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Knot Gardens and Parterres: A History of the Knot Garden and How to Make One Today

By: Robin Whalley and Anne Jennings

160 pages, Col and b/w photos

Barn Elms Publishing

Hardback | Dec 1998 | #90232 | ISBN: 1899531041
Availability: Usually dispatched within 1-2 weeks Details
NHBS Price: £33.50 $44/€37 approx

About this book

Knot gardens, intricate designs of interlaced hedges, were popular in the Tudor period in England.

Australians Don Leevers and Lindsay Megarrity have managed to do what so many of us would like to do: up sticks and move to a warmer clime, spending our days doing what we love best - gardening. Back in 1988 they discovered Venzano in Tuscany, the last and least interesting-looking on their list of properties to view. They were instantly smitten and once they had sold up in England, embarked on what was to become a challenging project to create a home and garden in what appeared to be an inhospitable and overgrown patch of land. Set amidst the Tuscan countryside, Venzano was, and still in parts is, an ancient Etruscan ruin, its only redeeming feature being its own water supply - something rare in that arid part of North West Italy. From humble beginnings the men have created a garden paradise and in the process educated the local Italians into creating their own gardens by demonstration. The locals help to run the nursery now set up on site and a neighbour rules with a firm rod over the vegetable patch. Don is becoming a leading garden designer in Italy and Lindsay still finds time to do his RHS Gold Medal winning botanical illustrations in this peaceful setting. This account of that regeneration is by garden writer Stephanie Donaldson who has regularly visited Venzano, watching the transformation slowly take place. It is a highly personalized tale of the trials and tribulations faced by the two men as they strove to create some sort of order from the land, which until their arrival, nature had taken back as her own. Accompanied by variable photographs, occasionally mis-labelled, the book also includes a short section on dry garden plants together with cultivation details. Interspersed in the main text are tips on germination and propagation of particularly difficult plants such as Romneya coulteri. However, the real content of this book is the story of Don and Lindsay's determination to achieve the dream to which they aspired. It is an inspiration to all dream-seekers and an eye-opener to the realities such a move entails. From its first creation in Ancient times, the knot has been symbolic of love and strength. Depicted from earliest times in ceramics, mosaics, tapestries and textiles, it was eventually transposed into what we now know as knot gardens in Tudor times. Probably originating in Italy its idea was carried back to Britain via France and implemented in the various palaces and courts of the time. Henry VIII and Cardinal Wolsey especially were fond of knot gardens, trying to outdo both themselves and the French in their complexity. Wolsey in particular created gardens "so enknotted it cannot be exprest". However, their popularity waned in the eighteenth century with the advent of the great landscape gardeners who regarded them as too fussy and they were only resurrected more than a century later in a newer form during the Victorian bedding excesses. Robin Whalley's fascinating history of these formal gardens is informative, well-researched and beautifully illustrated with both old design plans and paintings, the latter often the only reference point to be found in the archives. Anne Jennings follows on from this with the practicalities of designing and implementing your own knot garden or parterre. Regardless of a gardens size, these adaptable garden features can fit into any scale and Anne gives an in-depth look at which plants to use, for both edging and infill, together with aftercare advice. Suitable for formal, informal and contemporary gardens, the appetising photographs will whet the appetite and fire the imagination. This book, published in association with the Museum of Garden History who has a particularly attractive knot garden taken from a seventeenth century plan, is for both the garden historian and those interested in making their own special knot garden.


Part One A history of the knot garden: unravelling the knot; the early Tudor period 1485-1558; late Tudor and early Stuart 1558-1625; from knots to parterres 1625-1714; revivals and restorations after 1800. Part Two How to make a knot garden: elements of design; plants for your knot; designing your knot; making a planting plan; preparing the ground; from page to ground; future care and maintenance.

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