Learn More About The Knot Garden

april-5-2009-more-021-2Interest has been shown in the knot garden recently so it seemed a good idea to repost the original story about it that was published December 26, 2007. Changes that have been made to the knot garden since this post was written a year and some months ago will be noted below. The emphasis was on the center quatrefoil and its plantings. The pattern was chosen to represent the four leaf clover and the good luck associated with that symbol. The post was written using Blogger, not wordpress. The photos are small by comparison to the size now used, but each can be clicked upon to see a full screen enlargement.
The Knot Garden

In a previous post, The Garden Through the Year, December 8, 2007, the knot garden was introduced. It was one of the first and only elements of my garden put on paper before put in the ground. Everything was laid out with string, then outlined in old bricks. I wanted that English garden look, neat and orderly. It looks more like a riot than a tea party in this photo. (Click photo to enlarge)

This is more the vision. But the four heaths, Erica darleyensis ‘Mediterranean Pink’, planted in the loops of the center died the first year. They were replaced with Calluna vulgaris ‘Sunrise’. That was the first of several planting adjustments.(Click photo to enlarge)<

Time marches on. The callunas turn a rosy pink in winter. All is well.(Click photo to enlarge)<

Next spring things are getting out of control. Violas are everywhere, seeding wildly. The Dianthus gratianopolitanus ‘Firewitch” is taking over. It gets a hard trim several times. Note the calluna turning yellow.(Click photo to enlarge)<

By fall the violas are gone but the black mondo grass, Ophiopogon planiscapus ‘Nigrescens’, seems too large. Salvia coccinea ‘Lady in Red’ has seeded around a bit.(Click photo to enlarge)<
Winter again. The calluna reddens. Thymus citriodorus ‘Doone Valley’ becomes variegated. The blue fescue, Festuca glauca ‘Elijah Blue’, is looking suspiciously large as is the dianthus and mondo grass.(Click photo to enlarge)<
Next summer the dianthus is out, the mondo grasss is out, the fescue is out and Gaillardia grandiflora ‘Goblin’ is in. I should have known that was a bad idea but there were these seedlings everywhere, free plants.(Click photo to enlarge)<
By the fall it became obvious the plantings needed rethinking. The gaillardia is way too large.(Click photo to enlarge)<
Early spring 2007 shows nice red calluna joined by Lavender ‘Hidcote’, Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’, cuttings. Bamboo stakes are placed to keep the planting line straight and the squirrels from digging there.(Click photo to enlarge)<
In mid spring the grape hyacinths , Muscari armeniacum, are blooming, the Sedum spurium ‘Red Carpet’ is red and the calluna is changing from red to yellow. The baby lavenders look good.(Click photo to enlarge)<
Mid summer shows yellow calluna and those pesky violas are back.(Click photo to enlarge)<
I like it. Taken this week (December 26, 2007), the photo shows the lavender filling in. It may grow slowly enough to be kept the proper size. There go those callunas turning red again, but more to come later about that.(Click photo to enlarge)<



Update: April 2009
The shed door trim has been painted blue. The lavender has filled in and can be kept to the desired size easily. The Doone Valley thyme groundcover in the center quatrefoil is slowly being replaced with the lower growing Elfin thyme. The cutting of two large curly willow trees on each side of the bench has allowed the boxwood hedge to grow to a uniform size with all sides now getting the same amount of full sun. Miniature climbing roses, Red Dragon, have been added to the obelisks that flank the bench. The tulips and iris reticulatas have been spread as necessary to fill in the gaps in the quadrants. september-29-2008-026-2More varieties of creeping thymes have been added to the quadrants and filled in those spaces. What, if anything to be added after the tulips have gone by is still a quandry especially after last years dreadful failure with celosia seedlings. Thirty-six were planted, one lived.april-1-2009-014-2Violas continue to self sow in the gravel paths. A new color of violas, yellow with a purple edging was planted to add some new genetic material for future beauty pageant contestants. Click here to find out more about the yearly viola beauty pageant.april-5-2009-more-019-2Unmoved through the years, the Chinese Foo Dog stands guard at the base of Paeonia ostii ‘White Phoenix’ through rain, snow, squirrel attacks, sleet, hail and dark of night.

