The Classical Knot Garden and Parterre
I am in the process of designing a parterre for our front yard. It is the perfect solution to replace our lawn. We live next to a tributary of the Chesapeake Bay and have had little success growing a lawn here without using chemicals. A parterre is a formal garden constructed on a level surface, consisting of planting beds, typically in symmetrical patterns, separated and connected by gravel pathways. The beds may be edged in stone or tightly clipped hedging and may not contain flowers.
The gravel beds will be great for drainage. Maryland has a ‘rain tax’. The concept behind the tax is to help control the runoff into the Chesapeake Bay. The tax is assessed on the percentage of your lot which is impervious to absorb rain.
French parterres originated in the 15th-century, often taking the form of knot gardens. Knot gardens were first established in England in the reign of Queen Elizabeth I.
Later, during the 17th century Baroque era, they became more elaborate and more stylized. The French parterre reached its highest development at Versailles which inspired many other similar parterres throughout Europe. According to Wikipedia, “The parterre was developed in France by Claude Mollet, the founder of a dynasty of nurserymen-designers that lasted deep into the 18th century. His inspiration in developing the 16th-century patterned compartimens—simple interlaces formed of herbs, either open and infilled with sand or closed and filled with flowers—was the painter Etienne du Pérac, who returned from Italy to the château of Anet, where he and Mollet were working. About 1595 Mollet introduced compartment-patterned parterres to royal gardens at Saint-Germain-en-Laye and Fontainebleau; the fully developed scrolling embroidery-like parterres en broderie appear for the first time in Alexandre Francini’s engraved views of the revised planting plans at Fontainebleau and Saint-Germain-en-Laye in 1614.”
Versailles Knot Garden
Parterres are the low embellishments of gardens, which have great grace, especially when seen from an elevated position: they are made of borders of several shrubs and sub-shrubs of various colours, fashioned in different manners, as compartments, foliage, embroideries (passements), moresques, arabesques, grotesques, guilloches, rosettes, sunbursts (gloires), escutcheons, coats-of-arms, monograms and emblems (devises)
- —Traité du iardinage selon les raisons de la nature et de l’art, pp 81–82 (quoted by Laird)
Summer Garden, St. Petersburg
Lake Maggiore, Italy
A knot garden is a garden of very formal design in a square frame, consisting of a variety of aromatic plants and culinary herbs including germander, marjoram, thyme, southernwood, lemon balm, hyssop, acanthus, mallow, chamomile, rosemary, Calendulas, Violas and Santolina. Most knot gardens now have edges made from boxwoods whose leaves have a sweet smell when bruised. The paths in between are usually laid with fine gravel. However, the original designs of knot gardens did not have the low box hedges, and knot gardens with such hedges might more accurately be called parterres.
So I am not sure if I have a preference on the height of my boxwood hedges. I will have 2 knot gardens/parterres 21 feet square. I came upon this similar knot garden design online which were my measurements.
This is so amazing.
Love the combination of blue green and yellow green.
This looks like a wondeful book.
The Great Gatsby