How to guides

Garden style: How to structure your borders

A new-build garden provides the opportunity to plan your planting borders from scratch and put your own stamp on the space. 

Milward Gardens - shelford - front garden

Add character to your new garden.

Decide on your shape

The style of garden you prefer will have an influence on the shape of your borders. Straight borders can look sleek and streamlined in a contemporary space, while curved borders will add a more informal, organic feel.

If you’re going for a curved border, it’s a good idea to mark out the shape with a hose pipe; if your borders are going to be straight, use string and wooden pegs.

Milward Gardens - shelford - back garden

Remove the grass

Mark out the edge with a garden hoe tool, then use a spade to lift the turf that’s covering your border.

When the earth is free of grass, dig in some organic matter in the form of well-rotted compost to prepare the soil for planting.


Give it some structure

For a planting scheme that looks good all year, it pays to include some evergreen shrubs. Larger shrubs will form a structure at the back and middle of your borders, while smaller plants can give shape to the front.

Try boxus balls for a formal look, viburnum or buddleja for bee-friendly flowers, or daphne for a sweet aroma.

Westfield Gardens

Add some height

Taller shrubs will give some interest to the back of your border and will help to create privacy in your garden.

Trees are a great thing to have in your outside space, even in a small plot. Fruit trees like cherry, pear and apple are covered with pretty blossom in the spring, and you can find varieties in different sizes depending on the dimensions of your garden.

Lindfield Meadows, Lindfield - Elliston - rear garden

Cover the fence

At the back of your border, you could also grow climbing plants, which will cover the fence to provide a gorgeous backdrop to your garden. Jasmine and honeysuckle are good if you’re looking for a sweet-smelling climber, or there are infinite varieties of clematis to choose from.

Make sure you give your climbing plant something to grow along, by nailing a trellis to your garden fence.

Dovecote Place - Westcott - lounge with views of garden

Pick some perennials

Among the shrubs you can plant perennials – these are plants that flower for a certain amount of time every year, then die down and grow again even stronger the following year.

When choosing perennials, consider the aspect of your garden and whether it gets a lot of sun, or is in the shade. There are perennials for every position, so you should be able to find the perfect ones for your space.

Man watering garden

Fill the gaps

It takes a while for shrubs and perennials to really establish themselves, so in the meantime you can fill the empty spaces with annuals. These are plants that grow for just one year, such as cosmos and poppies. Although they won’t grow back the following year, many varieties will self-seed and pop up in another part of your garden next season.

Boy playing football in garden

Give them an edge

You could have a border that finishes naturally at the edge of the lawn with no adornments apart from some low growing plants – or you could add a decorative finish such as a traditional log roll, which is made from a line of half logs along a curved or straight edge.

Alternatively lay bricks facing outwards along the rim to build up a flat, even pattern. If your borders are straight you could use railway sleepers to mark out the edge, and fill your soil higher than the lawn. 

Kilnwood Vale, Faygate - Trafalgar - front garden