English Cottage Garden Designs

English cottage garden designs are more of an organised plan than a design. The cottager used what was available and grew what he needed and not much more.

They should above all be practical, easy to maintain and look lived in. Most cottage gardens have been designed as the cottager went along but a little planning before hand can go along way.

English cottage garden designs begin with knowing your garden and what you want from it . So before you start designing ask yourself a few questions…

  • What is the minimum annual temperature in your garden that your plants can tolerate?
  • What areas of your garden are exposed to winds? Some plants will not survive in a windy position.
  • What areas get sun or shade? Vegetables and fruits need full sun.
  • What type of soil do you have? What is the pH of the soil, acidic or alkaline?
  • What is your gardens micro climate? This will take a few seasons to discover, but make notes as you can.
  • What would you like grow? Flowers, climbers, vegetables, fruit and herbs, for you or to feed a family?
  • Would you like to raise bees or livestock and be self sufficient? Do you have enough time and resources?

English Cottage Garden Designs...

Your cottage garden design may be somewhat controlled by features already in the garden. Trees streams and ponds for example should always be a focal point in the cottage garden and you should start your design with them. If you only have a few hours a week be realistic and start small.


You will need to include in your garden design the main features that make the English cottage garden such as hedges, gates, pathways and outbuildings. It is important to incorporate these features into your English cottage garden plan.


English cottage garden designs should have a few cottage garden shrubs. They do particularly well at the back around a border like a hedge or wall and will give colour and texture for most of the year. They are also easier to maintain than most plants and honestly who can imagine an English cottage garden without hydrangeas, fuchsia, shrub roses, clematis and wisteria?


Perennial plants should be added next to your English cottage garden design. They should be the backbone of your cottage garden. They are the plants that remind you of your childhood lazing away the summers and will be the main source of colour from spring to autumn.

Perennials are the framework and annuals and biennials, bulbs and other temporary plants, the fillers in your English cottage garden design.

Annuals and Biennials

Hardy annuals have always been preferred by the cottager, if they are self sowing too, so much the better. Foxgloves are a perfect example and are essential to the English cottage garden. Use hardy annuals and biennials to fill in any gaps in your flower beds such as Love-In-A-Mist, Forget-Me-Not, and Snapdragons


Bulbs are one of the first early flowers of spring in the cottage garden. Make sure you add a few early bloomers like tulips, meadow snowflake and crown imperial for spring time joy in your cottage garden. For summer try Gladiolus and Madonna Lily. Winters would be dark indeed without the snowdrop and crocus so add a few bulbs to your English cottage garden design.


Climbers are essential to the English cottage garden and you would be denying yourself the pleasure of their heady sent on a warm summer evening.

Plant climbers onto the cottage wall and enjoy the fragrance of wisteria coming in from your windows. Plant climbing roses so they cascade over the cottage door, honeysuckle is wonderful for climbing and trailing over arches and arbors.

Climbing cottage favourites include Virginia Creeper, honeysuckle, climbing roses, clematis, wisteria and jasmine. They are great for hiding a shed or composting and utility area.

Fruits and Vegetables

If you wish to grow soft fruit, fruit trees and vegetables they will need a sunny spot to ripen. Depending on the size and sunny areas of your garden this will pretty much be decided by nature but decide on the patch of garden you want in your design.


Incorporate flowers with herbs in your design, especially cutting flowers. Herbs were the first thing grown in the English cottage garden in mediaeval times they were used for medicinal purposes, to flavour meals and used to disguise bad odours.

The cottage garden would not be complete without a few herbs grown by the kitchen.


If your long term plan is to be self sufficient incorporate this into your design. Plan for outbuildings and areas for livestock in the beginning. Know what you will need and plan for it.

Above all your English cottage garden design must show your personality. Pick the plants, herbs, vegetables and fruit that you love.

Create the enchanting English cottage garden that you dream of. Start small and grow more as you learn about cottage flowers and your own garden site.

Gardening is a lifestyle don’t try to do it all at once. Your English cottage garden should be a pleasure, a joy, a sanctuary and a little planning can go a long way.

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