Borders in a garden have both a practical and decorative use. Borders separate areas of your yard that you don't want growing together---such as your lawn and vegetable patch. They make your garden neater in appearance and help define areas such as walkways. But more can be brought to your garden through the borders you design and install than just the practical aspect. Depending on the materials you choose, you can use borders to enhance the overall theme for your garden, such as warm, formal, informal or rustic.
Sketch a layout. Use graph paper to sketch a basic outline of your garden. Experiment with different shapes. Borders in straight lines suggest a more formal appearance. Curved borders add visual interest by softening the look of the garden, giving it a flowing appearance. Go outside and use string to block out your design on the ground. View your design from different angles and make adjustments.
Decide on the height of the border. Put the border in at the level of your lawn if you want to be able to easily mow the area up against the border. Use materials such as crushed granite, gravel or pebbles if you want an easy-to-install border. Try a raised planting bed if you want the garden itself to be the border.
Decide whether you want permanent or removable borders. If you are certain of where the garden should go, choose permanent designs such as a poured concrete border or a low brick wall. Interlocking pavers are a good choice if you want to be able to adjust the border later on or change the shape of the garden.
Choose materials that reflect your theme. Use bricks or clay pavers if you want a warm, earthy theme. Concrete pavers look more formal. Try natural materials such as woven willow branches or even split logs to create a rustic look. A good choice for an informal looking border would be river rock, which creates the illusion of a stream running through the garden.
Test out your plan. Go to the home improvement store or garden center and buy several units of your chosen border material, just as you would if you were installing tile in your house. Put the material where your garden will be and see how it looks against the other colors and textures of your outdoor space.