How To Create A Beautiful English Cottage Garden

July 7, 2021

You may not have a charming English cottage in the countryside, but you can still create a beautiful English cottage garden in your backyard. English cottages are definitely having a moment and I am all in with the “cottagecore” and grand millennial trend!

I am drawn to this style of gardens because they feel whimsical, informal, and welcoming. While they are absolutely beautiful, there is a casual feel to them that makes them not as intimidating as other styles. I began designing my own English garden last year and it has been incredibly fun.

Creating your own English garden with these simple elements to create a beautiful cottage garden design | Building Bluebird #cottagecre #perennials #romanticgarden

If you look at different English garden images, you can begin to see common elements that are included in these gardens. Today I am highlighting 10 elements to consider including in your garden to achieve the English cottage vibe.


English Cottage Garden Design Elements

1 | Native Plants

When planning your cottage garden, use plants that are native to the climate and soil where you live. Native perennials and annuals are much easier to care for because they thrive in a specific climate. For my garden, I chose plants that do well in my Ohio climate zone (6) and plants that thrive in sandy soil. Even in the same planting zone, the same plant can react differently in sandy soil compared to clay soil.

Creating your own English garden with these simple elements to create a beautiful cottage garden design | Building Bluebird #cottagecre #perennials #romanticgarden

I chose a variety of plants that were primarily greens, purples, and pinks. Choosing plants and flowers with different shapes and sizes helps to give the look of abundance in your garden.

Beautiful English cottage garden at the Historic Bosler House in Denver, CO | Building Bluebird #cottagecore #grandmillennial
Gardens at the Bosler House

2 | Natural Materials – Stones / Pebbles /Pea Gravel

Adding natural stones to a garden help to give the casual feel of a cottage garden.

Hidcote long borders are a geat example of the English gardens so many of us work to achieve | Building Bluebird #cottagecore
Hidcote long borders image

Laying cobblestone pathways or pea gravel looks beautiful in and around a garden.

Hidcote long borders are a geat example of the English gardens so many of us work to achieve | Building Bluebird #cottagecore
Hidcote long borders image

Along with winding pathways, stone retaining walls can also be found in English gardens. I love how these walls can give the feel of a secret garden.

Inspiring English garden at Iford Manor | Building Bluebird #cottagecore #englishcountryhouse
Iford Manor gardens

3 | Bird bath

English cottage gardens are an oasis for pollinators and birds. You will often see birdbaths within English cottage gardens as well as other water features like ponds or streams.

Water features like ponds, streams, and birdbaths are common elements found in an English cottage garden | Building Bluebird #cottagecore
The Secret Garden image

4 | Bricks

Adding brick borders can help create more structure to a large garden without feeling too formal. I love using old, imperfect bricks to edge our gardens. The varying colors in bricks are a lovely touch to border overflowing greenery and flowers. You will also see brick retaining walls around areas of this garden style.

5 | Arbor

Arbors are the perfect place for climbing plants to show off. It is common to see plants like climbing roses or hydrangea surrounding an iron or wood arbor.

Wood trellis in the English cottage garden at the historic Bosler House | Building Bluebird #cottagecore #grandmillennial #historichomes
Bosler House
Ina Garten's beautiful English garden inspiration | Building Bluebird #hydrangea #cottagecore #grandmillennial
Elle Decor image

I found this old iron arbor on the side of the road and fixed it up for our garden. With a little sanding and black spraypaint, this arbor is as good as new! I am planning on planting clematis to grow up and around the arbor.

Iron arbor in this backyard English cottage garden | Building Bluebird #cottagecore #gardening #grandmillennial

6 | Seating

Another common element found in English cottage gardens is seating. Whether it is a weathered, wooden chair or a concrete bench, these gardens welcome visitors to sit and enjoy the view.

Ina Garten's beautiful English garden bench and arbor | Building Bluebird #hydrangea #cottagecore #grandmillennial
Elle Decor image

7 | White Picket Fence / Iron Fence

So many inspiration photos include a white picket fence as the backdrop of an English cottage garden. Oftentimes these fences are slightly weathered which adds to the feel of a casual garden. Iron fencing or gates are also commonly found in these gardens.

The garden at Hidcote with lilac bushes, stone bathways and an iron fence | Building Bluebird #cottagecore #grandmillennial
The Garden at Hidcote
White picket fence and iron fence with a stone pathway give this backyard an English cottage garden vibe | Building Bluebird #cottagecore #grandmillennial
Tips for planning your flower beds

8 | Whimsical Garden Decor

Including a few sculptural elements add to the fun of this style of gardening. Items like colorful spheres, a small concrete sculpture of a garden critter, or hummingbird feeders can surprise and delight guests while walking through the gardens.

Adding a few whimsical garden elements add to the beauty of an English garden | Building Bluebird #cottagecore #grandmillennial #gardening

My favorite part of creating an English cottage garden is that I am constantly learning and tweaking it. By choosing hardy native perennials, I can easily move plants around if they become too crowded or don’t quite work. I hope you enjoy the slow learning of growing a garden as much as I do!

Check out my favorite gardening tools I recommend to beginners!

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