Eleanor Wilson's Top Tips on Garden Border Design


Eleanor Wilson, a garden designer based near Sherborne, Dorset, was recently sponsored by us when she took part in the BBC Gardener’s World Live Beautiful Borders competition at the Birmingham NEC. The theme for the 2016 competition was literature and Eleanor created a design that was inspired by Rudyard Kipling following a trip to war graves along the former Western Front. Kipling’s phrase ‘Known unto God’ is used on the gravestones of unidentified servicemen and the huge contrast between this and his more famous works of fiction that resonated with echoes of the years he spent living in India is where Eleanor drew her influences for the border from. “My plot represented the contrast of the vivid colour and smells of India set against his personal traumas,” Eleanor tells me before going on to explain that Kipling lost his son during the First World War and that his body was never identified.

Garden Border Inspired by Rudyard Kipling

Photo Credit: Eleanor Wilson

”The blocked forms represent the standard size and shape of the war graves in the Western Front” – Eleanor Wilson, Silver Award winner at the BBC Gardener’s World Live Beautiful Borders competition

Having had an incredibly varied career so far, Eleanor has worked in a number of roles from being Head of a customer services department within local government, to being an officer in the Royal Air Force with stints in finance and healthcare along the way. After leaving her job last September, Eleanor has just recently completed an advanced garden design course at Kingston Maurward College. “I have always loved gardens and plants, I vividly remember flying back to the UK from a long tour in the Falklands and looking down at our beautiful, green country and thinking one day I would like to help create beautiful gardens for people,” she says as she talks about the drive behind pursuing a change in career. “I started by designing and tending my own garden, studied for a City and Guilds in horticulture and started to help friends and relatives in their gardens and my passion grew from there,” she adds, saying that completing the design course really gave her the confidence to start up her own business, ‘Eleanor Wilson Garden Design’.

Colourful Garden Border

Photo Credit: Eleanor Wilson

Eleanor received a silver award for her design in the BBC Gardener’s World Live competition and so we asked her for a few top tips and insider secrets to help you create your own beautiful border.

1. Planning is the most important part of any project. There are a lot of things to think about, but the first thing is the size and positioning of your garden border. Size is something that most people decide based on their own personal preference, but if you are limited on space it might be tempting to keep your border minimal so it does not take over the entire garden. Eleanor says that her absolute minimum width is 50cm, as anything smaller “will not only look mean, but will be difficult to feed, water and mulch.” Another top tip she has is making the most of the space available to you vertically. Having a border on one side of the garden and using climbers on the other can actually make a small garden look bigger.

Brick Edged Garden Border

Photo Credit: Pinterest

2. Understand your soil type before you start. With so many different things to consider it is important to know how to remedy any issues that your soil type can cause. An example Eleanor uses is moisture retentive soil, such as clay which can be full of moisture during wet periods but bake rock hard in prolonged dry periods. In most cases, the introduction of organic matter such as garden compost and grit can prevent any problems but in more extreme situations, the addition of a French drain may be advisory. Not only will this involve more work, the additional cost will need to be factored into your budget!  Understanding the pH level of the soil and the aspect of the border is also important.  It is far better to work with the conditions you have – if you have moisture retentive, alkaline soil, choose plants that love these conditions.

3. Many people choose not to use a hard edge between a lawn and a border, and the effect of this is a more natural looking feature. Unfortunately it also means more work in the long run, as the lawn edge will require a clip every time the lawn is mowed to keep it looking neat and tidy. Using edging blocks will help combat this and also keep maintenance to a minimum. Eleanor tells us that she likes to use bricks, because they are, “neat, tidy, readily available and easy to lay.” Our engineering bricks are a great option as they cost effective and ideal for use outdoors.

Vertical Garden Borders for Small Gardens

Photo Credit: Pinterest

4. Buy the best tools available! Often it can be tempting to use a cheaper option, especially if you are trying to keep costs to a minimum. Less expensive tools may be of an inferior quality and may not last as long. Eleanor’s most used garden tools are her spade and fork, but when planting she says that a good pair of secateurs, loppers, and edging tools are just as important. A decent lawnmower is also an important investment to make, especially if you want to keep on top of garden maintenance.

5. Choosing your plants is one of the most exciting parts of creating a garden border, but before you hit the garden centre, Eleanor says that whilst variety is important sometimes having too many different types of plant can look disorganised and mismatched. Picking up three, or five of the same plant will grow to create a full looking border rather than something that may look patchy and poorly planned.

Eleanor Wilson Bedding her Garden Border Design

Photo Credit: Eleanor Wilson

There is lots to consider but these top tips from Eleanor will hopefully give you a good place to start! If you’d like any help or advice, please speak to a landscaping expert in your local branch. If we’ve missed anything out, please let us know on Facebook, Twitter or email us at ecommerce@bradfords.co.uk.

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