How to Create an English Cottage Garden

 I personally have two favorite garden styles: a relaxed, French country garden, & the kind we’ll discuss in this article ~ which is a beautiful, flower-filled English cottage garden.  If you watch British television shows, like “Downton Abbey” or any Agatha Christie murder mystery, chances are, you’re more familiar with English gardens than you think.  Cottage style is the opposite of minimalist: it signifies the use of MANY flowers, typically in pastel shades rather than primary colors.  In this article, I’ll explain how to create a stunning English cottage garden in your own backyard….with plenty of examples & photos for inspiration!

How to Create an English Cottage Garden, Girl Who Travels the World

David Austin roses can be used in almost ANY garden zone as a focal point for your cottage garden…

What is a Cottage Garden?

  •  Cottage gardens tend to be more informal, rather than more formal, structured gardens; they have a more wild, natural feel to them;
  • They utilize MANY plants, densely planted (& closely together), to achieve a feeling of abundance & plenty;
  • English cottage gardens in particular exude a feeling of charm & character;
  • Perennials OR annuals can be planted in the cottage garden, as well as edibles such as fruit trees, vegetables, or herbs for cooking ~ this was actually the origin of the English cottage garden: as more of a “Kitchen Garden;”
  • Meandering pathways are preferred in a cottage garden over straight lines & straight paths, & if they lead to a beautiful fountain or bench…even better;
  • Some famous English gardens utilize the concept of “Garden Rooms” in their design plan, & this can also be used in a cottage garden, by creating different “vignettes” or seating areas in your yard ~ i.e. having a separate “Herb Garden” surrounded by roses for beauty, next to a raised dining area with table & chairs, etc.
  • Best Flowers for the Cottage Garden: Hydrangeas, roses, violets, hollyhocks, romantic wisteria, climbing roses, or any climbing vines, peonies, salvia, geraniums, snapdragons, delphiniums, foxgloves, with various fruit, vegetables, & herbs artfully mixed in.

How to Create a Beautiful Cottage Garden, Girl Who Travels the World

The color palette here is a near-perfect cottage garden design: mounds of pink roses surround a central fountain, while tall blue delphiniums tower above the far backside of the garden. Photo by Homes & Gardens.

Photos of Beautiful Cottage Gardens

The best way to get a feel for cottage gardens is to see some great examples of them, both in the States & in Britain.  Some of the photos include delightful little “She Sheds” ~ if you’re interested in creating one of your own, check out this article.

How to Create a Lovely English Cottage Garden, Girl Who Travels the World

The profusion of plantings next to a (nearly-hidden) pea gravel pathway is a wonderful example of a true cottage garden.

How to Create an English Cottage Garden, Girl Who Travels the World

Quintessential cottage-style garden. Photo courtesy of Better Homes & Gardens.

What is a Cottage Garden? Girl Who Travels the World

A meandering pea gravel path leading to a garden bench, surrounded by effusive flower displays IS a true cottage garden. Photo by Cottage Garden.

What is a Cottage Garden? Girl Who Travels the World

Does this place look familiar? These are the gardens of the real-life Downton Abbey, which combine a more formal style with lower, more dense purple & white plantings. Photo by the Daily Mail.

Downton Abbey's Cottage Garden? Girl Who Travels the World

More from Downton….& the Dowager Countess. Photo by Sunset Magazine.

How to Create a Lovely English Cottage Garden, Girl Who Travels the World

A cozy white “She Shed” beckons in the distance of this pretty cottage garden….

How to Create a Lovely English Cottage Garden, Girl Who Travels the World

A misty morning reveals the beauty of this lovely, densely-planted garden. Photo by Victoria Magazine.

A Tour of Cotswolds Gardens & Hidcote Manor

England is famous for its gardens, particularly within the region known as the Cotswolds.  The area is surrounded by rolling green hills, pastoral views, with ancient castles sprinkled here & there throughout the landscape.  It’s a magical place.  Hidcote Manor Garden is one of the most famous gardens in England, & it’s located in the Cotswolds, just outside of quaint Chipping Campden.

Beautiful Cottage Gardens in the Cotswolds, Girl Who Travels the World

Masses of blue hydrangeas surround this humble cottage in Britain’s Cotswolds area.

What is a Cottage Garden? Girl Who Travels the World

I once took a tour of Hidcote Manor Garden, located in England’s Cotswolds region. It is a must-stop for garden lovers.

How to Create a Beautiful Cottage Garden, Girl Who Travels the World

Riotous purple flowers, shades of white & yellow, & climbing pink roses in back. Photo by the Financial Times.

What is a Cottage Garden? Girl Who Travels the World

I stumbled across this “Hillside Cottage” in the Cotswolds & became enchanted….

How to Create a Beautiful Cottage Garden, Girl Who Travels the World

More from Hidcote Manor. Photo by the National Trust.

How to Create a Beautiful Cottage Garden, Girl Who Travels the World

The luscious purple flowers of wisteria are a classic must-have for the cottage garden. In my Zone 6 garden, I’ve purchased no less than FIVE of them. Photo by HGTV.

How to Create an English Cottage Garden

One final area that provides maximum cottage garden inspiration is the lovely California coastal town of Carmel-by-the-Sea.  Walking down Ocean Avenue towards Carmel Beach, then jogging off to the left takes you through a maze of some of the loveliest, cottage-style homes you’ll ever see.  Take a look….

Cottage-Style Homes & Gardens in Carmel, Girl Who Travels the World

A quintessential Carmel home, surrounded by flowers.

Cottage-Style Homes & Gardens in Carmel, Girl Who Travels the World

The stone walls of the home lend a perfect backdrop for the cottage plantings in this front yard.

Cottage-Style Homes & Gardens in Carmel, Girl Who Travels the World

Hydrangeas are one of the most popular cottage flowers: & they love partial shade, as is shown on the side of this home.

Cottage-Style Homes & Gardens in Carmel, Girl Who Travels the World

Climbing roses adorn the entryway to this Carmel home…

How to Create an English Cottage Garden

That’s it for English cottage-style…..I absolutely love looking at photos of these kinds of gardens!  Arbors are a great, simple way to create a more cottage feel in your own backyard, as are lovely, tiered garden fountains: they add such a feeling of charm & serenity to any space.  I’ve utilized them to great effect in my own yard, which you can tour in the article below….

xoxo Noelia

Read Next: How to Create a Gorgeous Raised Bed Garden

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