipping, then fitting – all of this with materials which were all wildly different sizes. Looking at the step stones at the foot of the bench in the picture above is a reasonable gander at the materials we had to work with. The other aspect is how deeply-planted the edgings were. Let’s just say these edges are not going anywhere for a while.

Naturally, lawn edges are what people often refer to when thinking of edging and edging materials. Later, below, I will show the world of “edgings” is far and above merely lawn edging, but a look at lawns is instructive and probably the reason most people would be most interested in the category in general.

Lawn Edging

In order to fully appreciate lawn edging, one is benefited most by considering the alternative. By not having lawn edging, what we are left with can be the rhizomes that grass roots develop which  spread routinely. Thus comes the need to consistently address the edges in order to render them under some sort of control. I have dealt, cursing and swearing, with these matters, from a strictly maintenance aspect. The near-weekly need to edge and weed at the same time is a chore that generates a lot of business and focus for such “unedged” lawns. It also  requires an expenditure of labor that – frankly – no one wants, from the homeowner to the personnel who consistently need to get on their knees and pull out the offending rhizomes and spreading grass. Applications of herbicides then becomes an appealing solution – perhaps the least productive answer to anyone’s long term health – of garden and persons.

For example, imagine how much easier to maintain this lawn below, compared to the one following it:

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Beautiful as it is, the gardeners spend abundant time here managing the edges of this pretty little lawn:


And even this otherwise gorgeous landscape sees the upper edges in need of work and constant definition:

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The price of this extruded cement edging is about $3.00-$3.50 a lineal foot. What we have above is a stretch of about 75 feet. Thus, on a project the owners paid upwards of $25K for, they opted to omit this $225 worth of pricing when including it would have given them something more along these lines and meant countless hours less fuss:


These particular edgings are widely-used out West in the US. They do require some preparation in order to be completely terrific. Indeed, much the same as paving, the better the surface below, the better able it will be to take on the wheels of lawnmowers and weather. These aspects are best laid prior to installation of the grass, in my experience, but it is always possible to retro-fit them to conform to existing areas as well. We always have gone the extra length in order to assure ourselves of a good sub base. To reach a level like the one below, just being sodded for its first time, are some essential steps:


The preparation – well done – deals with each foot of this small cement barrier having been compacted solidly, usually with a mix of sand, soil and even gravel underneath. From that point on, it is possible then to fill in the elements which will surround the barrier.



Nor does this S-shaped concrete edging always give the most ideal edge. Below is what was once the Model Home in a pretty large subdivision. We were asked to install a water feature – not too distracting or noisy – with a small bridgework to be installed spanning its narrows. The owners were insistent on having some lawn there as well and I think we made it work delightfully well. Notice the flat top to this lawn edging, something less apparent, yet still separative and in the same hue as the other concrete around it:

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Other Edgings

Otherwise, edging materials supply separation for things such as paving bricks:

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They can also be of materials other than concrete, steel, for example:


Slim and sturdy, once established they stay in place for long years, separating elements of this Portland, Oregon lawn and garden in various unobtrusive ways:


Plastic Edgings

Plastic edging is actually a fairly exciting and newer development and is, by far, cheaper than the alternatives listed above. I suppose I should have mentioned these first, but then, had I done that, there would have been much less showing off. I personally consider that a fate worse than death itself. 😉

And here we get into who’s a gardener and who’s not. Edging, in many ways, is best seen and not heard. Separation is the game and plastic’s essential nature allows it to bend and conform easily with the edges we desire. Here, for example, is a project done by a landscape architect friend of mine, Ofer El Hashahar, who I feature in another post just a few ago. His website in in my blogroll, in fact. This is a UK project, full of color and definition and all dependent upon plastic lawn and garden edging.


