April 18, 2014

Grow Yourself a Knot Garden

--courtesy of Jeff Lewis, Garden & Greenhouse Manager, The Elizabethan Gardens

Here in Southwest Ohio, the pear trees are filled with white blossoms. Grass had been green about two weeks, and the daffodils are in full bloom. With the ground pretty much bare and ready for planting flowers in May, it’s a great time to plan a knot garden.
           Knot gardens first caught my eye when I visited Monticello and Mount Vernon as a kid and saw how these lovely sites, edged with shrubs like boxwood, graced the homes of Thomas Jefferson and George Washington. Then when I first visited England, I could see how these American presidents mimicked a long-standing tradition of growing knot gardens that date back hundreds of years.
           England’s Queen Elizabeth I enjoyed strolling through her gardens with her ladies-in-waiting in tow, and certainly the Queen’s knot gardens were among the finest in her day. In fact, there’s an excellent example of a knot garden here in the US at The Elizabethan Gardens on Roanoke Island near the Outer Banks of North Carolina. There, head gardener Jeff Lewis cares for the twining shrubs that look like knots, and he plants the spaces in between them with herbs in spring.
         Jeff shared a wonderful photo of this garden in early spring, when it’s easy to see “the bones” of the garden before the lush green herbs take over in summer. If you can’t get to North Carolina to visit, go on over to their website at http://elizabethangardens.org/  
            It takes years to establish a knot garden like this one, but you can create an updated version in your own background that will grow in just one summer. All it takes is a little bit of space, some bedding plants, a digging tool, a bit of fertilizer, and regular watering.  

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