by Knot Herbs of Northampton

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.

Knot-Herbs Garden designIntricate patterns can be used, or simple elements such as a 'cartwheel'. This is a small circular bed divided into wedges by a single herb border, the 'wedges' are then planted with other herbs or bedding plants. Closed knot designs are 'solidly' planted. However, an alternative, if space permits, is an open knot which has 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!

Knot-herb garden designWhilst 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 or edging design it is preferable to firstly plan the layout on squared or graph paper. The pattern can be transferred to the site by marking out a similar grid with pegs or 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 on our website under the individual plant descriptions for edging and hedging, and will help with calculations of the number of plants needed. 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 also described in detail on our website, being the most popularly used varieties in the knot gardens of the 15th and 16th centuries.

We'd like to thank Knot Herbs for providing their expert insight into this very old form of garden design. If you would like to pursue your interest in knot garden design further pay a visit to where Knot Herbs has more information available and from where you can order plants for planting your own garden. You can also e-mail Knot Herbs or call them on +44 (0)1536 791371

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