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8 Ways to Create a Whimsical English Garden

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You may not live in a charming English cottage, but you can create an English garden at home. English cottage design is definitely having a moment with grandmillennial styles and I am here for it!

English gardens that I love are informal, welcoming, and have a touch of whimsy. The casual, low-maintenance style makes planting an English garden much less intimidating.

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

Design Elements to Create an English Garden

If you look at different English garden images, you can begin to see common elements that are included in these gardens. Incorporating these elements in your garden will begin to create the English cottage vibe.

1 | Native Plants

When planning your garden, choose 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.

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

For my garden, I chose plants that do well in my Ohio climate zone (6) and plants that thrive in sandy soil. There are two main types of soil where I live, sandy and clay. Even in the same climate zone, plants can react very differently to the soil where they are planted.

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

I chose a variety of plants that were primarily greens, purples, and pinks. To create a look of abundance in your English garden, choose a variety of plants and flowers with different shapes and sizes.

  • Blackeyed Susans
  • Phlox
  • Roses
  • Hollyhock
  • Delphinium
  • Lavender
  • Spirea
  • Peony
  • Foxglove
  • Hydrangea
  • Wisteria

2 | Natural Materials – Stones / Pebbles /Pea Gravel

Adding natural stones to a garden helps to create that casual feeling you want to achieve. Pathways with natural materials look much more organic and relaxed compared to precise concrete sidewalks.

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

Cobblestone, brick, or pea gravel walkways look incredibly charming when included in an English garden design.

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 many English gardens. I love how these walls create the feeling of a secret garden.

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

3 | Water Features

English gardens are an oasis for pollinators and birds. Include water features that invite pollinators and birds to stay awhile in the garden. Adding a simple birdbath to your garden can do the trick, or building a small pond. If you are lucky enough to have a stream running throughout your property, consider incorporating it as you create your English garden design.

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 or edging helps create a little 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 flowerbeds with greenery and flowers.

5 | Arbors

Arbors are the perfect place for climbing plants to really show off.

Wood trellis in the English cottage garden at the historic Bosler House | Building Bluebird #cottagecore #grandmillennial #historichomes
Bosler House

It is common to see plants like climbing roses, hydrangea, or clematis, surrounding an iron or wood arbor.

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 own English garden. With a little sanding and black spraypaint, this arbor is as good as new! Soon I will plant climbing hydrangea to begin winding up the iron sides.

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

6 | Seating Areas

Another common element found in English gardens is seating options. 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 inspirational photos I pinned include a white picket fence as the backdrop of an English 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 your English garden.

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

English gardens are a place to learn about plants and tweak the design if something doesn’t feel right or gets too large. If you choose hardy perennial plants, they can always be transplanted or split as they grow larger each year. I hope you enjoy the slow learning of growing a garden as much as I do!

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