British Gardens

By Sharon Naylor

March 6, 2015 6 min read

From "Downton Abbey" to movies featuring Gwyneth Paltrow or Colin Firth in a British countryside setting, the English cottage garden takes center stage as one of the prettiest garden settings. With ultra-delicate flowers, pretty green leaves and bumble bees and butterflies flitting about, the British cottage garden is the perfect romantic setting for a tea party on a lazy afternoon -- a setting many people like to emulate in their gardens at home.

Here are some top tips for creating your own English cottage-style garden:

--Choose the right size. A typical English cottage garden is small and compact, brimming with flowering cottage garden plants. Think lushness and closely placed plants that create a bouquet of loveliness in your small space.

--Plan for paths. Give yourself walking room within your British cottage garden with pathways made from the types of materials you would find in a British country garden. These are bricks, shells, gravel or aggregate, not the usual flagstone that you might see offered at your garden center. It's that quiet crunch underfoot while walking through your garden that adds to the British cottage garden appeal.

--Plan for visibility from your home's porch and windows. A true British cottage garden style lets you see those beautiful garden elements through any window around which you and friends may gather.

--Plan for a variety of flowering plant heights. An English cottage garden is known for its tall flowering plants, climbing flowering plants like climbing roses, wisteria, honeysuckle, clematis and ornamental grapes, with height providing a lush natural backdrop for your lower-set flowers such as lavender, delphinium and daisies. Climbing roses can rise up from your garden and look terrific when up the side of your house or porch, giving it that quintessential British-garden look. In addition to the beauty of tall, medium-height and low-set flowers, you'll need to plan for the maintenance of these varied plants -- as some can require more care than others. Even though a British cottage garden can appear informal and haphazard, it takes dedication and time to nurture each of your many garden plants well.

--Choose the same types of flowers that appear in British cottage gardens. According to David Brill, a gardening expert at The Farm at Green Village, some of the top British cottage garden style flowers include lavender, dianthus, foxglove, iris, perennial geranium, delphinium and daisies. Other flowers ideal for your British cottage garden include bellflower, columbine, coralbells, dame's rocket, hollyhock, hydrangea, lady's mantle, peonies, phlox and Sweet William. In addition to providing that signature British-garden softness, many of these flowers -- like columbine, coralbells and Sweet William, are known for attracting butterflies and hummingbirds to your garden, depending on the region where you live. These pretty visitors add to the appeal of your garden.

--Choose old-fashioned varieties of your garden flowers. The world of flowering plants offers many different varieties, and your garden center's expert can help you locate old-fashioned or heirloom-style plants that suit your English-garden style. These old-fashioned flowers may bloom larger than regular varieties, with ruffled edges and softness, a feminine grace inherent in your flower choices.

--Choose your garden color scheme carefully. One of the most common color schemes for British cottage garden flowers is pink and white for a color-coordinated garden look, and the blue and yellow combination is also a popular motif for flower colors. You can, of course, select many different shades of flowers, but stick with softer shades of each hue for an authentic British-garden feel.

--Plant flowers in small pockets. Group different types of flowers together in sections so that your delphiniums grow in a patch next to your lavender in a sizeable patch of their own. For a lovely visual impression, a signature aspect of the English cottage garden, create a planned layout that makes each flower type stand out, rather than alternating flower types in a wildflowers-type layout.

--Grow living dividers. Low hedges in narrow strips can separate the sections of your garden.

--Add an arbor. Plant climbing flowers to train up the sides and roof of the arbor to complete that height effect and add to the romance of your cottage garden.

--Add garden d?cor as well. Birdbaths, birdfeeders, benches, wheelbarrows and aged-metal watering cans add extra appeal and personality to your English cottage garden, keeping in step with the style and tone of your garden's timeless design, skipping any modern or kitschy garden accents.

--Surround your garden with a fence or wall, also a mainstay of the British cottage garden look. A gate giving easy access to your garden is a winning look.

Purchase a handled basket and high-quality cutting shears to assist in your regular cutting sessions. And bring some of your lovely cottage garden flowers indoors for the prettiest and most delightfully fragrant of flower arrangements throughout your home.

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