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Homes & Gardens
Homes & Gardens
Holly Crossley

7 metal garden edging ideas – low maintenance ways to define your backyard

Gravel steps contained by corten steel leading through sloping garden featuring grasses, small conifers, pink and blue perennial.

There are many ways to line garden features, but metal garden edging ideas have to be some of the most stylish. As with all varieties of edging, they instantly smarten up a space and help to keep things in their proper place – but they also offer an essence of industrial chic that is bang on-trend.

Corten steel, in particular, is having a real moment right now when it comes to landscaping ideas. And we expect this to stick around for a good while. But there are other options when it comes to this robust material, including shiny copper and powder-coated looks.

And despite what you might think, you don't have to have a super-contemporary space to make this design work. Metal garden edging ideas are surprisingly versatile, complementing all manner of garden themes.

(Image credit: Jacky Hobbs / Future)

Metal garden edging ideas: 7 looks for your yard

We've gathered together some of our top metal garden edging ideas to demonstrate how much they can offer to a space. From flowerbed borders to chic lawn surroundings, metal is the ideal way to create garden zoning.

1. Line statement borders with Corten steel

This striking garden by Your Garden Design features Corten-steel-lined borders (Image credit: Your Garden Design)

When you look at a set-up like this, it's easy to see why Corten steel has taken garden design by storm. It's a great choice for garden edging ideas due to its resilient nature and warm tones. Try this 14-Gauge COR-TEN Steel Landscape Edging at The Home Depot.

If you're wondering what exactly it is (and are feeling dubious about its rusted appearance), then let us explain. Basically, Corten steel's surface doesn't corrode in the atmosphere – instead it oxidizes to form a beneficially protective layer rather than a damaging layer of rust. This means that it can hold up against the elements 

Here it's been used to define sweeping garden path ideas against billowing borders. And, the contrast in colors only adds to the appeal.

'Corten steel is a fantastic choice as a material for backyard hardscaping,' says Teresa Conway, deputy gardens editor at Homes & Gardens. 'Given the fact that weather actually enhances its elegant patina over time.'

2. Toughen up wild planting

'The Lemon Tree Trust' garden by Tom Massey for RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018 (Image credit: Neil Hepworth/RHS)

If you want to give your flowerbed ideas a bit more edge (both literally and figuratively) then metal is a good solution. 

A sturdy style to border raised beds, as seen here, offers all the industrial vibes whilst bringing the scene up closer to eye level. And, it works well when juxtaposed against wilder planting, offering a stark contrast that feels fuss-free and contemporary.

'Be careful not to overuse metal in a backyard scheme. One of the reasons being that it's a costly way to landscape a backyard. But metal works well alongside other landscaping materials, such as stone and gravel, as it cuts through the more rustic effects and gives a sleek definition to an area,' says Teresa.

3. Contrast Corten against pale paving

'Kampo No Niwa' garden by Kazuto Kashiwakura and Miki Sato at RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2019 (Image credit: Sarah Cuttle/RHS)

A small stream of water is a lovely approach to garden divider ideas, or simply as a soothing point of interest. And, when lined with small stones and pretty planting, it can blend into a plot in a very organic way. Dense foliage borders around the perimeter of a garden can add texture.

However, if you bring sleek paving and metal garden edging ideas into the mix, then a sense of balance is brought to the scene. The result? A look that feels up-to-date yet still evokes the essence of a natural landscape. 

'Planting can be used to soften metal edging ideas, so the balance between clean and industrial, and welcoming, isn't too uneven,' says Teresa. 

4. Make steps more interesting

The 'Wuhan Water Garden' designed by Laurie Chetwood and Patrick Collins at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show 2018 (Image credit: Neil Hepworth/RHS)

If you have a sloped backyard, then how about something like this as a solution? It's certainly not your usual set of stairs, demonstrating how steps can be stylish as well as practical.

We like how they slightly offset one another in a pleasingly irregular and architectural layout. The gravel provides a sturdy base underfoot, whilst Corten edging offers a striking contrast with its rustic patina.

Take a cue from the planting arrangements, too. Small ferns and tufts of ornamental grasses look fantastic dotted around the scene, softening the overall style.

5. Try an aluminum and composite combo

Composite edging with aluminium posts by Charles & Ivy (Image credit: Charles & Ivy)

Metal can be used for lawn edging, to great effect. Ornate design add personality to a space, giving borders a modern look which works well alongside planting design.

Although it may look it, this design isn't 100% metal. The panels themselves are in fact made from a composite, eco-friendly material, which is an easy choice for a low-maintenance and durable approach. The posts, however, are made from high-grade aluminum which is powder-coated, to ensure it won't corrode in adverse weather conditions.

6. Line a pond

A Corten-steel lined pond in the 'Health and Wellbeing Garden' by Alexandra Noble at RHS Hampton Court Palace Garden Festival 2018 (Image credit: RHS)

Corten steel can also be used to edge garden pond ideas, as shown in this look. The shallow, circular pool makes a striking feature surrounded by small brick pavers. Pebbles have been used to line the bottom complement and soften the warm-toned metal.

However, don't be tempted to add fish to your relaxing pool if you take the Corten steel approach – the surface layer can turn the water acidic over time which unfortunately can be harmful to them.

7. Try something ornate

Decorative ironwork edging has a classic appeal (Image credit: Evan Sklar / Getty Images)

If you prefer a more classic look, then a traditional ironwork design may be the way forward. This design is timeless and a lovely way to frame flowerbeds.

Pair with the cottage garden plants for a romantic finish, or if you're looking for something a little more formal, then use to complement topiary or ornamental grasses. You could also use a look like this to line pathways for an elevated result.


Which is the best metal to use for garden edging?

Paul McFadyen, Managing Director at metals4U provides insight on the different materials you can use for metal edging and which could be suitable for your garden needs.

'Steel is one of the strongest choices, as it holds shape over a long period of time and has slow corrosion rates, so it can withstand strong weather conditions. It also is heavier and thicker so it provides a sturdy separator to different areas of the garden. 

'The only thing to note with steel is that if left untreated for long periods of time then the edging can begin to rust, so it's important to treat it with the right protective metal sprays which are for outdoor use.'

Paul continues: 'However, Corten steel changes color naturally due to atmospheric conditions and needs no further protective treatments; this grade of steel is also often referred to as "weathering steel". The rich orange and brown patina of weathering steel makes it a popular choice for outdoor applications.'

Another suitable material is heavy gauge aluminum, Paul says. The reason this metal is useful in the garden is that it doesn't rust, and also looks very sleek, which maintains a pleasing aesthetic. 'It is not quite a strong as steel so it does depend on what your preference is for the usage or appearance.'

In terms of copper edging, Paul explains how it's a strong heat conductor, so it can become hot in the sun and become a hazard when touched. 'However, copper is used by many keen gardeners as a weapon in the arsenal against slug and snail infestation,' he adds. 

'The copper ions interact with the proteins, glycoproteins and metal ions present in slug and snail slime – as the unwelcome pests come into contact with copper it sends an electro-neural stimulus that feels like a small electric shock. Copper does not harm them but repels them as they avoid crossing the copper boundaries.'

'Another pleasing effect of copper is that it oxidizes much quicker than other metals and can turn interesting shades of blue and green patina when left outdoors untreated. If you do not want external copper to oxidize, it can be easily lacquered to preserve the original color.

It's important to note that metals won't have a negative impact on the soil, so your plants won't be affected by the elements within metals. For more information on improving your soil health try our guide.

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