With medieval roots, English knot gardens were popular during the Tudor period in both England and France. Noted for their extraordinary intricacy, these gardens are constructed to resemble Celtic or geometrical knots. Designs may include raised or low beds that intersect to form the prescribed pattern. Knot gardens may additionally resemble a braided rug or tapestry pattern. They may be open to feature strolling paths or closed to exact a more tightly-knit design. With thousands of variations in form and plantings, English knot gardens are among the loveliest traditional gardens.
While not necessarily as formal as other garden designs such as French parterres, knot gardens do require a considerable level of maintenance and care to maintain the integrity of their forms. Whether the beds intersect or are conversely intersected by paths, the shape of the beds must remain carefully manicured to maintain the design. Knot gardens may be planted on either a large or a small scale depending on the amount of time that can be devoted to their care. Some knot styles may be comprised of entirely green plantings—the beds might be outlined with dwarf hedges to form the knot compartments. These compartments may be left green, planted with herbs or flowers, or even filled with decorative gravel.
Knot gardens are maintained easiest on flat parcels of land. Design ideas may be procured from traditional English woodcuts, tapestry patterns, or books that feature decorative knots. Patterns might depict interlocking diamonds, connected loops, or possibly shapes set within larger shapes. In traditional knot gardens the design would be attained through plantings alone and not with the use of materials like stone or wood, but structuring a design using alternate edging materials could certainly be used today as a helpful mechanism to maintain order. Some knot gardens feature surprising elements in their center or within some of the knot’s individual compartments. Center statues, fountains, or a large topiary would not be uncommon to see in the middle of a knot garden. Compartments might also be fitted with unusual features like a moss-covered rock or a classic garden prop.
Of course, knot garden enthusiasts may want to maintain the classic style of these ornate gardens by keeping to traditional plantings like dwarf evergreens, boxwoods, or any dense hedge to form the outline. Within the compartments plants like lavender, phlox, rosemary, or sage might be planted for a traditional aesthetic. Bright plantings that contrast with the green hedges make for dramatic coloration that will help to highlight the knot design. These pleasing gardens from a romantic past may not be the easiest gardens to manage, but they are perfect for gardeners who love a design challenge filled with order and classic beauty.