My dream garden border had to be low maintenance and couldn’t cost an arm and a leg–I had a flower budget to stick to! I also had so many exciting low maintenance garden border ideas…
Perennial flower borders are the crown jewel of the most beautiful and most visited gardens all over the world. A well-planned herbaceous border with year-round drama is the flower gardener’s dream come true.
The best part is, you don’t need much money to get started on your own DIY garden border, and you can keep up with the maintenance alongside your busy life—if you plan it right!
Budget Tip: Low maintenance garden ideas on a budget are truly possible. I know you can do it because I did it myself!
I saw my first herbaceous border on a British gardening show, and I was hooked. I had to look up the word “herbaceous” because it wasn’t in my daily vocabulary, and I’m forever glad that I did.
I discovered the joy of the perennial flower garden—the garden border—that came into fashion back in the 19th Century with William Robinson’s classic book: The English Flower Garden. Thankfully gardening is always in fashion!
The flowers begin to bloom in early spring, between late April and November in the Northern hemisphere, with ever-changing cycles of natural beauty, color, textures and foliage at varying heights. The garden border attracts the birds and butterflies and envious neighbors’ compliments!
In December, when the snow falls on seed heads, your low maintenance garden border ideas transform into a magical winter wonderland. In springtime, the beauty begins all over again without any extra effort from you, thanks to the science of perennial planting and the wonder of Mother Nature.
There’s always something special to see in the garden border outside my kitchen window. The best is when I take a coffee outside and sit on the garden bench, which I built myself, admiring my favorite flowers.
Digging the Low Maintenance Garden Ideas!
My low maintenance garden border ideas came to life with a bit of know-how, determination, a sturdy shovel and a small plot of land.
I had outdoor space in my front yard that had been bothering me for a while—difficult to mow, a sloped lawn (I always dreaded mowing the grass on the bank!) that was practically begging for color and beauty.
The first thing I did was to stake out the edges of my soon to be DIY garden border with pegs and string. You can choose any shape for your border—flowy curves or straight lines—to suit your tastes and flow with the property line or fence or any low maintenance shrubs you choose to add.
Replace as much lawn as you dare! You’re not going to miss mowing the grass, and you are going to love the space for more plants. Once I had my lines set, I got digging.
It wasn’t too difficult for me to dig my garden plot. Keys to success included beginning my DIY garden border in springtime, after the last frost had passed, when the ground was warm enough to break with ease. I turned the earth with rich mulch from my local garden center.
Budget Tip: Call up a local stable and ask for free manure!
Composted manure or mulch brings nutrients and organic matter into the soil. Healthy soil is essential to make your low maintenance garden border ideas come to life. When the plants set their roots in quality soil, they take off growing—upward and outward, filling gaps between plants—leaving no space for weeds to grow!
We all detest weeding! It’s a big reason that most of us think we don’t have time for a DIY garden border.
But weeds require sunlight and nutrients too—and hungry perennials planted in a well-nourished garden border take up all the growing space there is, leaving nothing left for the weeds. No unwanted plant will survive in the dark beneath their dense foliage.
This is why I say that proper planting brings your low maintenance garden border ideas to reality. You definitely want to begin with organic matter and good soil.
Plan your Planting for Truly Low-Cost Low Maintenance Garden Border Ideas
Perennial plants are the stuff of a proper English garden border. Sure, you can add in a low maintenance shrub, but perennials are particularly fantastic for DIY garden ideas on a budget because they don’t die off each year and don’t need replacing like annual flower plants do.
Plan to plant a garden composed entirely of perennials to save yourself money. Every year in the springtime, your flowers will come back to life like clockwork and put on a glorious show. Many can be divided in half or into parts when they grow bigger–in this way, one plant becomes many more and they go on to thrive.
Budget Tip: Dividing and sharing perennials with your friends, and receiving different ones in return, is a wonderful way to keep inside your flower budget!
Planning the planting scheme gets more interesting because different perennials bloom at different times of the year. You’ll want to take advantage of the timing to give your garden year-round interest. Create a calendar to select plants that bloom in each of the seasons.
