I’d like to plant a knot garden. Can you recommend suitable plants, preferably scented herbs? Also, any tips on planting and care would be appreciated.
Karen Schrock, Cincinnati, OH
Site knot gardens where they can be seen from above, from a deck or a window.
Photo/Illustration: Jennifer Blume
Jim Becker, co-owners of Goodwin Creek Gardens, a mail-order nursery specializing in herbs in Williams, Oregon, replies: The best knot-garden plants all require full sun and well-drained soil. A good choice for gray foliage is Santolina chamaecyparissus, especially the compact cultivar ‘Pretty Carol’. Lavenders (Lavandula spp.) can also be used, but are best-suited for larger knot gardens, as most varieties form hedges 12 to 18 inches wide. Varying shades of green can be obtained by using dwarf hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis ssp. aristatus), winter savory (Satureja montana), hedge germander (Teucrium X lucidrys), and several thymes, including Thymus ‘Broadleaf English’ and T. ‘Wedgewood English’. Golden lemon thyme (Thymus X citriodorus ‘Aureus’) adds a nice touch of yellow in spring and fall. All of these herbs are hardy to Zone 6.
Patterns for simple knot gardens can be found in many herb books. Most are laid out on square or rectangular beds, at least 6 feet long and wide. The symmetrical designs are formed by ribbons of low herbal hedges of contrasting colors. These are fastidiously clipped to give the illusion they pass over and under one another. Draw the design onto your bed with lime, then space plants about 8 to 12 inches apart, allowing the same distance for the width of the mature hedge. Knot gardens look great from above. Try to place yours where it can be seen from a nearby deck, gazebo, or upstairs window.
Plants should be trimmed lightly and often. Since the plants are packed tightly together, use overhead sprinklers early in the morning so the foliage can dry out before nightfall. This will help prevent fungal diseases. Fertilize as you do your other perennials, but avoid using manures close to stems. It’s wise to keep a couple of plants of each type in pots in case you need replacements. Your knot garden should fill out nicely in its third season.