A kind of interesting symmetry of words. Why would anyone have the desire to build a garden made of knots? Of course if you have ever read,seen or heard about Knot Gardens then this little introduction was lost on the informed ones.
Old things are sometimes good things. Sometimes they go away but quite often they come back stronger than the original time. This is certainly true in the case of what is called a knot garden. The idea of a knot garden came about in the Tudor reign of England and progressed through the Elizabethan age with knot gardens constructed to copy the beautiful embroidery work associated with the English period.
A true knot garden involves a very formal almost symmetrically perfect garden.A true knot garden has its woven effect which is the distinguishable feature of these type of gardens. Many of the knot gardens were constructed totally of herbs. A boxwood border could have been introduced as the border with the herbs weaving there way in a pattern over the boxwood into a woven pattern in the center. The problem with either approach is the time consuming almost daily clipping and trimming of this garden to keep the perfect shape. For this reason alone the knot garden has developed into a less labor intensive design for the modern gardener called parterres. This of course is a French term developed in the early 1700 hundreds involving elaborate gardens designed from engravings and other sources.Parterres are typically knots without the weaving in and out and offer the modern gardener a garden with less work and a four season appeal.
You can make an evergreen outline of your knot garden using various plants and creating squares,rectangles,or octagons and placing mass plantings of annuals,perennials,herbs and vegetables in the center of your parterre providing a good blend. The knot garden and or parterre in modern times has become almost interchangeable in meaning.
The knot garden in the traditional sense always employed small hedges to provide a contrast in the color of the garden. These hedges could be comprised of several different types of shrubs but choosing only one to form the border. The border shrubs considered for the design could be English boxwood,germander,purple barberry or winter gem boxwood. Although it is not strictly necessary,in my opinion,it is recommended that parterres be placed so they maybe viewed from above even if it is just a slightly elevated position.
It is important to make a diagram at this point of how large a space you want to devote to the knot garden. This will determine how many border plants are required before considering what you intend to plant inside of the Garden You may also want to consider a focal point in the center of the knot garden surrounded by flowers. Bird baths and dense ornamental grasses are often used for this purpose.
If you are laying this out in a grassy area,you need to remove the grass on the inside of your border and maybe add some additional topsoil when you begin to position whatever plants will be planted. You also might want to consider path or paths to provide access to the interior of the garden for easy viewing and simply plain old maintenance.
The really difficult part is over after planning,laying out your knot garden and planting it. The part which most gardeners like to avoid is the trimming. It will be required to trim your border hedges maybe several times a summer but not the meticulous pruning if you were to be knot weaving. Give it try and I am sure your neighbors will be impressed.