Knot Gardens


Knot gardens were particularly popular in the 16th century, and took the form of abstract patterns and interlacing bands containing coloured plants, sands or gravels, marked out and framed by low hedges.

They were grown with a variety or aromatic plants and culinary herbs, such as Germander, marjoram, thyme, southernwood, lemon balm, hyssop, costmary, acanthus, mallow, chamomile, rosemary, Calendulas, Violas and Santolina. Most knot gardens had edges made from Box (Buxus sempervirens), whose foliage has a sweet smell when bruised.

The patterns often took their inspiration from the knots and strapwork patterns of English Elizabethan and Tudor plaster ceiling decorations and needlework. So that this intricate detail can be truly appreciated, knot gardens are often best viewed from above, and they should be designed so that can be seen easily from a house window or raised terrace.

Given the right setting and a well-drained, level site, knot gardens are not difficult to create and are straightforward to maintain. The patterns should be kept simple; this will ensure a pleasing design, and ensure that maintenance will not be too time-consuming.

Some suitable plants for the hedges include cotton lavender (Santolina chamaecyparissus) and dwarf box (Teucrium chamaedrys). If you decide to use plants rather than coloured sand or gravel to fill in the areas between the hedges, choose those that are in keeping with the character and scale of the design; as a rule, low-growing plants are suitable, although more unusual plantings, for example, succulents such as houseleeks (Sempervivum), may also he considered.

Do bear in mind that any weeds that appear on the gravel surfaces should be removed by hand, as weedkillers could damage the shallow-rooting hedges.