The basic feature of knot planting is that regular geometric and symmetrical patterns are picked out by evergreen herbs, planted in continuous ribbons.  Pattern ideas can be taken from traditional knot garden designs, embroidery/tapestry,  jewellery and  nature.  Designs can be adapted to suit the space available - large and formal, or small and intimate - however, the smaller the area to be planted, the simpler the design should be.

Intricate patterns can be used, or simple elements, such as a 'cartwheel', a small circular bed divided into wedges by a single herb border, the 'wedges' then planted with other herbs or bedding plants.  Closed knot designs are 'solidly' planted, however, an alternative, if space permits, is an open knot, having pathways between the patterns of plants.  Paths can be of grass, gravel (plain or coloured), bricks or slabs.


Although some effort is needed to create a planted design in the first instance, it provides you with a low maintenance garden once it is established - leaving you with more time to just sit and enjoy!   

Whilst single herb designs are attractive, the patterns can be further enhanced by combining 2 or 3 herbs with contrasting foliage, colours and textures in the main design (more will generally spoil the overall impact).  The interwoven effect of combining different herbs is achieved by stopping one line of plants ('ribbon') whilst the crossing herb 'ribbon' is continuous.  The 'over' ribbon of herbs could be allowed to grow a little taller at this point to appear to rise over the 'lower' ribbon.  The designs can be punctuated with larger topiary features and many of the herbs we provide are suited to such treatment.


For anything more than a simple border/edging design it is preferable to firstly plan the layout on squared/graph paper.  The pattern can be transferred to the site by marking out a similar grid with pegs/stakes and string.  Simple geometry assists in the transfer - the centre of a square can be pin-pointed by the intersection of strings marking the diagonals; a length of string tied to a single fixed peg  (the other end being free to move) can be used to draw a circle, semi-circle or arc.  Pouring sand from a bottle is an ideal way to mark the 'lines' that are being 'drawn' in this way to show where the planting is to be.

The site for the knot garden, hedging or individual specimen herbs should be prepared in advance of planting.  If necessary, garden compost, peat or spent mushroom compost should be worked into the soil to improve soil structure, with coarse grit added to improve drainage.  Well worked in bonemeal will assist plant establishment.  Bare rooted plants should be soaked before planting and all plants well watered in, ensuring that the soil does not dry out during establishment.  Recommended planting distances are provided in the individual plant descriptions for edging and hedging and the plants should fill out and mature quickly, being clipped and shaped as necessary, to achieve the desired effect, and provide years of pleasure.

The herbs that we are able to provide are described in detail (see top navigation bar) and are those most popularly used in the knot gardens of the fifteenth/sixteenth century, the others being similarly suitable.  The number of plants needed for each feature can be calculated using the suggested planting distances.

Early Spring growth of an autumn planted open design around a central raised bed.

A shot of the centre bed in full

summer showing Lavender Munstead and Common Thyme in flower.

As far as purely ornamental planting is concerned, the most detailed are formal knot gardens which date from the fifteenth century (and, supposedly, originally based on oriental carpet designs much admired at the time).  Inspiration can be gained from traditional closed knot designs, as well as open knots with pathways of brick/gravel or turf between structured beds, the patterns being regular and geometric.  The ribbon planting of knots with their interwoven effect of cross-over planting  is enhanced by the contrasting foliage, colours and leaf textures, with the added benefit in most instances of continual foliage colour for interest in the garden, even in mid-winter.  Whilst there is considerable pleasure in combining the different shades of greys and greens and leaf textures, single species knots can, of course, have just as strong an impact and appeal.


Alternatively, single herb patterns, diamonds, concentric circles or simple curves can be interplanted with other herbs, or seasonal bedding plants, with for example the shapes (circles/triangles etc) reflecting the overall form of layout of your garden.  Double row planting, of course, can be used to provide a stronger impact.

A few "ribbon" designs indicating "under & over planting.

Lady Salisbury's Knot Garden Design in front of the Elizabethan banqueting house at Hatfield House, Hertfordshire.  She also designed the Knot Garden which can be seen at the Museum of Garden History at Lambeth  (also housing the tomb of the Tradescants)

The  "True Lovers Knott"

from Stephen Blake's Compleat Gardeners Practice (1664)

A knot design

from  The Gardeners Labyrinth  (1577?)












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This website is not maintained but has been left online for information purposes only.