Water-Wise Knot Gardens

Water Conservation for Lawn and Landscape November 11, 2013 Print Friendly and PDF

Knot gardens are very formal designs that were popular in England and France in the 17th Century. Herbs were traditionally used for many knot gardens. Low clipped shrubs such as boxwood were added later.  Designs were traditionally created in a square frame and were based on embroideries of the time.

Designs can range from fairly simple to very complex. Most of the designs are kept low so that the pattern is easily seen from above.  Plants are planted to look as if they are intertwined and are kept meticulously clipped.

Often, colored gravel, paths, and other objects, such as statues or bird baths, are included in the pattern. 

A contemporary knot garden can be simple or complex, large or small.  Design ideas are only limited to the imagination.

  • Start small and simple
  • Consider how much maintenance will be needed
  • Use plants that are easily clipped or have a mounding growth habit


Colorful contemporary knot garden
Photo credit: Double Down Flickr CC BY-NC-SA 2.0


This traditional knot garden design at Broughton Castle in England uses a green color theme.
Photo credit: Liz Simpson Flickr CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

Water-Wise Knot Garden Plants

Water-wise knot gardens simply substitute plants that use less water than traditional know garden plants.

Examples of water-wise plants for use in a knot garden include: lavender, junipers, artemesia 'Silver Mound', purple or variegated sages, pinks (Dianthus), armeria, thymes, chives, hens and chicks, and blue fescue.

Additional Resources:

Florida: Knot Gardens
Minnesota: Knot Gardens


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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.