Box hedging and topiary can smarten up even the smallest garden, says Dawn aac
Since their heyday in the 16th century, knot gardens have been a favourite feature found in traditional English country gardens. The key element is to create the impression that the low hedges are in fact knotted together – a horticultural trick of the eye. To amplify the effect, you can use high contrast colours such as purple berberis and silver santolina, or go for a more restrained palette as we have here with a standard and variegated box.
There are many other ways to give a standard knot garden a more personal stamp. For a looser and more relaxed effect choose shrubby herbs instead of box, as these tend to form a softer hedge line. The spaces in-between the hedges also offer opportunities. Here we have employed a rill and pool to add movement and interest, but equally, you could use different-coloured gravels and mulches to add interest.
Our knot design includes parterre beds. With their reliance on clipped hedges to make the formal patterns, these are a good accompaniment to the knot garden. However, in parterres, the spaces between hedges are typically filled with seasonal flowers such as spring bulbs, roses and lavender, which brings an extra layer of interest to the design.
TRANSFORM A BLANK CANVAS
When designing a new garden from scratch it can be hard to know where to start. At least with a knot garden you’re sticking to formal geometrical shapes – lines, circles, squares and triangles – to make your knot pattern. Measure and draw the garden to scale on a sheet of graph paper first, then sketch out your knot – try a simple Celtic design, interlocking circles or diamonds, or copy one of the many layouts online. Keep to a symmetrical pattern for simplicity.
Hide fences with espalier trees and climbers Clematis and scented roses add colour throughout the growing season and interest to boundaries, making the garden seem less boxy.
Create the ‘knotted’ look The design uses normal and variegated box plants to provide a subtle contrast in colour. The hedges are clipped to slope down 5cm (3in) at the intersections, which gived the impression the two hedges are woven around each other.
Use water for sound and movement A formal rill and central pond with a small fountain intersect the two sides of the knot garden. This adds another sensory element – reflections, sound and movement.
Place statues on the perimeter Two pale stone statues provide a formal, classical note. They act as symmetrical focal points, adding height at the far end of the garden.
Plant parterre beds To complement the central knot design, a parterre runs around the border of the garden with the box sections interplanted with groundcover plants and bulbs.
Lay gravel paths Pale gravel pathways lead around the garden. The gravel colour is echoed by the stone edging around the planting beds, rill and pool.
Trim up some topiary trees To echo the formality of the garden layout, clipped box topiary sits within the knot, while taller clipped bay trees add height in the parterre beds around the garden perimeter.
READ MORE Subscribe to our digital edition