Julie A. Martens

Celebrate the glory of gardening by giving your yard an English garden design. You might want to capture the carefree abundance of an English cottage garden or give your home the luxurious formality of English country gardens. No matter your preference, you can create a stunning English garden design with simple techniques. 

Typically when individuals speak of wanting an English garden design, they’re referring to one of two styles: the country garden or the cottage garden. An English country garden features a series of garden areas connected by paths. Each garden area showcases beautifully maintained gardens or natural-looking landscapes.

One area might have a breathtaking pond edged with deciduous trees whose brilliant autumn leaf tones reflect in the water. Another might display neatly trimmed hedges or even topiaries. Lavish hedge rows that burst into bloom or a swath of forest enclosing a rocky grotto and waterfall could each be part of an English country garden. These gardens were designed for lavish country estates and to be experienced on foot.

English cottage gardens feature over-the-top personality, with beds that brim with riotous color. Roses, delphiniums, foxglove and hollyhock sparkle in a cottage garden. Charming picket fences, stone paths and trellises interject a sense of order into the botanical chaos. In English cottage gardens, informality reigns, and plantings nudge and elbow one another to steal the spotlight.

Creating an English cottage garden isn’t difficult. You can stage a pretty patch of cottage color by planting a picket fence and surrounding it with flowers. Choose a mix of plants that flower at different points in the growing season to orchestrate a season-long symphony of color.


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Classic English cottage garden plants include old-fashioned roses, lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina), lavender (Lavandula angustifolia), delphinium, foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) and clematis. Fill your garden with some of these English cottage favorites, or focus on using native plants adapted to your region. Plant a mix of perennials and annuals.

Arrange plants in drifts to mimic nature, and allow some flowers to self-sow and create serendipitous combinations. Position plants in color blocks so you have analogous colors side by side, just like they appear on a color wheel. For example, let blue bloomers fade into purple flowers, which segue into plants with violet blossoms.

Where chaos reigns more freely in English cottage gardens, English country gardens are all about order. Neatly clipped hedges, clearly defined bed edges and healthy swaths of lush green lawn foster the ambience of an English country garden—and are easily adapted to any size yard. You may not be able to have an elaborate folly, or garden structure, but you can add a gazebo or pergola to your garden.

Divide your yard into garden rooms, using hedges or small trees to separate and even hide different areas. Connect the sections with a meandering path. Include a focal point in each area, such as a trellis, water feature, topiary or statue. Focal points don’t have to be large to be effective; they just have to be sited in a way that commands and draws attention.

Also include seating areas throughout your yard. Place them strategically to make the most of carefully planned vistas. English country gardens typically have formal seating, such as ornate stone benches. In a modern setting, choose benches made from wrought iron or weather-resistant wood that feature classic designs to infuse your garden with English style.

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