They work magnificently. If the end goal is a lawn which we can take pride in and which requires less maintenance, then we reach a point where we wonder what we can spend and work from there. Obviously, the wonders of cement edging allow us to tone the color of the edging if we desire, giving us an extremely elegant and even enhancing aesthetic dimension to edgings. Needless to say, the funky sort of natural stone look is as nice in many ways but is severely unable to handle the lawn edge challenge of supporting wheel traffic without the mower bouncing and the stones deforming. Steel, for anyone who has used it, is an enormously tricky material to work with and its cost is surprisngly close to that of extruded cement.

Plastic edging, when installed correctly can be a wonderful product, reasonably easy to install and often making designers out of the most normal of people!

It’s so easy, in fact, even a landscaper can do it!


Of course, he may need just the right equipment for the job. After all, my motto has always been to work smarter, not harder. Oh yes, and “No job too big or too small!:

(this one enlarges real nicely!)


It’s my blog and I’ll do what I want.

14 thoughts on “Edging Materials in Landscapes

  1. Steve, where can I get this machine?

    Is it a big trencher for lawn edging or may I use it for root barrier too. Ha ha, great photo.
    After installing, designing, importing and selling a range of lawn edging- must say it is one of the jobs that you do not want to do twice.

    So choose well, If it is plastic edging choose a strong one 1mm ot 2mm thick not less.

    metal or stones are good as well but more expensive.

    Avoid using timber unless it was dipped well in oil, as it does not last long.

    the importance of edgings is not just to create a clean line and to stop the lawns from spreading – I found from the days that I used to maimtain many gardens that if you do have a good lawn edging it is used as a guide for the strimmer- so the job takes about third of the time.

    Now just thing what does it mean in terms of money per year. where I worked hot and irrigated strimming needed 20-25 times a year. But even if it is 10 times . the cost of the time that can be saved in a year will cover the cost of the edging probably in the first year.

    So y not.

  2. You are correct about the ‘not wanting to do the edging twice” part although, Lord knows, I have traveled that road, too. The big machine your refer to is actually a small machine – I assume you’re asking about the concrete extruder. Those little guys are small and relatively simple but they sell for – like – $10,000 or something. I have no idea why so expensive, either. They also require a mixing machine for the cement, ready to go. It’s a pain, frankly and I was always delighted to have someone else do it for me.

  3. I really like the steel edging in the Portland garden. The concrete divided from the dark stones(?) is really dramatic, very yin-yang.

    And what is that monstrous piece of machinery at the end? Show that to the client that turned down the concrete edging–it might change their minds.
    .-= lostlandscape(James)´s last blog ..house project update =-.

  4. Working with steel edging is interesting. Naturally enough, choosing the contrasting elements is as important, if not more so. You could literally do the same thing with recycled plastic. Man, another thing – steel can be nasty to work with. You know those “spring things?? LOL. They’re all made outta steel!

  5. I personally LOVE concrete curbing (edging). In fact, that’s the only edge on a lawn that I do like. Metal edging is okay. But I’d prefer just to edge the lawn with an edger every week or two. We’re fortunate, here in Portland, that we don’t have rhizomatous grasses. So we don’t really require edging like they do in other states. A decent edging job every 2 weeks keeps most lawns looking great around here.

    Regardless, I wish concrete curbing (edging) was more popular here. I love the look and I love how it contains grass and lasts forever. You can run over it with a mower, run up next to it with an edger, and in 5 years it will still look great! Not true with plastic or wood edge restraints.

    Unfortunately, I can’t get anyone in the NW excited about curbing. Everyone here thinks it looks too formal. 🙁

    Anyway, what are you doing with a photo of my paver saw? We only use that saw on our BIG paver installations. I’ll let it slide this time. 😉

  6. I couldn’t resist using “your saw”, man, I officially, unilaterally and totally apologize! It’s just what a big project needs…………..
    ……….for 5 minutes, lol.

  7. We are about to edge various areas of our landscaping, including a curved DG path, straight edge between lawn and ground cover, straight edge between lawn and rocks. We like the simple, clean look of metal edging, such as steel and aluminum. Have you worked with either, do you have any recommendations for working with metal edgings or particular brands?

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