The ground is now getting very heavy with rain and lack of sun so any large scale re-designing in the garden may need to wait until April. However it may be worth thinking ahead especially if you fancy a parterre or two and want to take advantage of relatively inexpensive bare root plants. I love parterres because they look especially great in winter adding order and interest to the garden at the quietest time of the year. Then in spring and summer they provide an ever-green frame for all manner of interesting plants. They are relatively low maintenance requiring a trim in summer and sometimes another in autumn.
The box hedging I would choose is Buxus sempervirens ‘Suffruticosa’ since this forms a smaller hedge allowing for more dramatic planting in the interior. It’s readily available as a bare root plant and can be purchased from now until the end of March and heeled in on an empty bed in the vegetable garden or in large pots of compost left to one side in the garden. These small plants are hardy and provided they are healthy and the roots are in soil will be perfectly safe until planted in the ground in spring. They will then put on vigorous growth especially if given a tomato plant feed every two weeks throughout spring and summer.
If you are seriously considering a design then I would urge you to read my favourite book on this subject Topiary by David Joyce which gives all the advice you could possibly need for making these formal beds. It’s full of stunning photographs to inspire the design and would be the best place to start the project. The next stage is to identify where in the garden you might place a parterre (or two or four) and then to measure and draw to scale. Ideally the ground should be flat although I have seen very successful four square parterres on a slope. The spacing for box hedges is 5 plants per metre and they take about four years to fully join up to form a hedge.
The image above was taken in a large country garden and is a classic design known as an embroidered parterre. However it was designed and manifest by the owner of the garden, a teacher (but maybe of maths) so with careful planning even the grandest parterres can be designed and made by all.
On a smaller scale, perhaps in a front garden, you could consider one large parterre with a standard rose in the centre surrounding the rose with low growing herbaceous plants. Or as in the image at the beginning simply place an elegant pot of bulbs in the centre. When the bulbs have finished flowering in spring they can be replaced with annuals in summer. In a country garden parterres look lovely full of herbs, vegetables and salads.