Create a Parterre Garden

A parterre is a pattern of boxwood or similar hedge plants, with the areas between filled with other plants. Traditionally, the hedging would be the permanent plants, and the infill made up of annuals and vegetables.
Parterre Made of Evergreen Hedging

Parterre Made of Evergreen Hedging

Photo by: DK - How to Grow Practically Everything © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

From: DK Books - Lawns

When to Start: Spring
At Its Best: Summer
Time to Complete: 4 hours for the small parterre, measuring 3 ft. x 4 ft., above

Materials Needed:

  • small boxwood plants, 'Suffruticosa'
  • 1 bay tree (Laurus nobilis)
  • shrubby herbs, such as rosemary, lavender, curry plant, cotton lavender and thyme — 3 plants per segment
  • shovel
  • organic matter
  • rake
  • landscape fabric
  • measuring tape
  • chalk
  • short stakes or pegs
  • sharp knife
  • gravel or slate chippings

Prepare the Soil

First, decide on the design you want and sketch it on paper — this parterre is a simple cross pattern. Then clear the area of grass and weeds, and add organic matter, such as garden compost, to improve the soil's structure. Silver-leaved herbs like well-drained soil, so if yours is heavy, add plenty of organic matter. Level the area carefully with a rake.

Level Area for Parterre

Level Area for Parterre

Photo by: DK - How to Grow Practically Everything © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Lay and Secure Landscape Fabric

The entire area should be covered in a good quality landscape fabric to suppress weeds and keep moisture in. Pin down the edges securely or slide them under the existing turf.

Mask Weeds with Landscaping Fabric

Mask Weeds with Landscaping Fabric

Photo by: DK - How to Grow Practically Everything © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Mark Out a Hedging Plan

Use a tape measure and chalk to mark out your pattern. Space the hedging plants at 8-inch intervals; insert short stakes to mark their positions. The plants will quickly spread to form a dense hedge.

Evenly Space Plants

Evenly Space Plants

Photo by: DK - How to Grow Practically Everything © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Plant Up

With a sharp knife, cut a cross in the landscape fabric at each planting point. Make small planting holes. Insert the boxwoods and firm them in. Then fold the landscape fabric back around the stem of the plants.

Arrange Herbs for the Final Design

Place your selected herbs, while still in their pots, in the gaps between the hedging plants, and arrange them until they look right. Put the bay tree in its terra-cotta pot at the center of your parterre to create a focal point.

Herb and Bay Tree Parterre

Herb and Bay Tree Parterre

Photo by: DK - How to Grow Practically Everything © 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

DK - How to Grow Practically Everything, 2010 Dorling Kindersley Limited

Apply a Layer of Slate Chippings

Plant the herbs, water them and cover the whole parterre in a layer of gravel. This will hide the landscape fabric and further help seal in moisture. Other mulching materials can be used, such as slate chippings. Tip: Allow the boxwoods to grow a little taller than their required height, but nip off the tips of the side shoots to encourage bushy growth. When the plants are tall enough, set a line of string at the right height and clip along the hedge with shears (Image 2).

Next Up

How to Create an Herb Circle

Herbs make an inspiring feature when grown together, and tend to like similar conditions. Soften an area of hardscaping by allowing space for a circle of these colorful, low-growing, culinary plants.

Create an Easy-Care Garden Border

This bold design brings together rich colors and contrasting flowers and foliage to create an easy-care summer border. Ideal for well-drained soil and a sunny site, these plants rarely need watering once established.

Create a Simple Topiary

Topiary lends structure and formality to any planting design and makes a useful focal point. All you need to bring an overgrown specimen back into shape, or to make a cone from scratch, are some basic tools, patience and a good eye.

How to Plant a Kitchen Herb Garden

Have some extra space in your yard or garden? Plant a fresh and simple herb garden only steps away from the kitchen.

How to Create a Wildlife Pond

A beautiful wildlife pond will attract a whole host of beneficial animals, birds and insects. Make one with sloping sides, to allow easy access for creatures to come and go, and leafy edges that offer habitat and cover.

Create and Care for a Lavender Hedge

Lavender plants are generally easy to care for. Learn how to create a fragrant and beautiful lavender hedge, and maintain it for years to come.

Garden Bed Makeover

A deciduous border turns multi-seasonal with evergreens and boulders.

Create a Stunning Herb Container Garden

Make it easy to snip a handful of fresh herbs while you're cooking — keep this fragrant herb garden on the deck or patio.

Mexican Heather

Mexican heather looks dainty and delicate, but this sturdy little shrub is actually tough as nails.

Wildflower Gardening

Love wildflowers? Create a meadow using these tips as a guide.

1,000+ Photos

Browse beautiful photos of our favorite outdoor spaces: decks, patios, porches and more.

Follow Us Everywhere

Join the party! Don't miss HGTV in your favorite social media feeds.