What Is an English Garden?

Learn the elements of enchanting English gardens, and discover ways to translate that style to your yard.

Celebrate the glory of gardening by giving your yard an English garden design. You might want to capture the carefree abundance of English cottage gardens 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.

Flowers in bloom in a cottage garden

A Cottage Garden's Colorful Planting Palette

Flowers in bloom in a cottage garden.

Photo by: Andrew Grossman

Andrew Grossman

Flowers in bloom in a cottage garden.

English garden designs typically have one of two styles: the country garden or the cottage garden.

English Cottage Gardens

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.

Classic English cottage garden plants include:

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.

English Country Gardens

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.

An English country garden features a series of garden areas connected by paths. Each garden area showcases beautifully maintained gardens or natural-looking landscapes.

Boxwood hedges in an English garden

Formal English Garden

An English country garden is defined by order.

Photo by: Juliana Conte

Juliana Conte

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 are meant to be experienced on foot.

Include a focal point in each area, such as a trellis, water feature, topiary or statue. You may not be able to have an elaborate folly, or garden structure, but you can add a gazebo or pergola to your garden. 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.

Tour English Gardens

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