How to make a carpet bed

The 'carpet beds' on the parterre at Waddesdon Manor

Every year, the gardens at Waddesdon Manor, in Buckinghamshire, come alive with ‘carpet beds’ – pictures created with bedding plants. Gardens Manager Paul Farnell explains how to make your own.

Choose a space

You’ll need an area of flat ground; either a raised bed or a bed created in a lawn. If space is limited, you could use a shallow pot or planter.

Create a design

Draw a rough diagram of your design. Seeing the colours side by side on paper will help you see the overall effect you’ll create when the bed is planted. You could try a spiral pattern which works well with about 20 plants, or get creative and design something yourself.

Select your plants

Many plug plants and alpine plants are ideal for carpet bedding. We love alternanthera (‘joyweed’), which comes in green, yellow, red and pink shades.

Mark out your design

Use sand or garden twine to make your picture. Garden twine is good for marking out straight lines, while sand is better for rounded edges. For larger areas, marking out a grid on the bed will help keep things in proportion and keep your design clear.

Get planting

Position the plants very close together. They need to be almost touching to create the effect of a growing carpet. Start at the top and work backwards so you can smooth out footmarks as you go. If it’s a large bed, stand on a board to distribute your weight.

Maintenance

Once your bed is planted, water well and regularly for the first two to three weeks to help the plants establish. Then water when the bed becomes dry. You may need to trim the bed with topiary shears or sharp secateurs two or three times during the growing season to keep the pattern sharp.

Video

See the experts at work

The carpet bed at Waddesdon changes every season, in 2016 it took inspiration from the Savonnerie carpet in the Red Drawing Room of the Manor. It was commissioned for Louis XIV, originally intended for the Long Gallery at the Louvre palace. The head of Apollo, god of the sun and emblem of the King, appears in the centre. The carpet was laid in Baron Ferdinand de Rothschild’s main reception room at Waddesdon Manor, where it is seen by thousands of visitors each year.

This article has been adapted from an original article in the Summer 2017 issue of the National Trust Magazine.