My favorite flowers, which look great together and bloom through different seasons, are herbaceous border classics and also the best low maintenance plants. Lupins, Rudbeckia, Phlox (especially the white blooms!), Hardy Geraniums, Crocosmia, Lavender, Sea Holly, Peonies, Penstemon, Echinacea and of course Roses are all excellent examples. Daffodils are bulbs I love best that come up in early spring. Some, like the Sea Holly and Lavender, are drought tolerant, sun loving plants.
Budget Tip: Drought tolerant plants can save you time and money because they require less water and fertilizer!
When you get your plants for free from friends who divide their own, make sure you ask when the flowers bloom, how tall the plants will grow and when to plant them. Also ask whether they prefer sun or shade, partial shade, moist or dry soil. Many plants, such as decorative grass, do well in a mix of both.
If you buy your perennials at the garden center (choose plants off the clearance table, like me!) it’s even simpler—they should be tagged with the plant name plus all the information you’ll need to place the plant in the right spot and provide the right watering and soil. When possible, consult a buying guide.
Choose a plant carefully and save time later.
Budget Tip: Clearance plants may not look the best when you buy them, but with a little fertilizer, regular watering, and love they’ll soon be every bit as nice for half the price, or better!
The golden rule of garden border planting is tall at the back, short at the front. Not unlike grade school kids lined up for the class photo! That said, rules are made to be broken.
The most interesting DIY garden borders I’ve seen dare to pepper a few wispy taller plants toward the front amidst a low ground cover such as Hardy Geranium. Create peek-a-boo or cloak and veil effects. Tall plants add texture.
Other considerations for low maintenance garden border ideas include flower and plant foliage colors. Perennial plants come in all sizes, shapes and colors.
Some of us like to create a wild cottage garden look with all the pretty colors and low maintenance plants crammed in one space. Some of us want to stick to a limited color theme or even go monochromatic for planting—it’s really up to personal taste! Plan wisely and plant fun.
Budget Tip: Color planning doesn’t have to cost more and it’s a great opportunity to express your personal garden style.
Equally important is the grouping and repetition of plant varieties. Flowering perennials are best planted in repeated patterns that give the effect of harmony throughout the herbaceous border. Want a special tip I learned from my British gardening friend? Plant in odd numbered groups!
Try five full sun Rudbeckia hugged up to three French Lavenders, add in a smattering of seven Stonecrop plus three dramatic Lupins for flare at the front. Decorative grass can be interesting. Onward, rinse (as in watering regularly!) and repeat…
DIY Garden Seating Ideas on a Budget
While you’re bringing your low maintenance garden border ideas to life, you’re going to want to go the extra mile and put in a garden bench. Especially if you have patio space. Especially if you have trees that create dappled light and delicious shady spots for seating areas or a perfect patch of full sun.
Garden seating lets you invite friends over to enjoy the flower displays with you, and gives you somewhere to relax when you’re outside with a coffee in hand.
For some of us, the need for garden furniture means a quick trip to the local home center to buy a garden bench. You know the classic bench, the iron vines, cedar planks... Good on you! Now you have a place where you can sip tea and watch the pollinators play.
But if you’re like me, and your vision is truly low-cost low maintenance garden border ideas, you’ll want some garden seating ideas on a budget too!
Budget Tip: Free wood pallets can be remodeled into garden furniture!
The cutest DIY garden seating ideas on a budget include chairs made from free wood pallets (surprisingly easy!) or a couple of cedar planks set over two big rocks or neat stacks of bricks.
Wood materials, bricks and stone can almost always be picked up for free using your local online classifieds! Try painting an indoor bench you no longer need or an extra dining room chair with a bright all-weather paint for cheerful refurbished DIY garden seating ideas on a budget.
Your Low Maintenance Garden Border Ideas through the Seasons
If you plant wisely, your DIY garden border springs to life as soon as the ground warms after the last winter frost. Don’t worry about the cold, your low maintenance plants are hardy plants!
Spring flowers include adorable periwinkles and a huge range of bulbs such as daffodils and early spring crocus, which come up every year to celebrate the season. Spring is the season of green grass and new life.
