Urban Native Landscape Property Border
Two years ago, my husband and I began a natural landscape in our yard consisting of a native grass and flower mix (native to the midwest). This past summer the city passed an ordiance requiring that we apply for a Land Use Management Permit (through the local Forestry Department) which would require setbacks from the street and neigboring properties. The new ordianance also required feedback from surrounding property owners on our application. The forestry department, in an attempt to appease the neighbors and reach a compromise, has strongly encouraged the use of mulch for the setbacks, rather than mow strips.
My concerns: Mulch can be messy along border areas. It was suggested that we use landscape timbers along property lines to hold the mulch back. This, in my mind, creates more work for the nieghbors who now have to trim along that timber. So, we could make one timber flush (acting as a mow strip for the nieghbor's lawn mower tire), then add another timber next to the first one that sits on the ground surface. However, now we have just added something that will eventually rot, need to be maintained, possibly replaced at some point - in addition to the idea that any toxins in the wood will leach into the ground.
I am looking for a creative, natural, environmental, and low maintenance alternative that would hold back the mulch (or prevent mulch from scattering across the border), allow for a neighbor mow strip, and not create a potentially unfriendly border or tripping hazard. Of course, low cost is always a bonus.
I have seeen all the various pavers, continuous concrete options, and plastic timbers. While these are all options, I was hoping for something more creative and natural looking.
Any out-of-the-box ideas would be welcome! Thanks.