The legendary gardens of England have long influenced residential landscapes worldwide and are admired for their lush, green lawns, hedges, and drifts and borders of breathtaking flowers, grasses, and herbs. Of course, you don't have to live in Great Britain to enjoy the pleasures of cottage and English gardens. With basic design principles and knowledge of plants that grow well in your region but can be integrated into a landscape, you can capture the essence of an English garden.
In the late 1800s, William Robertson's book, The English Flower Garden, fueled an enthusiastic interest in the natural design of herbaceous plants, a movement away from more structured, geometric, and manicured gardens. But it was garden designer/author Gertrude Jekyll, who introduced the concept of single- and color-themed borders, along with planting natural-looking "drifts"—diagonal swaths.
The Royal Horticultural Society (RHS) is a gardening charity that holds annual events, including the internationally famous Chelsea Flower Show. The event is held in May, during the height of spring, and features spectacular flowers and plants, along with the word of innovative designers. The event is an excellent opportunity to view English gardens at one time.
For inspiration and ideas—wherever you live—enjoy these 30 beautiful English and cottage gardens.
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Stunning Suncatcher Garden
The owner of a craftsman-style house enlisted the help of Eugene, Oregon-based Mosaic Gardens to create a romantic cottage garden filled with flowers and foliage in cool and pastel shades. Working in stages while learning what local deer munched on and left alone, Mosaic cleared overgrown ornamental grasses and incorporated plantings in soft blues, purples, and light pinks for year-round appeal. Basalt paths and a large Vietnamese urn were added to the existing hardscape.Continue to 2 of 30 below.
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Rose Arbor Retreat
Roses are a perennial favorite for legions of gardeners, loved for their inspirational beauty, fragrance, and hardiness in the landscape. England's national flower, the rose symbolizes forms of romance and affection, from innocence and purity to passion and eternal love. Not surprisingly, designer Jekyll incorporated roses in her landscapes and created arches for climbing species to ascend and spill over with fully laden clusters of blooms.
Far from England, a Los Angeles garden designed by Katie Moss captures the essence of a pink rose-covered arbor shading a bench in a corner of a client's yard.Continue to 3 of 30 below.
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Flowers for the picking are one of the perks of living at this home near Centerville River in Barnstable County, Massachusetts. Using a color scheme of blue and yellow, Julia Garden Design renovated the cottage garden with borders and containers filled with dinner-plate dahlias, sunflowers, delphiniums, French marigolds, sweet alyssum, tree roses, ageratum 'Blue Hawaii,' dusty miller, daylilies, and snapdragons.Continue to 4 of 30 below.
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Well-known British author and garden designer Ann-Marie Powell offers a modern take on an English garden. Powell, who wrote Urban Gardens, recommends using local materials for hardscape elements to create a natural setting. A colorful mix of herbaceous borders, meadows, orchards, and vegetable gardens blend to integrate the home and garden into the landscape from which it originated. The tall yellow flowers in this design are yarrow.Continue to 5 of 30 below.
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Green and White
In a green-and-white themed garden by John Black of Verdance Landscape Design, classical brick and gravel paths are edged with Heuchera x brizoides ‘Bressingham White’ (white coral bells). Black says that using the same plant along both sides of a long path is a technique to create structure that, in a traditional English garden, might be achieved with Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens). The fountain provides a strong focal point close to the house, while the bright green Acer palmatum dissectum ‘Seiryu’ (laceleaf Japanese maple) on the other side of the path draws one's eye toward the gate. Other species included in the design include:
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- Fringe flower (Loropetalum chinense)
- Leatherleaf viburnum (Viburnum davidii)
- Hick's yew (Taxus x media ‘Hicksii’)
- Foxglove (Digitalis)
- California bush anemone Carpenteria californica ‘Elizabeth’
- Glossy privet (Ligustrum lucidum)
- Australian Tree Fern (Cyathea cooperi)
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Borders framing lush, green grass feature shade-tolerant plants like Ceratostigma plumbaginoides, Geranium 'Rozanne,' Euphorbia amygdaloides Purpurea, Paeonia and Brunnera macrophylla variegata under a multi-stemmed Prunus serrula.
Created by Rebecca Webb Garden Design, plants along the fence and in the gravel are Stipa tenuissima, Miscanthus malepartus, Salvia Caradonna, Nepeta 'Six Hills Giant,' Verbena bonariensis, and Cirsium rivulare Atropurpureum, and in the corner—a multi-stemmed Betula jacquemontii.Continue to 8 of 30 below.
