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GardenSMART :: How to Build a Knot Garden

How to Build a Knot Garden

By Stephanie Pratt, InstantHedge
Photographs courtesy of InstantHedge

A great knot garden is like a great wine: nice at first, but as it matures it takes on complex, sometimes unexpected characteristics that enchant and delight the senses.

Do you dream of having one of these charming gardens, but you're not sure where to start? We are here to guide you, step by step.

Step 1: Choose Your Style

Knot gardens are versatile, and work well in many garden styles.

Do you want a cottage knot garden, containing drifts of mixed flowers and herbs?

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Do you want a formal knot garden, with intricate designs mimicking those of Versailles?

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Or do you want a modern knot garden, using geometric shapes and patterns for visual impact?

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Decide on this, and you can move forward with a clear vision!

Step 2: Design

If you are comfortable creating your own design, do it! If not, find a local designer who understands your style. Consider the size and topography of your space, the style you have chosen, and which existing parts of your garden you want to direct attention toward.

Step 3: Choose Plants

The all-time favorite choice for knot garden borders is boxwood, for its versatile evergreen appearance that suits any garden style.

The fastest and easiest way to create a boxwood knot garden is to use boxwood InstantHedge. This product allows you to install 32-inch segments of pre-finished boxwood hedge. Request it by name from your designer or local garden center, or order online from

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Knot garden created with boxwood InstantHedge, photo taken on the day it was planted.

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A boxwood hedge planted with individual plants will take much longer to finish.

To fill the beds created by your knot garden, choose plants that fit your chosen style.

Cottage knot gardens are suited to a casually abundant mix of flowers and herbs, as well as flowering trees and shrubs.

Formal knot gardens complement stately trees, topiaries, and sophisticated flowers and shrubs (consider a fountain or other hardscaping option as well).

Modern knot gardens can either be very spare, with more stone and metal than companion plants, or they can be lush with foliage or sculpted trees. Anything goes but choose a concept and stick to it!

Step 4: Installation

Depending on the size of your knot garden, you can dig your trenches by hand or with a mini-excavator. Trenches should be the same depth as the root ball on your hedge plants and twice the width.

If using boxwood InstantHedge, planting is easy! Lift each unit from its pot and set it in your trench. Place units end-to-end. Once planting is finished, fill in with native soil and water well. If using individual plants, space them evenly and keep them straight while planting and filling.

Step 5: Maintain

After planting, the easiest way to keep your new hedge watered is to use drip irrigation. You can also apply slow-release fertilizer and mulch.

Trim your knot garden border twice per year to keep it in perfect shape. Prune first in late May or early June, after the first flush of growth. Prune next in September or October, well before your first frost. You can prune with hand shears or electric shears. Make sure the blades are sharp! Prune on a cloudy day to avoid excessive leaf damage.

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That's it! Planting a knot garden will add structure, interest, and charm to your landscape for years to come. You can easily swap out the plants inside the beds for a change, while your borders keep getting better and better.


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