10Steps To A Perfect English Cottage Garden Design

10 Steps To A Perfect English Cottage Garden Design


The quintessential English cottage garden design remains a firm favourite with many gardeners. Overflowing, curved borders are quite simply a joy to behold.

Planted to look natural and wild they are the perfect antidote to regimented precision.

Imagine a profusion of floriferous plants all a tumble along curving pathways. Roses and clematis scrambling over archways, pergolas and peering into windows. Floral and spicy fragrances mingling in the air. Sit back and listen to the lazy buzz of very contented bees and birdsong.

That’s it, English cottage gardens in a nutshell. Now let’s take a look at how to create this joyful haven.

How To Create A Cottage Garden

Follow my guide to create your own beautiful cottage garden. Any space great or small, containers on patios and balconies too, can be planted with cottage style flowers to help achieve this old English design. Aim for soft, floaty shapes, blousy blooms and plenty of them. If in doubt – plant more.

Full Sun Perennials That Bloom All Summer  Ideas for a sunny border.

If you have a shaded area that you are looking for the best plants for then read,  Plants That Like A Shade Garden

10 Steps To A Perfect English Cottage Garden Design

  • Informal Design
  • Curved pathways
  • Colour Form Fragrance
  • Plant en masse
  • Introduce herbaceous borders
  • Let plants grow and mingle together
  • Add height with climbing plants
  • Seating areas
  • Use decorative items to draw the eye
  • Experiment

Informal Design and Curved Pathways

Irregular shaped garden borders are key. Paths should meander so that you can wander, this enables you to see and enjoy more of the garden at every turn.

Taller plants can be grown by the walkway curves, allowing you to wonder what is around the next corner.

Colour Form Fragrance

Choose plants and flowers of all colours from soft pastels to bold and bright.

Let them mix and match in the borders and containers.

Different shapes of flowers, leaves and growth patterns allow for heightened interest and contrast. English cottage gardens need a wealth of fragrance too, choose old English Roses that are highly scented, lavenders, peonies and honeysuckle for rich scents. Your garden should engage all your senses.

10 Steps To A Perfect English Cottage Garden Design
English Cottage Garden Flowers – Roses

Use tall plants at the back of herbaceous borders. Place plant supports to encourage climbing plants to create a focal point within the border.

Plant smaller plants towards the front of the border and let them tumble over the edge onto pathways to create a softly, flowering vista.

Plant in drifts to create seamless waves of colour.

How To Grow Peonies In Your Garden

Plant en-Masse

Plants need to be grown en masse to create an informal abundance of blousy blooms, buzzing with bees and butterflies.plants grown closely together help to ensure a consistent flow of colour, shape and styles.

Many different plants in the border also helps to limit loss through disease or garden pests. Any gaps that do appear can easily be filled with new plants.

This method of planting will help to stifle any weeds as well, so there will be less maintenance required

10 Steps To A Perfect English Cottage Garden Design. Cottage Garden Flowers
Cottage Garden Flowers

Introduce Herbaceous Borders

The perfect English Cottage Garden has masses of plants and flowers grown in beds and borders. There is much more soft planting than hard landscaping structures. So, herbaceous borders need to be introduced in order to provide a home for all these plants. Removing or reducing areas of lawn, paving, concrete etc will give you more growing space. Allow walkways to meander through the garden, leading you and your visitors to the next delicious planting scheme around the corner.

How To Plant A Hardy Perennial Border Like A Pro


Let Plants Mix And Mingle

A cottage garden looks wild and unplanned and that’s how they should be.

But behind the scenes, the planting schemes are designed to create informality.

Plants are allowed to mix and mingle together to produce the soft lines and profusion of plants that is imperative for a successful cottage garden.

Another great way of planting for a cottage garden is to include fruit and vegetables not the borders alongside your ornamental plants. There is nothing  wrong with growing some beans to climb up some supports in the border, or cabbages amongst the campanula. Strawberries will produce equally well planted in flower beds as will lettuce and salad veg.

English Cottage Garden Design
Vegetables And Ornamentals Planted Together

Add Height With Climbing Plants

Climbing plants are the back bone of many garden styles including cottage gardens. Use pergolas, arches, arbours in and around the beds to introduce height. Buildings, walls, gateways call all be pressed into service to grow rambling Roses, clematis, vines, honeysuckle, jasmine and many other lovely climbers.

