There are, of course, more than five evergreen herbs that would make a decorative and scented edging to your flower borders, but five is a good number to start with, as it allows us to look at some of the pros and cons of choosing particular herbs for this role.
Edging your flower borders with a run of the same low growing plant can add an air of gentle formality to your garden design.
Formal because the plants are the same, and gentle due to the softness of planting when compared to a wooden raised bed or a brick raised bed, for example.
These herbs, like other evergreen shrubs, can be used to create boundaries within the garden as well as around the limits of the garden.
One of the benefits of using evergreen herbs is that they will provide you with both year round foliage and colour. But a further benefit is that the foliage will be aromatic, adding a further layer of interest to your senses and to your garden.
The foliage is scented as it contains essential oils which give the herbs their fragrance. These volatile oils are released when the foliage is rubbed, so growing evergreen herbs as an edge to your flower border, especially where this adjoins a garden path, releases the fragrance as you brush past.
Rosemary is well known as a strongly scented culinary herb, frequently used to flavour lamb joints and casseroles. It also helps to stimulate memory, as Ophelia says in Shakespeare’s Hamlet –
“There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance; pray, love, remember”
As an edging for a flower border rosemary should be chosen carefully, as it grows into a quite a tall shrub, so the plants you have behind still need to be visible.
We used it in planting design for a front garden where it would grow to form a pungently scented small hedge around the border edges. As an evergreen herb it gave a formal air to the planting throughout the year, whilst the bedding could be changed to give varying seasonal interest.
Rosemary responds well to being clipped so in time a dense hedge could be achieved.
Thyme is another heavily aromatic culinary herb. Like rosemary it is also an herbal remedy for coughs and colds.
It is a smaller shrub, and so potentially provides an easier edging to plant behind than rosemary, if height is an issue. It can be used as a mixed edging, where different upright varieties or cultivars of thyme are used together, as here, where Thymus vulgaris (common, or culinary thyme), Thymus citriodorus (lemon thyme) and Thymus ‘silver posie’ are all found.
Thyme is particularly pleasant herb to use in combination this way, as then the cook of the household has a range of flavours to choose from, but the flower border edge still maintains its coherence. Just be sure to use all upright forms of thyme if you’re mixing like this. Or indeed use all prostrate or creeping forms if an overflowing edge to your flower border or path is wanted.
If you do want a low growing edge then the marjoram or oregano evergreen herbs are the family you should be looking at. If you’re wondering about the whole ‘marjoram’ and ‘oregano’ naming, the botanical Latin name is Oregano, marjoram is the common or use name.
As with the thymes, there is a range of foliage colours which can be combined or used individually. As well as the green leaved form, there is golden marjoram and silver leaved marjoram.
I have found these especially attractive when used to edge a raised bed flower border or a raised vegetable bed, as they will hang over the edge with a determined leafiness, unlike some trailing plants. Although the foliage is low growing, do be aware that the small white flowers during spring and summer are held on tall stems. The bees love the nectar rich flowers, but if you wanted to maintain a ground hugging herbal edge, you would need to cut off the flower spikes.
Lavender hedges and lavender edges to paths and flower borders are often used and work well in a sunny garden. Personally, I have found English lavender (Lavendula angustifolia) to be more amenable to this use than French lavender (Lavendula stoechas), but it depends on whether your intention is to have a close growing edge of evergreen herbs, or whether you’re happy for there to be gaps in between the plants.
Lavender ‘hidcote’ is one of the more compact forms of English lavender that is particularly suitable for edging a border. These particular plants were bought as clones, ie they were all taken as cuttings from a stock plant, so that the eventual height would be virtually the same. There are always minor differences, due to different levels of sunlight for example, but by using clones or cuttings there is greater uniformity.
We tend to firstly think of lavender flowers as being purple – lavender coloured even! It is worth remembering that pink and white flowers are also possible and may better suit your garden colour scheme.
If you aren’t keen on flowers at all, santolina may be the edging herb for you. With year round sweetly aromatic foliage, the sulphur yellow button flowers that Santolina chamaecyparissus produces in spring seem almost unnecessary.
Also known as cotton lavender, santolina makes an excellent low hedge or edging plant. If you do want to keep it neat, it is advisable to cut off those flowers and just enjoy the silver foliage.
However, if it is green foliage you would like as well as this particular scent then try Santolina rosmarinifolia; the pale primrose yellow flowers are pretty against the dark green leaves.
Hopefully this quick run through five evergreen herbs that would work as edging for your flower borders and paths has given you some ideas as to what might work in your own garden. If you’re in need of more help with those idea, you know where to come; and we can create planting designs for you long distance too.
But if you still have coffee in the pot to finish drinking, you may enjoy some of our other blogs to give you even more garden inspiration…