How often do you sit down and think about the look of your garden? Do you make an effort to plant a garden that will be beautiful all year long? Garden layout usually takes a back seat in modern garden guides. If we’re growing vegetables, we want to maximize our yields. If we’re growing flowers and bushes, we want to minimize labor.
Many beautiful layouts do neither. They’re not the most efficient ways to grow huge quantities of produce, and they require consistent care and upkeep. So, what’s the point? Beauty, of course!
The Art of Gardening
Is there anything more peaceful than a beautiful garden to walk in? Are there any tasks that nurture our bodies and souls as much as tending the earth? Before the industrial revolution made efficiency the most important virtue, gardening was considered an art form. The time spent crafting a lovely garden is well spent.
Maybe you’re interested in being more intentional with your time. Or maybe your garden is so efficient already that you’d like to challenge yourself. If you’re like me, you just want a garden that makes you happy when you look at it. Whatever is leading you to look into designing a beautiful garden layout, I know you’ll find some inspiration in these old-world designs.
1. Knotwork Garden
You’ve seen them in photos of beautiful old cathedrals and monasteries. In the cathedral garden or out among the walking paths surrounding old buildings, knotwork gardens are planted to delight the eyes. A knot garden is truly a work of art.
Some people plant evergreen knot gardens with boxwood or wintergreen. These beautiful designs show up bright green against the white snow of winter. Other people plant knotwork herb gardens that beautiful the landscape during the growing season and rest through the winter.
Knot gardens require consistent care, as they’re planted and trimmed to resemble Celtic or medieval knotwork. While your garden knot can be as intricate or as simple as you need it to be, a knotwork garden will require pruning at least once a week.
Make sure to design your garden to be viewed from above. They’re beautiful as you’re walking among them, but they’re absolutely stunning when you look down from a window. Plant your knot garden under a balcony, or big upper-story window.
An evergreen is the perfect frame for massed plantings of other flowers and herbs. Fill in the negative space with annuals or perennials for an exciting seasonal contrast. In the summer, your garden can provide structure and support for medicinal herbs or beautiful cut flowers. In the winter, the evergreen boxwood plants can brighten up the view from your bedroom window.
A knot garden layout may seem a bit too intricate and challenging for gardeners. If you think a knotwork garden might overwhelm you, try planting a parterre instead. These are less labor intensive, but still beautiful. Parterre gardens are just simplified versions of knotwork gardens, avoiding the woven effect that is often so difficult to produce.
Plant a parterre garden to get started on structural garden design. If you’ve never grown anything for visual effect before, this will challenge you without overwhelming you!
2. Labyrinth Garden Layout
If you have the space for a labyrinth garden, there is really nothing more impressive. Labyrinths were hugely popular in medieval gardens, and are still beloved worldwide. The structure and beauty of the labyrinth helps to calm those who walk them, and those who tend to them.
These days, labyrinths are even more accessible, thanks to the production of garden labyrinth kits. The kits include garden fabric printed with a traditional labyrinth garden layout. All you have to do is level and area, lay out the design, and follow the template!
Whether you’re creating a luxury, boxwood-lined labyrinth walking path, or a simple, stone labyrinth among the grass, including this meditative design into your garden will provide a beautiful structure for your garden layout.
Labyrinths are great places for reflection. In fact, yours can be anything you want it to be! Consider filling space between the paths with perennial herbs or bee-loving flowers.
Like knot gardens and parterres, labyrinths do require a lot of upkeep. Try to spend some time each day walking in yours and tending to stray branches, weeds, and out of place stones. Keep the layout simple and uncluttered. These should be places where your mind can rest—even while your hands are busy. Build a labyrinth you want to spend time in, and keep it that way.
One of the most low maintenance ways to build one is with stones and gravel. These simple, minimalistic labyrinths don’t require very much upkeep at all. If you’d like to build a beautiful and easy to keep garden design that you can enjoy without consistent effort, try this approach.
A simple, stone and gravel labyrinth in the center of a wide, bright garden is stunning. Or, tuck it in a shady niche for a peaceful retreat.
Unless you’re an extremely confident DIYer, building a garden labyrinth will be expensive. These patterns are expensive and materials can be cost prohibitive. But if budget isn’t a concern, this project is guaranteed to enhance your garden for years to come.
3. Kitchen Garden
The simplest and most functional way to build a beautiful, old world garden is to plant a kitchen garden. These are designed around a central water source, divided by walking paths, and planted primarily with perennials.
A kitchen garden can give the impression of an English cottage garden while providing you with easy-to-grow vegetables. Enclose yours with an old-fashioned wattle fence. Additionally, grow your plants in squares, circles, or casual clumps instead of planting them in rows.
Make the garden gate a focal point as well. These gardens are supposed to draw you in, from the gate to the center of the garden, where a pool of water (or just a bird bath) is waiting. Kitchen gardens are meant to be cozy places—ideal for hosting small groups of friends or spending a quiet afternoon alone with a book.
The Place for Combination Gardening
If you have a lot of space, and you’re hoping to include aspects of knotwork and labyrinths in your garden space, a kitchen garden layout is ideal. Build an evergreen knot garden around the pool in the center of your garden. Design the walking paths in your kitchen garden along labyrinth plans.
Now fence in your living work of art and spend a bit of time each day in it. A little pruning, a little watering, and your garden will surprise you with its beauty.
4. Feng Shui
Let’s leave the gardens of the west for a while and take a peek at another principal of garden layout: Feng Shui.
Most people limit Feng Shui principles to living rooms and bedrooms, but you can apply the practice of facilitating energy flow through a space anywhere.
Embrace the Elements
Feng shui designs incorporate the elements and directions into a unified whole and plant accordingly. The design compass places water in the north end of the garden, with dark, almost black plants.
In the west, where creativity reigns, make a children’s garden. Or, if you’re an artist, set up your easel there. The eastern end of the garden is associated with spirituality. As a result, it’s an ideal place for a meditative garden or some meaningful herbs.
The center of the garden is linked to balance, and the earth. Plant root crops or humble, grounding herbs here. I love the idea of a garden with beautiful sunflowers, goldenrod, and lemon lilies bursting to life in the center.
Healing Gardens in Feng Shui
Feng shui gardens are ideal for growing medicinal herbs. Most healing herbs are linked with an element, just as Feng Shui’s compass points. Plant your healing herbs in their corresponding compass points for best results.
These gardens are meant to be healing in more ways than one, and yours should help you feel calmer and better. Feng shui is designed to call in healing energy and encourage negative energy to depart.
Make your garden gate strong and welcoming. Feng Shui wants to draw you into the beautiful retreat you’ve created. Make sure the gate fits the direction it’s in. It’s also important to avoid placing gates directly across from each other.
If you have two gates, avoid creating a “shotgun house” effect by places the doors at an angle with each other. Otherwise, all the good energy will flow right through your garden, without staying to fill your space.
Growing a beautiful garden can require a lot of work, but don’t be afraid to jump in anyway! Some say that a person who works with their hands is a laborer, but a person who works with both their hands and his heart is an artist. Build your garden as an artist and enjoy the abundant space you’ve created!