Aah, Boston! A city steeped in history and graced with nature’s charm. As an experienced landscape designer in this beloved city, I’ve spent years transforming backyard spaces with local plants that beautify the garden and contribute to our regional ecosystem. Let me share some of my favorite patio border planting ideas that will add that ‘wow factor’ to your garden while ensuring it remains a haven for local flora and fauna.

The Magic of Garden Borders

To breathe life into a patio, garden borders are my go-to strategy.

Photography by ©Damianos Photography

They’re not just pretty to look at; they also create an ecosystem that supports beneficial insects and local birds, making your garden a thriving part of our Boston biosphere. Plus, they’re low maintenance, which is always a win!

Blooming with Native Plants

When crafting a garden border, native plants are a landscape designer’s best friend. Why, you ask? They’re perfectly adapted to our Boston climate, require little maintenance, and are a favorite amongst our local birds and insects.

Geranium maculatum (wild geranium) bursts into a flurry of pink flowers from late spring to early summer, creating a beautiful border that attracts butterflies and adds a splash of color.

The Iris versicolor (Blue Flag Iris), with its elegant lavender-colored flowers, is another excellent choice for adding vibrancy to your garden border.

Ornamental Grasses and Mounding Perennials: Textural Beauty

In the palette of garden design, ornamental grasses, and mounding perennials are akin to textured brush strokes. They add movement and depth to your borders, while their colorful flowers add interest.

Outdoor patio with garden borders and curved landscape edging.

Panicum virgatum (Switchgrass) and Echinacea purpurea (Purple Coneflower) are fantastic choices that create a feast of textures and colors.

Evergreen Shrubs: Year-round Vibrance

Evergreen shrubs, like Arctostaphylos uva-ursi (Bearberry) and Leucothoe fontanesiana (Drooping Leucothoe), are brilliant for creating a low-maintenance garden border that remains vibrant year-round. Their delicate green foliage is a visual treat, and the Bearberry even gives you the bonus of lovely red berries.

Drought Tolerant Wonders

Given our sometimes unpredictable Boston weather, having some drought-tolerant plants in your arsenal is a wise move. Sedum ‘Brilliant’ is one such gem, with its stunning pink flowers that bloom in late summer. Salvia officinalis (Sage) is another hardy plant with blue flowers that add a unique hue to your patio border.

“A garden is the reflection of the gardener’s heart and soul. It’s our very own slice of mother nature.”

A Patchwork of Seasonal Color

You can make your patio border a spectacle of color throughout the year by carefully picking plants that bloom at different times. This way, as the flowers of one plant fade, others are just beginning to strut their stuff.

For an early spring burst of yellow, consider Forsythia x intermedia, an early bloomer that lights up the garden with its cheerful yellow flowers. Then, as we move into early summer, the Blue Flag Iris takes over the color show, followed by the vibrant pink blooms of the Purple Coneflower in the late summer. Come early fall; you’ll find the brilliant pink flowers of the Sedum ‘Brilliant’ taking center stage.

Of course, having a variety of annual flowers can also ensure more blooms throughout the growing season. Mix them in with your perennials to create a truly vibrant palette of colors.

The Art of Planting: Raised Beds and Edging Plants

Remember to consider the impact of how you plant your border plants. Raised beds, for instance, can add a whole new dimension to your patio border. They add visual interest and improve soil drainage, which many plants love.

And how about considering some edging plants for the front of your border or around your garden path? Plants like Thymus serpyllum (Creeping Thyme) or Sagina subulata (Irish Moss) are excellent choices. They’re low-growing, look gorgeous around stepping stones, and can handle a bit of foot traffic.

“Gardening is a bit like painting a picture. Except your canvas is the soil, and your paint is the plants.”

Gardening for the Ecosystem

Remember that your garden can be a critical habitat for many local creatures. Choosing the right plants can invite a host of beneficial insects and birds. Native plants often provide food for local caterpillar species, which in turn become a food source for birds.

Photography by ©Damianos Photography

So while you enjoy the burst of colors and textures in your patio border, you can also revel in the fact that you’re contributing to the local ecology. There’s nothing quite like it.

“In every garden, there’s an opportunity to contribute to the local ecosystem. And that’s something truly beautiful.”

Bringing it All Together: The Patio Border Symphony

Planting a garden border is like composing a symphony. You want a mix of different notes to create a harmonious melody. Mix and match other plants, playing with color, height, and texture. Incorporate yellow flowers, like Coreopsis verticillata (Threadleaf Coreopsis), and add some ornamental grasses, such as Pennisetum alopecuroides (Fountain Grass), for movement.

Try some creeping thyme along the garden path or around stepping stones for a hint of mystery. It’s a charming ground cover with beautiful tiny flowers.

Remember, the most essential element of garden design is love.


Q: What are the best low-maintenance plants for a patio border in Boston?

A: A few great choices would be native plants like Wild Geranium and Blue Flag Iris, ornamental grasses like Switchgrass, mounding perennials like Purple Coneflower, and drought-tolerant plants like Sage.

Q: What plants can add year-round interest to my garden in Boston?

A: Evergreen shrubs like Bearberry and Drooping Leucothoe provide greenery throughout the year. For year-round color, you can also mix in plants that bloom at different times.

Q: How do I attract beneficial insects to my garden in Boston?

A: Planting native plants, especially those that produce nectar-rich flowers, can attract beneficial insects. These insects are not only a joy to observe, but they also contribute to a healthy garden ecosystem by controlling pests.

“The beauty of gardening is that you don’t have to be an expert to create something truly beautiful. Just a bit of knowledge, and a whole lot of love.”

Q: How can I add seasonal color to my patio border?

A: By choosing plants that bloom at different times, you can ensure a continuous display of color in your garden. Forsythia X Intermedia for spring, Blue Flag Iris for early summer, Purple Coneflower for late summer, and Sedum ‘Brilliant’ for early fall are great choices.

Q: What are some good edging plants for a patio border?

A. Creeping Thyme and Irish Moss are excellent choices for edging plants. They’re low-growing, can handle some foot traffic, and look beautiful bordering a garden path or around stepping stones.

Q: How can my garden help local wildlife?

A: By planting native plants, you can provide food and habitat for local insects and birds. These creatures contribute to a healthy ecosystem, controlling pests and pollinating flowers.

Let's create a garden that feels like home.



    First Name

    Last Name


    Postal/Zip Code

    Email Address

    Phone Number

    Call Us: (617) 327-0330
    8 A Street, Boston, MA 02136