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.
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.
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.
2 | Natural Materials – Stones / Pebbles /Pea Gravel
Adding natural stones to a garden help to give the casual feel of a cottage garden.
Laying cobblestone pathways or pea gravel looks beautiful in and around a garden.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!