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44 Responses to Learn More About The Knot Garden

  1. Darla says:

    My goodness Frances. I love the “this came out and this went in” Somehow I just thought that whatever you planted just worked. It is trial and error for all gardeners isn’t it? The blue on the shed makes everything seem so fresh, go choice for that area.

    Hi Darla, thanks for that. Much of the garden here is constantly being tweaked. Things are added, subtracted and moved almost daily. The knot garden has been planted with more things than we can remember, even with good record keeping. Some day we may find the magic combination that works and meets all the criteria. πŸ™‚ That blue is the color of our front door.

  2. To tell you the truth, it wasn’t impressive in the initial photos, but has gotten better with every month and it looks neat – the intended by April 2009. Great work, Frances!

    Hi Chandramouli, HA this is not the normal comment I get. Thanks! Remember that the early post was one of my very first, put together in the dead of winter from older photos. It was fun to show how the center had progressed through so many plant changes. Now if the outer sections could just get the right plantings, it would be impressive indeed. The boxwood hedge is looking the best ever however. πŸ™‚

  3. Janet says:

    Many many changes Frances. My goodness. I like Dianthus ‘Firewitch’ so much I would have had a hard time removing it. Mine is barely hanging on- would love lots! I agree with Darla –the new paint color is a good one.
    I keep looking for Calluna and don’t see it around here. Think it is a good replacement for the Erica.
    Wonderful post through the ages and stages of your garden.

    Hi Janet, thanks. The dianthus was removed to another area along the middle terrace and has been allowed to spread and self sow all it wants. Keeping it clipped to that small size was not the best for it. The lavender is perfect there, for it is a very small cultivar and enjoys the clipping. Dianthus is easily split, for each stem will root. Ours seeds like crazy too, with a mixture. Good drainage and tons of sun for it. I have to mail order the Callunas, they are never offered for sale here. Firefly is my favorite. Good luck on your move, BTW. Very exciting.

  4. Kathy Stilwell says:

    I couldn’t believe this when I saw it! Just yesterday (8th) I sketched in an area with a VERY casual version of the knot garden you’ve described for us so beautifully. My area is much larger and I want it to be critter friendly. Is that asking for trouble? Anyway, you’ve given me lots of good ideas for what to do and what NOT to do. Thanks!
    By the way…another subject…what host do you use for your wordpress blog?

    Hi Kathy, that is a good basic design. You can’t go wrong with that one and having more room is a big plus. If I had it to do over, the hedge would have gone in first so it could fill in. It was added in dribs and drabs, just a line of three along the front edge that faces the house in the beginning. It would have been better to bite the bullet and plant the whole thing at once, but I was being a tightwad. I don’t know what you mean by critter friendly, but we have nothing to keep out the devil digging squirrels and don’t use any poisons on any of the plants here. The blog is hosted by wordpress, as a wordpress.com, nothing special. I did purchase my domain name to keep anyone else from using it though there may never be a Fairegarden.com. Hope that helps.

  5. Gail says:

    Frances, I loved this planting history…and that you add, subtract and divide until you figure out what works. The great bones of the Knot Garden are clearly in place and anything that’s planted works. It may not be exactly what you’re aiming for…but, you love to do math, and will figure it out! One thing’s for absolute certain up there…the gravel path is a perfect growing medium. Btw, I like the new door color and the lavenders are delightful. Can’t wait to see the next generation of violas! gail

    Hi Gail, thanks. The boxwood hedge is definitely the success story here. And the gravel paths. One of the days the plantings in the quads will be a success too, every optimistic is the only way to garden. πŸ™‚

  6. Randy says:

    The knot garden looks just grand and I love the Foo Dog!