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Gertrude Jekyll Design
Cherry Mills of Cherry Mills Garden Design lives in Godalming, in Surrey, England. Around the corner is Gertrude Jekyll's famous home, Munstead Wood, along with a museum which is dedicated to the legendary designer's work. For a project in Guildford built around 1911 with a garden originally designed by Jekyll, Mills was tasked with trying to make sense of what had evolved over more than 100 years. Working with a strange L-shape and missing focal points that she was able to identify through research, Mills provided new seating areas as focal points, along with designing new paths, refurbishing the pond, and installing a new fountain.Continue to 9 of 30 below.
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Charming English Farmhouse
In designing the planting palette for a Hampshire farmhouse, Nicky Corkerton Garden Design created a board with the colors, perfumes, and textures to be incorporated into the landscape. Plants include
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- Delphinium 'King Arthur'
- Lavandula 'Hidcote'
- Geranium 'Patricia' and 'Rozanne'
- Campanula 'Prichards Variety' and 'Loddon Anna'
- Rosa 'Gertrude Jekyll', 'Sir Paul Smith', 'Aloha', and existing species in garden
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Cottage Style in Kentucky
Casually placed flagstone pavers create a natural path in a Lousiville, Kentucky, yard that features low-growing and spreading plants like Dianthus. Designed by Bevins & Company Landscape Design, plants will blend together as the mature, creating a lush cottage garden.Continue to 11 of 30 below.
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Seaside Cottage Garden
Warm-pink roses stand tall near euphorbia and other perennials in a seaside landscape conceived by M.J. McCabe Garden Design in Bridgeport, Connecticut. Pink flowers add a fairytale charm to garden walkways, and the fragrance of sweet-scented species, like these roses, are picked up when coastal winds blow.Continue to 12 of 30 below.
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Classical Country Planting Scheme
A complete redesign of a garden in Oxfordshire allowed Rory Andrews Landscape Design to include the family's contemporary lifestyle into the scheme. Andrews incorporated features such as a large Yorkstone dining terrace, main lawn, children's play area, lunch terrace, wildlife-pond garden, and side garden into the general plan. Structure was introduced with yew hedging and pleached hornbeams as partitions, as well as low-cut box hedges and a copse of Amelandhier trees in the shade border. The main lawn features classic English country plantings of pinks, whites, and blues, while mass-planted hydrangea 'Annabelle' and other shade-lovers create interest by the north-facing house.Continue to 13 of 30 below.
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Down a Cobblestone Path
Many of the existing plants at this Boston residence were integrated into the rejuvenated design of this cottage garden. Designed by Garden Life, elements such as stone walls and steps, water features, and fences are integral and functional parts of the landscape but also add form to help define spaces.
To create layers—a feature of English gardens—taller trees are used as the upper layer, while mid-height and low-growing shrubs mix with perennials to blur transitions. The cobblestone path was softened with edging plants like Alchemilla mollis, Artemesia 'Silver Mound,' Salvia x s and 'Snow Hill.' Other plants include Phlox subulata, Rhododendron, Helianthus, coneflowers, sedum, grasses, and annual seeded verbena, which adds food for wildlife.Continue to 14 of 30 below.
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Chicago Country Garden
Before the remodel of this Chicago area property, the yard was mainly just an asphalt driveway. The owners, architect, and Milieu Landscaping reinvented the home into a country estate with new outdoor spaces for modern needs like a patio and dining area, kitchen garden, and a swimming pool. Pea gravel over asphalt driving and walking areas provide a casual English country look yet are also practical. Other paths use various materials, including bluestone and pavers.
Reclaimed oak beams and brick columns were integrated for a natural, country appeal. Other hardscape features include a pergola that extends to an intimate dining terrace and a low wall that delineates the geometric kitchen garden.Continue to 15 of 30 below.
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Haslemere of Hampshire
Often gardens are works in progress, like this Hampshire landscape that incorporates mature yellow azaleas planted in the 1920s. Created by Rebecca Smith Garden Design, sandstone paving slabs are set into a grass path to prevent it from appearing worn and lead to an antique urn planted with bulbs and daisies. Additional plants include clipped box cones, magnolia trees, zebra grass, alliums, and forget-me-nots.Continue to 16 of 30 below.
