Tudor gardens: Henry VII 1485 - Elizabeth I 1603

The Gatehouse at Hardwick Hall, Derbyshire
Hardwick's impressive herb garden was created in the 1960s and contains plants that would have been familiar to an Elizabethan household National Trust Images / Andrew Butler

Influences from Renaissance Italy began to infiltrate Tudor gardens. This can be seen in the greater regularity of design and the relationship between the garden and the façade of the house, along with architectural features such as banqueting houses, loggias and fountains.

Snail mounts were popular, ascended by a spiral path and often topped with a pavilion offering views both of the garden within and out to the deer park, the greatest status symbol of the day.
The most recognised feature from this period is the knot garden: beds of interlacing patterns designed to be seen from above and filled with herbs and favourite flowers such as gilly-flowers and carnations.

Style at a glance

  • Knot gardens, geometric beds edged with a low hedge of box or other shrubs
  • Flowers, cultivated not only for their beauty but for flavouring sweets and desserts. Favourites were violets, marigolds, and most importantly the rose
  • Mounts, an artificial hill for viewing often situated at the corners of the garden to provide views both of the garden and the landscape beyond
  • Banqueting Houses to provide an intimate room for enjoying desserts and for entertainment
  • Fountains and automated water features to animate the garden, reflecting an interest in hydraulics
  • Deer parks, not only living larders providing meat for the household but also a symbol of wealth and status
  • Use of symbolic devices and ornaments such as poles topped with colourful heraldic animals and labyrinths associated with religious or mythological significance
The garden in April viewed from the old fish pond at Godolphin House, Cornwall
The 16th-century garden of this romantic old house has remained virtually unchanged National Trust Images / Andrew Butler

Where to see gardens with Tudor features 

We care for many gardens with features from the Tudor period. Here's our guide of the best spots to step back in time to the reign of King Henry VIII.