    Hi Randy thanks. I have been looking for more of those Foo dogs to place in front of the other two tree peonies. Most are made of composite that cannot be left outside. Even with a ragged ear, this one has served us well. πŸ™‚

  7. I really like your knot garden Frances. It has such good definition. I need to improve on that with mine. Every time I see yours I think that but haven’t acted yet. It seems that I do a lot of thinking about my garden now days instead of the action part. Couldn’t be my age. ha…

    Hi Lisa, thanks. To be honest, it takes a whole lot of thinking to plan out a knot garden. One of these days, if you look at it long enough, the vision will come to you! πŸ™‚

  8. Thanks for sharing this! The Musician and I went plant shopping yesterday and coming home (1 hour drive) we talked about our future knot garden, but ours will have to be all herbs due to deer and the inferno hot spot in the meadow! I showed him your photos today. We’ll have to use germander or rosemary instead of boxwoods out in the hot sun. I don’t know when we’ll get to this project since it’s been on the list since the day we moved in!
    Thanks so much for sharing,

    Hi Cameron, thanks for reading! I think all herbs is an excellent way to go, and mine is supposed to be just that, with the tulips thrown in for pizzazz. Germander is a great plant to use. Rosemary was originally in the center, but got too big too fast, like so many other things. Yours will be beautiful, whenever it gets done. πŸ™‚

  9. tina says:

    I think it a wonderful spot in your garden. The pictures of evolution and the story behind it are also fun. The Foo dog looks unfazed indeed!

    Hi Tina, thanks, especially since you have been there in person. Don’t you love the foo dog, with his broken ear? πŸ™‚

  10. Monica says:

    Frances, your post confirms my sneaky suspicions: A knot garden is a thing of beauty… that requires more maintenance than I would give it! So thanks for making one for me and sharing its photos. I do love lavender and thyme, and that metal sculpture in the middle. And isn’t quatrefoil a great word?

    Hi Monica, thanks, but if I had planted it correctly the first time….. I agree, quatrefoil is one of those words one loves to say and type. πŸ™‚

  11. teza says:

    I flunked in tying knots in Boys Scouts and after reading the trials and tribulations that you encountered – before finding a wonderful semblance and cohesion I must add – I am going to leave this style of gardening to… well, friends like you! Besides, you need sun for that endeavor, and this shade garden vampire has none to spare! Gorgeous post as always!

    Hi Teza my friend, thanks. It probably is easier to have this type of garden in full sun, so many more plants to choose from that way. It might be fun to do one in a square container with tiny plants though. πŸ™‚

  12. ourfriendben says:

    Love it, Frances! I’m glad you didn’t totally evict the poor violas, though. I love them so! And I wouldn’t have had the heart to tear out ‘Doone Valley’, since Lorna Doone remains one of my all-time favorite books! as always, thansk for sharing.

    Hi OFB, thanks. Those violas are unstoppable, seeds living in the gravel paths waiting for the right moment to pop up. I have learned how to ID them from the many weeds seedlings so they are safe now. Don’t worry about Doone Valley, it is the primary thyme cultivar in the quads. πŸ™‚

  13. Rose says:

    Frances, I’ve always admired your garden and your industriousness. Now I know I’m not the diligent gardener you are:) I don’t think I would have re-done this so many times, unless most of the plants died, of course. But the finished (or maybe it’s not?) knot garden is lovely and shows all that hard work was worth it.

    I’ve dug out violets for years as they’ve encroached upon garden areas; good luck with the genetic engineering–those yellow ones would definitely be allowed to stay in my garden!

    Hi Rose, thanks. Diligent is a good word to describe me, dogged determination comes to mind also. The violas are not the same as those wild violets, no rhizome. I have given up trying to fight the violets too, they really are pretty at the moment in bloom. πŸ™‚

  14. Frances, your blog name is so fitting! I so wanted that variety of tulip at the top- how do they hold out in pouring rain?

    Hi Tessa, thanks for that sweet sentiment! The green tulip holds up well. It has been up there for nine years without more being added. I do have to respace sometimes as certain spots die out, but there are always other large patches to borrow from. I give the quads bonemeal at least once a year too.

  15. Barbara says:

    Frances, really good post. Should give folks heart and gumption to keep on trying until they get what they want. With the endless variables of weather and what a plant will do in a particular garden – lots of people just give up too soon.

