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  • Sue

Border Patrol

Updated: Nov 7, 2021

Perfect opportunity this week to reshape a border I have been meaning to attend to for the last year. I want to square up the grass area (do we have lawns in France?) in front of the house so that the shape/proportions of the grass reflect the rectangular appearance of the house's facade, which is a small, but traditional Girondine winemaker's property. The borders around the edge of this piece of grass will be the closest to formal we get to in the garden and the further away from the house the garden extends, the more relaxed the planting style until, at the far end, we have the wildlife garden which dissolves into the borrowed landscape beyond. At least that is the theory.

So - until yesterday we had a lawn with three straight edges and one curving one which defined the edge of a shady border where we have a table and chairs for summer meals. That fourth side needed to be straightened out to fit in with the grand plan.

Starting to knock in the wooden stakes and cut out the shape of the extended border.

When reshaping a border I follow advice given in a book by one of my garden heroes - Beth Chatto. (Beth Chatto's Garden Notebook and elsewhere). She advises initially marking out the area you want to change with rope or a hose pipe. I find this works extremely well for curved borders as you can play around with the shape and size until you get what you want, but for a straight border I prefer to knock in small wooden stakes and use straight bits of wood as a guide. You can then use line of sight to try and get a straight line where you want it. once you have made all of your adjustments she then advises taking a half moon edging iron and using it to take out a narrow trench of turf, outlining the shape of your finished border.

This all sounds easy, but it can be surprisingly difficult. I believed I had it right, then went upstairs to look at the finished product from a bedroom window. Disaster - it was way out; no parallel borders or symmetry at all, but happily I had cut into too small an area and not too large.

More marking out and cutting out of turf followed and the proportions are now correct:

Over the next month or so I will dig over the area between the "trench" and the existing border and then continue to fork it over as perennial weeds re-emerge. I will also have the chance to move one or two existing plants into the new border once I am confident the weeds are out. Winter frosts should help break down the surrounding soil further. In the spring I can add more plants if I need to and then mulch it all well while the ground is still wet.

I drive my poor husband mad with my annual extension of our garden's borders - he wonders whether we will end up with no "lawn" at all. And who is going to do the weeding.

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