Urban gardening: Softening transitions in your garden

Designers will often talk about ‘softening’ edges or marking transitions in your garden. A solid structure can often lead to harsh boundaries, right angles and edges. Well thought out planting will not only soften these edges but bring them alive, turning the edge to a key focal point in the garden.

Framing a pathway

Lavender creates a striking pathway.

You will often find Lavandula angustifolia ‘hidcote’ snaking its way either side of a prominent garden path.

Gardeners can try to be too clever. There is a balance between innovation and then, ‘if it ain't broke, why try to fix.’.

Essentially, it doesn't matter that your neighbour has lavender running down their path, or framing their patio... it looks great, is fantastically scented, and bees love it.

Buy lavender container grown and bring those edges alive!

The Patio

Buxus Sempervirens

Box Hedging or buxus sempervirens makes a great
low, ornamental hedge to line your lawn or patio

While lavender is also a great option for a patio, some of you will complain about staring out of your kitchen window in the depths of winter at woody clumps, the flowering heads long removed.

An evergreen solution to this problem is to plant a low (30-40cm) box hedge around your patio. Although it is too late to buy bare root Buxus semprevirens you can still get your hands on container-grown box - and it is still not too late to plant. Just remember to water regularly.

If you are not concerned with winter colour and desire a full sensual experience in the summer, then carefully train roses around your patio. One option is to build a rustic post and rail fence, not more than 1.5 m high, and train your roses onto the rails. I have seen this done very effectively with wooden posts and cast iron rails.

For a more formal effect, replace the cast iron rails with high tensioned steel wire. The roses will require regular attention to keep them trained neatly, but if you choose a repeat flowerer, then you will have a profusion of scent and colour throughout the summer.

The vegetable garden

Training espaliers creates a lovely effect.
Image from Cottage in the Oaks

If you have limited space, then you can turn the border of your vegetable garden into an edible, green hedge.

As with the roses, all you need is a post and rail fence, or simple trellis. On this, you could train:

Each year, you would then set aside selected new growth and remove the old wood. Maintaining the berries in a neat fan shape keeps the space looking neat and attractive.

Amongst your berries, you could train espalier apples and pears. If you're unsure how to train your fruit trees, take a look at our information page.

A fun shape cherry, damson or plum will ensure a supply of stone fruit.

In this way you will create a beautiful edible boundary, while leaving plenty of space for all of your vegetables.

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