    Hi Barbara, thanks. Gardening is about the journey, not the destination, like life. Never say never! πŸ™‚

  16. Catherine says:

    I love seeing the progress over time and how it looks now. It’s fun doing all the adding and subtracting to see what works in a garden. It turned out great! The viola at the bottom has such pretty coloring.

    Hi Catherine, thanks. It is fun to keep changing things, even searching for the perfect plants for the quads. Things die or get too big or are not big enough, never static. I do have high hopes for that viola gene added to the pool. πŸ™‚

  17. kerri says:

    Frances, it’s so interesting to see the evolution of your knot garden, and all the thought, trial and error that has gone into it. I find the ‘through the stages and seasons’ photos fascinating.
    The violas are pretty little warriors, aren’t they?
    I have yet to find a spot where lavender will survive for me, but I know there’s one here so I’ll keep trying. It can’t be that hard!
    The green and blue trim on your shed door are very soothing colors together, and those green and white tulips are glorious!
    All is looking very fair in your Fairgarden πŸ™‚

    Hi sweet Kerri, thanks. My lavender dreams have been put to bed, there was once a vision of a hill full of lavender. As they died and were replaced, I finally realized it was not to be and that bed is now the black garden. The little Hidcote has been the best by far, but a couple still die and have to be replaced. I use cuttings mid winter stuck right into the ground to fill in the gaps. Start small seems to work best. That blue is the same color as the front door, I like it with the gray siding color.

  18. I think the effect is lovely. I’m a fan of knot gardens but always considered them something of a job of work to maintain.Do you think your Heath petered out as they like it a bit acid?

    I would’t move the Foo dog now, nope he’s in charge.


    Hi Rob, thanks. There is some maintence involved with the center knot, but it is minimal. If I could just find the right plantings for the quads we’ll be set. The type of knots that are planted with shrubs like barberries need lots of pruning, but I think that would be fun too. The Foo Dog stands guard and is there to stay. πŸ™‚

  19. Brenda Kula says:

    Our gardens transform. Ebb and flow. I really like the shape of that garden. And it’s interesting following its many phases. I have not seen that color of viola. Very pretty.

    Hi Brenda, thanks. Gardens never remain the same, part of the joy of it, sort of like people. They are coming out with some interesting viola colorways, I do love them all.

  20. Drimba says:

    My dear friend, I love nature too. Don’t forget to visit my blog. you and all of your friends are invited. I really appreciate your support. Thanks…

    Hi Drimba, thanks and welcome. Your blog was very interesting, even with the bizarre English translation. Some words do not make the translation sensibly. πŸ™‚

  21. Pam/Digging says:

    To follow my comment on yesterday’s post, let me amend. If the gaillardia was too big, probably a narrowleaf zinnia would be too. Clumping hymenoxys or society garlic would be better behaved. Does hymenoxys grow in TN?

    Hi Pam, thanks. The zinnia would be too big I fear. I will check out the hymenoxys, or try to find al alternative. Tall and skinny would be ideal. For now I am thinking Coreopsis ‘Zagreb’, which does great here and I have plenty of it to borrow from, at the curved edges and a bamboo teepee in the center of each quad with scarlet runner beans. That is subject to change, but I have all the stuff already, a plus.

  22. Lythrum says:

    I love watching the progression of your garden. I think I might need a foo dog too πŸ˜‰

    Hi Lythrum, thanks. Everyone needs a Foo Dog. πŸ™‚

  23. Jenny B says:

    I loved seeing the evolution your garden has taken. I loved it when it was a riot of color, but I do think my favorite is the lavender and thyme you have now. I think one of the reasons I love gardening so much, is watching the changes in the garden as it takes on it’s own personality–always growing, never staying the same.

    Hi Jenny, thanks. That riot was fun, but you couldn’t even walk around the paths. Riots are encouraged in other areas here though. πŸ™‚ Gardening is surely about change, we wouldn’t have it any other way.

  24. Jan says:

    It is nice to see the evolution of this area. To me gardening is a process, not and end.

    Always Growing

    Hi Jan, thanks. You have hit the nail squarely on the head. πŸ™‚

  25. Wow, I got caught at the first photo, Frances, and I am infatuated with that awesome tulip. The rest of the photos just made me smile more and more and more. Wonderful work project coming to fruition!