Summer is the loveliest time of all the plants in the garden—this is when your border comes into full splendor under full sun. Bring on the Bellflowers and Vinca Minor!
As your low maintenance plants take nourishment from the warm summer soil, they’ll grow to fill the space and actually suppress weeds. Your plants will do the work of weeding for you!
Gaze over your herbaceous border—all you’ll see are hardy perennials refusing to allow room for any weeds to be seen! On a late summer evening, stroll along your border’s edge and nip off the dead flower heads. Spend a little time deadheading and enjoy much less maintenance overall.
Budget Tip: Deadheading causes new flowers to grow back in place of the old. Your garden border replenishes itself without additional costs or hard work... It’s that easy!
Autumn comes around again, and you’ll enjoy the fall-flowering blooms, easy care plants like Echinacea, Helenium and Asters.
Winter is special in the garden too. The perennial border changes with the seasons and when a late winter wonderland frosts the spiderwebs and ices the quirky seed heads you’ll be struck with a whole new kind of beauty.
To Stake or Not to Stake! The DIY Garden Border and the Chelsea Chop that Saves You Time
Sometimes tall plants grow too fast and get stringy. The stalks become weak. This is when your gardener friends will start to talk about staking. This is also exactly the talk that gives herbaceous borders a bad name in terms of maintenance!
The truth is, if you plan with low maintenance garden ideas in mind, if you use good mulch and plant the perennials wisely so they grow to fill the gaps, your garden border will be dense with foliage. It will thrive full of low maintenance plants that actually hold the weakest stalks in place!
Budget Tip: A healthy well-planned garden border should need no staking, which means no additional costs for supplies!
The Chelsea chop, named for the world-famous flower show, is a fantastic low maintenance garden hack to help prolong the blooming season for your border and avoid ever having to stake up flimsy tall plants again. Low maintenance plants are the goal!
In May (around the time of the Chelsea Flower Show) clumps of perennials can be literally hacked back by a third or half their height! The few seconds it takes you to chop away your plants will delay their flowering until later in the summer and actually keep the stalks shorter and sturdier.
Say goodbye to high maintenance staking. Say hello to easy care plants and low maintenance gardens!
Beauty is in the Details–Quick Fixes and Tips to Make Your Garden Border Perfect for You
As you get to know your DIY garden border, you’ll learn about the special things that make your garden unique and make it truly yours. You’ll notice the way sunlight plays off the dew drops on the Foxgloves early in the mornings, making them shine like diamonds. You'll notice you want to buy shrubs. You’ll also notice the things you want to fix in your garden!
For me, specific issues that came up were lighting and pesky mosquitoes. I’m talking about pest control for humans! This turned out to have a low-cost, double-edged solution.
Solar lights that illuminate the edges of a garden border and give off a fairyland glow that I love in summer evenings can also be bug zappers. The little lanterns double as mosquito traps and come in styles and sizes to suit every preference. The pointed tips stick right into the grass.
Budget Tip: Solar bug zappers double as lights for your border’s edge and pathways–two garden solutions at one low cost!
The ones I tried, and love, are Kane & Lono. I placed a row of pretty mosquito zappers that look like stout lanterns along the edge of my garden border, approximately three feet apart with easy access.
Now I tend to my garden as the summer sun goes down, watering without slapping at mosquitos on my arms. With solar light, I can see all the way along the garden border and enjoy the rustling sounds of leaves in the wind and the delicious scents of a herbaceous flower border in my own backyard, year-round and into the night.
Time Relaxing in the Garden is Time Well Spent!
I have birds and butterflies that visit me. My neighbors are impressed with my easy care flowers and keep asking how they can design their own DIY garden borders too.
I feel healthier because I love gardening. Best of all, I have time to tend to my flower beds because I used low maintenance garden border ideas! And I have money left over because I stayed within my budget.
What comes next for my DIY projects? The garden’s the limit!
Now all the work is done and I’m thinking about more ideas for low maintenance plants and gardens, low maintenance shrubs (so many more shrubs!) and zero maintenance artificial grass, low-cost water features and a DIY irrigation system… Because, why not?!
Check out also my article about How to create a Japanese Zen Garden for more ideas