Friday, October 16, 2009

Designing a traditional herb garden (aka potager garden, kitchen garden, Bauerngarten, cottage garden, etc.)

My son Martin turning the compost (left), me planting the boxwood hedge (right) (click to enlarge)

My biggest project in the new garden is to plant a geometrical herb garden, i.e. an ornamental kitchen garden. There are many terms for this type of garden, or rather there are many types of traditional gardens in various countries which possess some of the elements of what I want to do: the traditional German Bauerngarten, the French potager garden, English cottage gardens or border gardens, French formal gardens, and on a larger scale the herb gardens still to be found in Europe's monasteries, cloisters and manor houses.

In many of these traditions, there's an emphasis on combining utilitarian vegetables and herbs with the beauty of flowering plants, and the design usually involves geometrical beds arranged symmetrically and bordered in some way, and the garden usually has a centerpiece such as an urn, a sculpture, a sundial, a fountain, or a birdbath.

Here is my design (on the right) including a list of plants that I'm planning for each sector (click to enlarge any images), and also a to-scale hand sketch (on the left) of the overall layout of the garden showing the location of the herb garden:

My herb garden is rectangular, not quite square, and measures about 30 square meters (about 322 square feet). It will have three entries, all leading to a central round area.

The following features are planned.

Border: Before winter sets in for good I want to complete planting of the entire periphery with a border of low boxwood hedging (buxus sempervirens "blauer Heinz"). This is a very traditional and widespread plant for low hedges in many countries. Slugs and snails leave it alone. Luckily, I was able to use compost earth from one of our silos to give the boxwoods a good start. Click for a closeup of that bucket of rich compost. And on the right an overview of the progress made to date on the hedge.

Centerpiece: I plan to put a birdbath on a pedestal in the center of the garden. The garden colony is full of birds, especially on the edge of the forest where my garden is. Up till now I've seen starlings, wrens, European robins, magpies, blackbirds, thrushes, sparrows, chickadees, and various birds of prey. Also, my neighbor reports there are nightingales.

Paths: Bark or gravel.

Beds: There will be four symmetrical beds with different themes. In one bed there will be mostly vegetables and herbs, two beds will have color schemes (see colored gardens), and in one bed I'm planning to grow plants which are frequented by butterflies, wild bees and wasps, and other useful insects. See plan above for lists of plants in each sector.

I've made heavy use of the book mentioned in my previous post on slugs and snails in choosing plants that these creatures don't like.

Here's a video introduction to formal herb gardening.

And now to finish a couple pictures of some beautiful roses still blooming in the garden in late October (click to enlarge):


  1. Love to read it. Has Patty seen it? Liked your joke yesterday. Hope you are bending at the knees and not at the waist. Love,

  2. Creation feeds the soul! Am eager to watch your garden take root (haha, no pun intended).

  3. Every time I come home after a garden tour I start getting new ideas for my own garden.

  4. Barbara, I am in love. Please go to my blog and check out two of my posts, "Just say no(to Grass)" and "The Kitchen Garden". I started calling it a potager, but felt a bit pretentious,(even tho Canada is bilingual).
    My garden is square as I outlined it with wood. I really like the boxwood hedge though, I find that this hedging is cheaper in Europe, rather than North America, not as popular here. I just put wood chips on my paths, would prefer gravel, but had a tree come down in a storm, so lots of chips to use up. I will change it for gravel in a few years.

  5. A good post on herb gardens.

    I found this website useful for Herb Gardening tips I think you guys will find it interesting too.

    Mark - Home herb garden

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