    Hi Jodi, thanks. That tulip has performed above and beyond expectations, in the ground for nine years and still going strong. No others have done as well, even if they do return. I highly recommend them to all who can grow tulips in their climates. You know all about projects, my friend. πŸ™‚


  26. Siria says:

    Your knot garden is beautiful Frances! Your hard work in both planning, planting and maintenance really shows.

    Hi Siria, thanks so much. Many hours are spent in the garden, it is nice when it pays off like this. Still more work to be done, always. That’s the way I like it. πŸ™‚

  27. WOW…. your garden is always breath taking. Thank you for sharing the progression of this beautiful garden season to season. I can’t wait to see what Spring has in store.

    Hi Bren, thanks and welcome. Spring is moving along at a steady clip now. We are hoping for no more damaging freezes on this our last frost date.

  28. Kathy in Napa says:

    Time travel is so very compelling in the garden, new destinations continue to unfold, and every step of the journey is exciting. The Viola beauty pageant has it all over the conventionality of Ms America. Hail Violas!

    Hi Kathy, thanks for traveling through time with the garden. The violas thank you for the kind assessment. πŸ™‚

  29. Blossom says:

    amazing to see how each picture differs, how the same spot transforms with beauty. I like it very much, Frances.

    Hi Blossom, thanks. To some it might be hard to see the changes, but in person they are much more apparent. I think the center is good now, if and when the Elfin thyme fills in.

  30. I see you have a revolving garden gate policy for quite a few plants in your knot garden.;-) Sometimes it takes awhile before we finally hit on the right plants for the right place. I enjoyed reading all about it and agree that the lavender is right at home.

    BTW loved the first pic of that riot in your knotgarden, flowers everywhere. Great fun!

    Happy Easter, Francis!

    Hi YE, thanks and Happy Easter to you! The little lavender cultivar is perfect in the spot. Even in bloom the size is in proportion to the space. Now we are working on the Elfin thyme, a very low and cute little plant. I know you can appreciate change in the garden too. πŸ™‚

  31. Sweet Bay says:

    My favorite picture is the spring one with the violas seeding in everywhere.

  32. So interesting to see how you have documented the development of the knot garden. That’s the best thing about gardening – nothing stays the same – the plants make sure of that.

  33. Phillip says:

    I’ve always wanted to do a knot garden. I love it!

  34. Racquel says:

    I love the Knot Garden, thanks for reposting the story behind how it has changed & evolved over the past year or so. Sometimes we see things in our mind that just don’t work out in real life, it happens to me too. πŸ™‚ But the great thing about gardening is that it can be reworked and made better. The lavender was good choice for this area as well as the boxwoods. Your shed with the newly painted blue trim doors really anchors that end of the garden now. Good job!

  35. Good morning Frances. I think this was one of your loveliest and most informative posts. It was great to see the transition of the garden, what worked and what didn’t. It probably also gives newer gardeners hope and inspiration. They need to know that we also have successes and failures in the garden. I love your knot garden. I wish I had a place flat enough for one.~~Dee

  36. Jeanne says:

    I love the knot garden. Elegant, stylish plantings. Thanks for the pictures!

    Jeanne (garden writer)

  37. layanee says:

    I love the series of pictures of the evolution of the garden…and the gardener. That is just what gardening is all about, I think!

  38. joey says:

    So lovely wathcing your garden grow, Frances … love the tulips, one of my favorites … can’t wait for mine to bloom. Isn’t spring lovely! Happy Easter.

  39. dowhatyoulove says:

    Isn’t it wonderful to watch a garden fill in, and mature? I really like those green tulips, wow.

  40. Silvia Salix says:

    Beautiful knot garden. It’s a shame the heather didn’t survive.
    I adore all the little violas, I always leave mine growing wherever they like. But you have way many more than I!

  41. linda says:

    Just beautiful Frances. It’s great seeing the progression of your knot garden through the seasons and years. You’ve really shown what a work in progress a garden is, and how much is learned along the way.

  42. chuck b. says:

    The green tulips are sweet. That’s something I would have, with more room.

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