Planned Gardens (Part 1)

Planned gardens are precise and often arranged symmetrically around a central axis, which divides the garden down the middle. The central path may have paths crossing it at ritgh angles, dividing the garden into rectangles or squares. A very small and square garden might not have a straight path, just a central feature with paving around it. Path should be carefully detailed, hedges precise and evergreen shrubs clipped into disciplined shapes.

Hedges. Because a symmetrical pattern is the important thing, hedges are often used to mark out the pattern like piping on a cushion. Many of these are low so that they emphasise the basic geometry and do not hide one part from another. Box is one of the most popular shrubs for low hedges, as it grows slowly and is easy to clip.

Tall, clipped hedges of yew, privet, hornbeam or beech can create division between different areas or mark out the perimeter. Pleaching means planting the trees equal distances apart, cutting off the lower branches and intertwining or grafting the side branches to meet at about eye level, making a clipped hedge on tall ‘stalks’. In larger gardens two rows can be planted to create a dense double hedge with a tunnel in the middle.

Knots and parterres. Knot gardens were popular in Tudor times and were based on ancient mazes. These developed into small, rectangular, intricate geometrical patterns planted in a continuous, unbroken line. a knot garden may be complete in itself or filled with colors to accentuate the shapes. Traditionally, different colored gravels and coal or perhaps low-growing herbs such as thyme and lavender were used. Today recycled glass chippings and colored glass pebbles have added to the possibilities.

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A parterre is simpler than a knot – often planted in individual squares, not joined up together. Parterres were developed from knots in 17th century France where they were designed to be viewed from first-floor windows. They are usually larger and more open and the plants grown inside them can be taller. Parterres can also be used for growing vegetables.

Symmetrical shapes. Symmetrical shapes are those that are regular in outline. Although squares, rectangles and circles are the most common shapes, it is also possible to use triangles, hexagons and octagons. this need not necessarily mean straight lines. An oval shape can be very satisfactory in a rectangular plot and circular shapes have often been used very successfully inside square plots.

This garden leads, via two steps, from a curved patio of square slabs to 4 squares of clipped yew set in brick paving. Each square has a standard small rose or bay tree in the center. A clipped hedge divides this area from a circular pond with seats for peaceful contemplation.

Adjacent shapes can touch, overlap or be separated by a gap. It is usually best to choose one shape, such as a square, and then arrange squares of different size in a formal pattern.

Axis paths. When making your axis lines, you can reinforce them by planting clipped hedges along each side. Box is the most popular for this but lavender or rosemary will also make attractive low hedges. If you want something taller, plant standard roses on supports.


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