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17 English Garden Ideas

English gardens, with their foxgloves, fragrant roses and other lovely plants, can transform outdoor spaces. Find inspiration for a traditional or cottage-style design with these 17 English garden ideas.

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Photo: Dara Mullen

Design a Traditional or Cottage-Style English Garden

English gardens, which originated in the early 18th century, usually have a lush, full cottage-style look or a more formal, traditional style. For a traditional English garden, think trimmed hedges, manicured lawns and structures like arbors or fountains. For cottage style, imagine beds and borders overflowing with perennials and annuals. It's not hard to create your own English garden. Start with plants recommended for your hardiness zone and growing conditions, such as full sun or shade.

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Photo: David Austin Roses

Plant Roses

Roses are practically a must-have for English gardens. Step back and look at your whole garden space before you plant, says Stephen Parnham, head gardener at England's David Austin Roses. To add interest and depth, he suggest layering a rambling rose behind a border of shrub roses. For cottage garden style, line a path or flank an entrance with climbing or rambling roses, or train the roses up and over a house or porch. Use roses with clipped hedges and a manicured green lawn for a formal, traditional look.

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Photo: Shutterstock

Mix Annuals and Perennials

English gardens often mix annuals and perennials of different sizes, shapes and colors to echo the plants you'd see growing in the English countryside. Popular choices for cottage style gardens include lady's mangle, foxgloves, pinks (Dianthus), peonies, hollyhocks, phlox, delphiniums, lavender, herbs, primroses and hydrangeas. Include plants that bloom at different times, so you'll have something in flower throughout the growing season.

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Photo: Historic New England

Formal English Garden Ideas

For an elegant, formal English garden, consider using a statue like the one shown here, located at Historic New England's Hamilton House. A statue works as a focal point when it draws your eye and leads you into the surrounding garden. You could also use a large urn, container plant, an inviting sitting area, garden shed, water feature or showy plant like a flowering tree. Don't be afraid to use something whimsical, like a cute animal statue, in a cottage garden.

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