You can plant trees and shrubs too, which will ensure some permanence within the garden. They will provide height and form in the winter months when there isn’t quite so much going on in the flower beds. Trees make additional, natural supports for climbing plants too, grow roses or clematis through them.


Seating Areas

Benches, seats and tables carefully chosen and placed around the garden provide somewhere to enjoy the fruits of your labour. Find a site in a secluded part of the garden so that they give you an ideal private seat for relaxation and contemplation.


Decorative Items

Garden antiques such as an old wheelbarrow, lawn roller for example provide a point of interest. Containers overflowing with trailing plants give a focal point. Ornaments can be quirky and fun. Aged statuary or stone urns are also attractive design features.
Decorative items and garden antiques can be found at reclamation sites or recycling centres. Such items as Victorian pathway edging stones or tiles make an attractive alternative to modern materials. Terracotta pots are the perfect foil to most container plants.

English Cottage Garden Design Ideas Terracotta pots
Garden Antiques Add Interest To An English Cottage Garden Design


As with any garden style experimentation is vital in order for you to achieve what you want for your own garden. There are no fast rules. It’s your garden after all. Try different plants in different parts of the garden. Experiment with colours and form to find the look that you personally love to see.

If something doesn’t look quite right, change it. Place an ornament somewhere else. Move plants and other items around.

Most of all – Enjoy yourselves. Create what you want and make the most of the space you have.


Traditional Plants For Cottage Gardens

What springs to mind when you picture a cottage garden?

What types of English Cottage Garden flowers are best?

Generally speaking traditional plants are old-fashioned herbaceous perennials and climbing plants. Below is a list of the most used plants in cottage gardens but there are many others that you could choose, my list is not laid in stone.

  • Hollyhocks
  • Delphinium
  • Foxgloves
  • Lupines
  • Iris
  • Allium
  • Phlox
  • Daffodils
  • Tulips
  • Sweet William
  • Aquilegia
  • Campanula
  • Lavender
  • Cosmos
  • Peonies
  • Roses
  • Clematis
  • Honeysuckle
  • Jasmine
  • Honesty
  • Forget me nots
  • Daisies
  • Dahlias
  • Sweet peas
  • Hardy geranium
  • Cosmos
  • Gypsophilia

Modern Cottage Garden Design

Beautiful varieties of flowers and plants arrive in our garden centers and nurseries every year, there are no hard and fast rules as to which you grow in your cottage garden.

As long as your basic garden design remains in place, curving paths, full flowering beds and borders, mixing different plants together to create a riot of colourful, fragrant magic then your choice of plants to grow is endless.

Here are a few more of my favourites.

  • Ornamental poppy
  • Ornamental grasses such as Miscanthus
  • Helleniums
  • Rudbeckia
  • Penstemon
  • Pennisetum
  • Red hot pokers
  • Ferns
  • Hostas
  • Salvia
  • Sedum
  • Veronica
  • Achilea

An enjoyable way of seeing different styles of gardens and planting schemes is to visit public gardens, for a wide range of beautiful outdoor spaces to that will intrigue and inspire you visit 10 Of The Best Great British Gardens To Visit 

10 Steps ToA Perfect English Cottage Garden Design
English Cottage Garden Design

Plants For Pollinators

Are you inspired to plant a cottage garden? I hope you are.

Cottage gardens provide much-needed food, habitats and shelter for our valuable bees and other pollinators. They are steeped in insects, birds and animals. The wildness and natural themes will attract a wide variety, on your travels through your outdoor space you are bound to encounter a diverse and interesting variety of all types of creatures.

The plants usually chosen for a cottage garden are also the most hardy and therefore most suitable to our English climate. They will grow in abundance with very little need for attention. Pruning of roses and climbers will be required, deadheading and cutting back of perennial plants is also required but the garden for much of the time will look after itself.

Mass organic planting enriches our lives and lowers pollution levels around the garden too, so let’s get planting and enjoy cleaner air. Improve your wellbeing both physically and mentally.

Has this article been useful and informative? Please share it with friends and family and on social media.

Any questions or thoughts can be added in the comments box below, I love to know what you are growing. I always reply as soon as I can.

Thank you

Happy Gardening

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