When you see an attractively landscaped property ? be it residential or commercial ? one of the first things you notice is the neatness and symmetry. Whether in straight lines, curves or other designs, plantings and grass flow smoothly to pavers, then stop, providing an aesthetically pleasing appearance.

And that, says Larry Olson, a principal of Oly-Ola Sales, Villa Park, Illinois, is what a viewer should see with a good edging job.

The types of edging we will address in this article are not meant to be used decoratively like bricks, landscape timbers, scalloped cement strips, etc., but rather for function.

?These edgings form a clean, neat line between planting areas and turf or ground covers,? Olson explains. ?The edging must be functional and safe, not decorative or hazardous. It should be tucked into the ground and virtually even with the surface, so a landscape contractor can mow right over it. This alleviates the fear of damaging his or her equipment, or being in danger from flying pieces of edging that otherwise would come in contact with mowing equipment.

?When properly installed, edging should be virtually invisible, blending into the landscape and keeping mulches within the bed area and grass away from paver installations,? Olson continued.

More and more homes and commercial properties are using water features in their landscapes, and edging plays an important role. Some companies manufacture special edging products exclusively for ponds, lakes and water features.

Edging has been around since the early days of landscaping. In the late ?50s and early ?60s steel edging material was used. In California and Arizona, bender board or header board, made of wood, was used as edging. Very little bender board is being installed now.

Steel edging is still being used today in some parts of the country. Those who use steel favor its strength, durability and ability to form straight lines. Its detractors cite high cost, considerable labor requirements for installation, frost heave problems, and the difficulty in working with it. Rusting and safety hazards to pedestrians are also drawbacks.

Houston Grounds Services, Barker, Texas, is a landscape contracting company that utilizes steel edging. A spokeswoman of the firm says her company prefers steel because it has been their experience that it works better than other types of edgings. ?It is very durable,? she says, ?and it stays in place without difficulty.? She added, though, that Houston Grounds Services also uses plastic edging for certain specialized applications.

In the last twenty years, the most widely-used edging has been heavy-duty polyethylene, with a round head on top and a series of grooves, v-lips or fins on the bottom to help prevent frost-heave.

When using plastic edging, it is suggested that you purchase it from a reputable, established manufacturer and use landscape-grade edging. Polyethylene seems to be the choice of plastic used. Polyethylene is pliable, won?t stiffen up and crack, and when treated with an ultraviolet inhibitor, it will endure the rays of the sun.

A heavy wall thickness in the roundtop (.095 inch), is important for eliminating installation head-aches. It will improve durability and help keep the edging in the ground. Some other types of plastics have a tendency to crack and shatter when they become brittle.

Andy Vande Hey of Vande Hey?s Landscape Center, Appleton, Wisconsin, has been in business for more than 51 years and has installed edging for many years. He has a good mix of clients; about 65 percent of his business comes from residential customers, while 35 percent are commercial.

?I recommend edging to all my customers, whether they are
residential or commercial,? says Vande Hey, ?both for the aesthetics and for the practicality the barrier provides. I like plastic edging because it is a low-maintenance product and it offers a nice clean look,? he says.

One aspect of plastic edging Vande Hey especially likes is its ability to stay in place, even during temperature extremes, which are common in Wisconsin. ?I have some plastic edging applications that haven?t moved in 20 years,? he?s happy to say.
John Soderman, owner of Progressive Brick in Hasbrouck Heights, New Jersey, says that he likes plastic edging because it?s easy to handle and install and does not crack. ?If anything, the residence will deteriorate before the edging!?

Aluminum edging is being marketed as an easier-to-work with alternative to steel edging. It is available in silver, painted or anodized black. Aluminum edging does not rust, weighs less than steel, and experienced crews can install it more quickly than they can steel edging.

Gary Kappes, a landscape contractor in Grand Rapids, Michigan, installs aluminum edging for his customers. Kappes says he works mostly on residential installations, placing from 300 to 600 feet of aluminum edging on a typical project. ?Aluminum edging comes in various colors, so it adds to the aesthetics of any installation,? he says. ?It gives each customer a property that looks good and is maintenance free. That?s what all my customers want, and that is what we provide.?

Kappes adds that he also uses steel edging, though on a limited basis, mostly for driveways, to keep grass and other plantings from encroaching on the hardtop.

Steve Cordrey, Millsboro, Dela-ware, agrees. ?What I like about aluminum edging is that it?s virtually maintenance free and durable.?
Cordrey installs his edging around stone beds, as well as on the edges of walkways and patios, to provide clean-cut edges for those areas. He emphasizes such protection is necessary to maintain the integrity of the paver, so grass, plantings and mulches do not intrude onto the paved surfaces.

Ethel Fenn, of Orland Park, Illinois, services mostly residential clients. She likes plastic edging, because it is easy to shape, and is very flexible. Another plus is that the edgings are highly resistant to ground heaves ? a concern in most parts of the country where the climate changes continually.

?If the edging is installed properly, it should be able to resist ground heaves because of its ?memory? to go back to its original shape,? she says. ?I still have the original edging at my own home, and it?s still in excellent shape after many years.?
David Ignoski, executive vice president of Valley View Industries, Crestwood, Illinois, states, ?Some of our customers still have the original edging in the ground. A few contractors reported when working on an old, overgrown site, they found the original edging still in the ground and it was as good as new.?

He is quick to point out that their company originally patented polyethylene edging products in 1968.

All of the edging specialists agree that edgings should be inconspicuous by their presence. They also agree that safety is a prime consideration for all edging installations. And finally, they all say durability of the product is an equally important consideration.

Landscape contractors view their installations almost as works of art, not simply something merely functional. Cordrey emphasizes that a stable and maintenance-free environment for each customer is paramount. Vande Hey says the ?nice, clean look? of his edging installations have pleased customers for more than 51 years, since his grandfather started the landscaping company. And Fenn gets a great deal of satisfaction when she receives compliments from customers and those who see the customer?s property, and remark about its aesthetic beauty.

Olson considers landscape edging ?one of the most misunderstood products in the landscape industry. Its benefits and beauty are found in not being seen. Its function is simply to form a clean, neat line between planting areas and turf or ground covers, maintaining the manicured look of a high-quality landscape design.?

For both manufacturers and landscape contractors, the ultimate goal is to provide each customer with a high-quality product that will last indefinitely. The various types of lawn edgings result in installations that do exactly that, satisfy the customer and enhance the aesthetics of the landscape for years to come.

The choice of material is strictly up to the company making the installation. As you can see, each of them have preferences. Certainly there is a difference in price between plastic, steel and aluminum edging that will reflect on the final cost. However, all the contractors seem to agree on the need for edging material, and it?s on their recommend list for clients.

July 2001