English Garden Plants

Welcome English garden plants to your yard. Use these plants to fill a yard with colorful chaos or formal finery.



White fence, pink roses, sage catmint and ladys mantle bordering sidewalk on house entrance

Get ready to receive compliments when you fill your yard with English garden plants. These beautiful plants and the classic English garden designs they create transform the most modest garden into a showstopper. Whether you go for the romance of a cottage garden or the formal flair of a country estate, you won’t make a bad choice when you invite English garden plants onto the scene. 

Two images usually come to mind when people think of English gardens: a cottage garden stocked with roses, perennials and a picket fence, or a lavish country estate with well-tended mixed borders and formal hedges. Each garden type demands specific plants to create the backbone of the design, but once that’s in place, you can mix and match a variety of English garden plants.

Both styles welcome roses, including Climbers. In a cottage garden, you might also select landscape roses, which blend classic rose beauty with low maintenance. Examples include popular Knock Out roses, which open pink, yellow or bicolor blooms, and Carefree Beauty or Carefree Wonder roses, which unfurl pink flowers. For a country estate-type garden, consider growing the more sprawling Shrub roses and old-fashioned types.

Perennials play a key role in both design styles. Select ones that are favorite English garden plants to cultivate an anglophile’s eden. The list includes delphinium, foxglove (Digitalis purpurea), lamb’s ear (Stachys byzantina) and lavender (Lavandula angustifolia). Other perennials that are perfect for creating natural-looking drifts in a cottage garden or mixed border include lady’s mantle (Alchemilla mollis), campanula, Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum x superbum), peony (Paeonia spp.) and daylily (Hemerocallis spp.).

Structures, such as a trellis, arch or tuteur, belong in any English garden design. Add vines to bring these vertical elements to life. Clematis, trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera sempervirens), climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris) and ivy make good choices for perennial vines. Annual vines that work as English garden plants include morning glory (Ipomoea spp.), cup-and-saucer vine (Cobaea scandens), moonflower (Ipomoea alba) and black-eyed susan vine (Thunbergia alata). 

For a formal English garden, include hedges of some type. Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens), English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and privet (Ligustrum ovalifolium) are traditional English garden plants for hedging. If you desire to create a knot-style garden with low hedges, investigate box (Buxus sempervirens ‘Suffruticosa’), lavender cotton (Santolina chamaecyparissus) or wall germander (Teucrium chamaedrys).

Another group of English garden plants is biennials. These plants need two growing seasons to mature from seed to flower. In the first season, they produce leaves; flowers form in the second season. Favorite biennials to work into your cottage or perennial garden include Canterbury bells (Campanula medium), sweet William (Dianthus barbatus), forget-me-not (Myosotis sylvatica), larkspur (Consolida ambigua) and sweet rocket (Hesperis matronalis).

No matter which type of English garden design you prefer, don’t forget to include focal points, such as a fountain, bench, trellis or sculpture. English garden plants should complement and help highlight the focal point. Achieve this through plant selection, situating plants near the focal point that don’t overpower or overwhelm it.

For instance, tall ornamental grasses can easily dwarf a short sculpture or small fountain. With these focal points, shorter perennials would allow the focal point to steal the spotlight. To select vines for trellises, consider the scale of the trellis and the mature size of the vine. A wisteria vine that suits a pergola over an outdoor dining area would engulf a wall trellis, while a black-eyed susan vine may disappear on a grandiose entry trellis arch.

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