Traditional herbaceous borders need a lot of attention. You can reduce the need for staking taller plants by choosing self-supporting varieties, for instance lupins, phlox, yarrow and Japanese anemones.
If you can’t reach the back of the border easily, it’s better to plant shrubs that require less attention. Spurge, spindle tree, spotted laurel, cinquefoil and Mexican orange blossom are good examples. Small annuals such as pansies and marigolds can be planted near the path, but an edging of pinks or lady’s mantle will create less work. To keep the border tidy, you can fit a rake with a smaller head for raking between plants.
Hedges and fences
Keep your hedges low so you don’t need to stretch too much to trim them. Lavender and box make good low hedges for dividing up the garden.
A row of fruit trees grown as cordons makes a decorative hedge, perhaps to separate an ornamental garden from the vegetable plot.
A wooden fence that’s been put up properly and treated with preservative will last for many years without attention and can be used as a support for climbing plants.
Looking after borders and hedges
Gripping and squeezing pruning tools over a length of time can hurt finger joints. Try to use tools with padded handles, and have regular breaks or do other jobs in between. The following tools may make things a little easier:
A ratchet pruner takes less effort to cut through twigs than most secateurs. Instead of one big squeeze it takes several bites to make the cut, reducing strain on your knuckles (see Figure 7).
A two-handed lopper will give good leverage without much effort and can be held lightly against your palms and wrists, protecting your finger joints from strain. Some manufacturers also produce ‘ratchet loppers’ – these have a mechanism which will hold the blades in place if you need to stop mid-cut.
Pruners, loppers and secateurs with a cut-and-hold action hold the cut stem in their jaws so it doesn’t fall to the ground, which saves you bending to pick up the cuttings (see Figure 8).
English trimming shears can be used for light trimming after the flowering of heathers and lavender. You don’t need to move your fingers much to squeeze the blades together, and you can use them one-handed.