… even birds and animals.
Dating back to at least the Roman times, topiary became fashionable in the great Renaissance gardens of Italy and France.
Dutch gardens developed more intricate designs which were copied in England. In the 18th century, English gardens spurned it in favour of the sweeping scenes of the Landscape Movement. Today it is common to see topiary pyramids standing sentinel by the front door.
They can add much needed structure to the winter garden and act as anchors in summer borders.
Knot gardens : These are usually square compartments, (often several squares in large gardens) , usually edged with box. They have a very formal, intricate design, meticulously planned on paper before laying out. Like Celtic designs, the knot garden often looks as if the plants are woven under and over each other.
Parterres : These are formal gardens, less intricate than a knot, laid out in a symmetrical pattern with tightly clipped evergreen structure, infilled with coloured gravel or plants.
Medieval paintings of gardens, the symbolic Hortus conclusus, often show compartmentalised quadrants of plants.These were developed in 16th century France by Claude Mollet and later evolved into the lavish Baroque scrolling of the parterres en broderie.
How garden designers are using knots, parterres and topiary today
At Jardin we love the structure that topiary and box parterres can bring.
Knots and parterres are best viewed from above to fully appreciate their design.
They, along with topiary, make an excellent design for a front garden.
or simply to lift a dull patch of lawn overlooked from your bedroom window.
This type of formal gardens is all about strong structure, geometric shapes and symmetry which creates balance and harmony. It suits period houses very well.
But topiary doesn’t have to be fussy and old-fashioned. It can be adapted in a contemporary way for a modern setting, such as the repetition of a single species and strong formal lines.
No matter the size of your garden, you can distil these elements and add some topiary or a box hedged enclosure.
Look how box balls of various sizes have been used in this Show garden below. Extensive use of evergreens can lead to a static garden but here are mixed with grasses to create a sense of movement.
Hope we’ve inspired you to try a little more structure in your garden.
(All photography mine; feel free to use any of Jardin’s images but please credit and link back).