When Elissa Steeves first walked around the Blacksburg, Virginia, house that her husband, Harrison, had purchased, it already had a functional landscape. The yard had long since healed from the construction of the 1950s home. The lawn was established, and the trees offered some shade. It had matured into the kind of yard that has moments of beauty but does not require much beyond regular maintenance.
However, Elissa's creative spark, energetic spirit, and horticultural expertise would have no outlet unless she could redesign her yard. So during the past 20 years, change has become the norm, and the landscape has become a garden.
Work began in earnest when a tree-smashing ice storm took out many of the old plants. What would have been a tragedy for many, Elissa saw as a blessing. "I can grow things now that I couldn't have originally because it was so shady," she explains. Always brimming with enthusiasm, Elissa beams, saying, "Losing everything was great because then I was able to start over." The garden today has both sun and shade, vistas and intimate nooks. Most of the plants are perennials. Elissa is constantly making improvements in the form of a new plant, a new combination, or a better design.
Creating a Border
The word "border" is defined as the ornamental edge of something, such as an embroidered tablecloth or a papered wall. In garden design, a classic border is a long planting of perennials (and sometimes trees and shrubs) backed by a wall or hedge, usually at the boundary of the property. If the lot is a large one, the border forms the edge of the garden.
However, in contemporary use, a border has come to mean any bed of carefully composed plantings. It can be narrow or wide, straight or meandering, as it is in this case. Elissa has taken her paths into the depths of her border to, in effect, form island beds that can be appreciated from all sides. While this was an even greater challenge for her to create, it has been an enjoyable project. Read the box at right to learn Elissa's tips for designing a gorgeous border.