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What is an English Country Garden, and how can you achieve the look?

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What is an English Country Garden, and how can you achieve the look?

The first thing that comes to mind when you think of an English country garden is that it needs to be in England. The English country garden is a style loved all around the world and many of the most beautiful of them aren’t even in England. 

The English garden dates back to the first century when the Romans invaded Britain. It’s often believed that the first stages of the English garden had symmetrical gravel paths, short hedges, an open lawn and a small kitchen garden where they could grow herbs and vegetables.

Keep reading to learn more about the English garden, so you can enjoy this garden too and have a go at replicating it yourself…

When it comes to English country gardens, many people confuse them for cottage gardens however there are differences between the two. The one main difference is that a cottage garden has a relaxed feel too. There are no rules when it comes to planting in threes or fives and colour coordination. 

Cottage gardens are a colourful mix of flowers packed together with herbs and edibles. If you have a flower or plant you want to include in your garden you find somewhere you can plant it and put it there. It doesn’t matter if there is too much or too little of one colour, that’s a cottage garden for you. It’s relaxed, naturalistic and unbound by rules.

Another difference between an English country garden and a cottage garden is that there is no space for a lawn in a cottage garden. In a  cottage garden, the emphasis is on planting and making the most out of your space.

There might be room in a larger cottage garden, but instead of a lawn why not have a terrace, winding paths throughout the garden, a secluded place to sit and relax or more planting?

In an English country garden, you will often find tall, shaped hedges with a walkway leading you around the lawn, it’s become one of the most noticeable features. Other features found in an English country garden include wide paths, large borders, a lawn, lots of flowers over all four seasons, traditional garden furniture, a pond, a sculpture or topiary and roses.

The style of the English country garden is seen as traditional and timeless, following a classic style. The aim of these gardens is to make them seem like they have been there since time immemorial, borrowing from the wider landscape to create a more tamed, more stylised, natural look.

These formal landscapes, often punctuated with raised flower beds, were kept close to the house or castle, while the more expansive grounds,  surrounding the dwelling and immediate grounds, was often used to keep cattle or deer. Although the English garden has changed over the centuries, there are a few basic characteristics that can be replicated in your garden to help add a little “English” to it.

An English country garden is full of flowers of contrasting and complementary shapes, hues, sizes and colours, but here the number of species and varieties are more restricted and the planting is repeated throughout the garden, creating a more curated look. For a soft colour in the summer, ‘traditional’ plants such as roses, clematis and hydrangeas create a backdrop of colour to your canvas. Romantic and dreamy plants like hardy geraniums or delphiniums particularly grasp the English country garden feel. 

When we create gardens in the English country garden style, we start by creating generous borders, adding colour and textural plants that will gently spill onto the paths and terraces. 

As the English country garden doesn’t follow trends (it’s far too sophisticated for that), it’s important not to add anything which could look out of place and alienated. Furniture is an element which can be a standout piece to the garden and needs to be selected carefully so it looks natural. Instead of bold colours and materials look for a wooden bench or wired or woven furniture. See our Kodo Cocoon Chair and our full furniture range here.

Along with furniture, you can add a structure, topiary or a pergola for winter interest, bringing texture and height to the garden. Hard landscaping and structures can also help achieve the look with rose arches and obelisks in the planting beds.

Each element serves an important purpose for the English country garden and is chosen for its time-honoured feel. But, while it retains the softness and romance of a cottage garden, it’s deceptively ordered, finely planned and laid out with scrupulous intent.

Whether you’re dreaming of a bucolically laid-back cottage garden, where flowers, fruits and vegetables of all kinds, intermingle as if by chance, or you prefer the more ‘designed’, yet still sweetly romantic look of an English country garden if you’re ready to elevate your garden, we’re ready to bring those dreams to life. Tell us about them. 

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