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Formal and knot gardens are often associated with precisely manicured boxwood hedges that edge paths and geometric planting beds. An orangery (a greenhouse in which fruit trees are grown) in Yorkshire, featuring designs by Vale Garden Houses, is a stunning example of a symmetrical, well-organized formal garden that blends plantings with hardscape features.Continue to 17 of 30 below.
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Somerset Farmhouse Garden
What's the secret to having a profusion of colorful wildflowers growing in your yard and spilling over steps and paths? Using wildflower turf, much like lawn or grass turf when planting a lawn. For a charming farmhouse garden in Somerset, Jonathan Snow Landscape & Garden Design added reclaimed York stone steps with brick risers.Continue to 18 of 30 below.
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Romantic Country White Garden
A home in upstate New York designed by Brandis Maselli Architects features a white garden designed by Deborah Cerbone Associates. In addition to boxwood hedges, the star of the garden is Clematis terniflora 'Sweet Autumn,' which climbs up fences, the pergola, and pretty much anything to which it will attach.Continue to 19 of 30 below.
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Down a Path, Slowly
Irregular bluestone pavers form a casual path fit for felines and their owners as part of a landscape designed by Dear Garden of Pipersville, Pennsylvania. Plants were chosen for their interesting textures, including hostas, ostrich fern, variegated ribbon grass, fernleaf yarrow, meadow sage, and, appropriately, purple catmint.Continue to 20 of 30 below.
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Toronto English Garden
A formal English garden is able to use classic elements of style in a small outdoor space in Toronto, Canada. Designed by Arbordale Landscaping, hardscape is used to create structure and symmetry, while elements like informal plantings, containers, and furnishings add interest to the garden. Classic boxwood hedging and lawns emphasize the geometric lines of the space, while seasonal flowers in pots add color and can be changed out as needed.Continue to 22 of 30 below.
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New York Traditional
A formal, geometric brick patio, paths, and fountain provide a traditional setting for a yard in New York, but plantings soften the look and give it a more natural, cottage appeal. Created by Susan Schlenger Landscape Design, roses are allowed to grow freeform, rather than be clipped into hedges or trees.Continue to 23 of 30 below.
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London Country Garden
What is quintessentially British about this contemporary outdoor space created by Pippa Schofield Garden and Planting Design? While they are new, the pergola and fountain are classic English garden elements, as are Schofield's choice of plants. Among the species that grace this garden are the climbing rose 'New Dawn,' the fragrant flowering shrub Philadelphus 'Belle Etoile,' lavender 'Hidcote,' hydrangea 'Annabelle' wisteria, and zebra grass.Continue to 24 of 30 below.
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California Cottage Garden
A remodel left a clean slate for BE Landscape Design to work its magic. The firm's solution for a west-facing, sloping front yard without much privacy from the street was to use colorful drought-tolerant trees and plants to strategically screen unwanted views. Repurposed concrete was used to create an entry and seating area. Waterwise plants include lavender and ornamental grasses.Continue to 25 of 30 below.
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The Cleveland House
The charming, old-fashioned gardens redesigned by landscape architect Joe Weuste of Summerset Gardens for a house in South Orange, New Jersey, feature meandering paths and beautiful borders that are hallmarks of a classic cottage garden. The home was once owned by former First Lady Frances Folsom Cleveland and her second husband, Thomas Jix Preston Jr. Frances was the widow of President Grover Cleveland and moved to the house in 1913.Continue to 27 of 30 below.
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Award-winning garden designers Debbie Robert and Ian Smith of Acres Wild in West Sussex, England, designed a garden they say is "unashamedly 'English country garden.'" Hardscape materials that add to its country charm include reclaimed Yorkstone and ironstone that were found on site. Romantic and sweet-scented plants include English roses, lavender, geraniums, campanula, nepeta, and alliums.Continue to 28 of 30 below.
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Great Dixter is a historic 500-year-old home and garden in Sussex with a garden designed by famed landscape designer and author Christopher Lloyd, who lived there before his death in 2006. The property is undergoing restoration. Here, the Great Barn and Oast House are in the background of a garden that includes vibrant tulips and other bulbs and perennials.Continue to 29 of 30 below.
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Privacy walls are created by expertly clipped high hedges at an English garden in New Zealand. The formal design includes a fountain at the end of a path.Continue to 30 of 30 below.
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Designer's Elegant Yard
While some designers neglect their own yards, this isn't the case for Linda McDougald. Part of the renovation of her home included an elegant patio and English-style garden for relaxing and entertaining guests. Outdoor hardscape features echo what's going on inside the beautiful house.