Fine Gardening magazine

Best Plants for Knot Gardens

Herbs are traditional choices, but there are many other options

by Don Haynie

I'd like to start a knot garden, but I'm unsure what plants are best for this kind of design.
Rachel Twilly, Kansas City, Missouri

Knot garden
For a knot garden, choose contrasting plants with similar habits to create a pleasing design.
Don Haynie, of Buffalo Springs Farm in Raphine, Virginia, replies: The choice of plant material is perhaps the most important part of a knot garden, and herbs have traditionally been the favored plants for this type of design. When choosing plants, consider the texture, size, and color of leaves and flowers as well as the plant's growth habit.

My favorite plants for the knot garden are 'Crimson Pygmy' barberry (Berberis thunbergii 'Crimson Pygmy', USDA Hardiness Zones 5-8), wall germander (Teucrium chamaedrys, Zones 5-9), lavender cotton (Santolina chamaecyparissus, Zones 6-9), and either 'Hidcote' or 'Munstead' lavender (Lavandula angustifolia 'Hidcote' or L. angustifolia 'Munstead', Zones 5-8).

Other good plants for a knot garden are hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis, Zones 6-9), 'Silverado' silvermound (Artemisia schmidtiana 'Silverado', Zones 5-8), winter savory (Satureja montana, Zones 5-8), dwarf box (Buxus sempervirens 'Green Gem', Zones 6-8), purple sage (Salvia officinalis 'Purpurascens', Zones 7-8), 'Tricolor' sage (Salvia officinalis 'Tricolor', Zones 7-8), rosemary (Rosmarinus officinalis, Zones 8-10), and lambs' ears (Stachys byzantina, Zones 4-8).

For a smaller knot garden, choose lower-growing herbs to create a flat tapestry effect. Here are some good choices: clove pinks (Dianthus caryophyllus cvs., Zones 5-9), silver lemon-scented thyme (Thymus x citriodorus 'Argenteus', Zones 6-9), caraway thyme (Thymus herba-barona, Zones 6-9), white creeping thyme (Thymus praecox ssp. arcticus var. albus, Zones 5-9), golden thyme (Thymus 'Clear Gold', Zones 5-9), creeping germander (Teucrium canadense, Zones 5-9), allium (Allium senescens ssp. montanum var. glaucum, Zones 5-9), and hens and chicks (Sempervivum spp. and cvs., Zones 4-10).

Knot garden plants need good drainage, air circulation, and sun to develop thick growth. Using different types of colored, crushed rock as mulch will complement the design and add winter interest.

Drawing: Allison Starcher

From Fine Gardening #96, p. 86
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