English Gardens: Structure or Controlled Chaos?

September 20th 2018
Four Seasons

Typically, when clients describe their desire for a lush English garden design, they refer to one of two very different styles: the English country garden or the English cottage garden. One is very structured and geometric, the other more vibrant and exuberant.

The English Country Garden

The classic English country garden features a series of garden areas connected by paths. These gardens are all about order: tightly pruned hedges and defined beds. The design relies heavily upon geometry. Viewed from above, walkways are centered, and circles and rectangular shapes combine to give the landscape a sense of order. Each garden area showcases beautifully maintained gardens or natural-looking landscapes. Classically these gardens were designed for lavish country estates and to be experienced on foot.

On the other hand, English cottage gardens feature an over-the-top personality, with beds that brim with riotous color.

The English Cottage Garden

On the other hand, English cottage gardens feature an over-the-top personality, with beds that brim with riotous color. Classic perennials like roses, delphiniums, foxglove, lambs ear, lavender, and hollyhock are at home and dazzle in a cottage garden. Order, or a sense of it, is attained with picket fences, stone paths and trellises planted with clematis or climbing roses. Informality reigns in English cottage gardens, and plantings rub against each other to show off. They tumble over borders. As in any well-designed space, a mix of plants that flower at different times creates a continuous flow of color throughout the seasons. Annuals add full color throughout the summer months.

English gardens, both styles, use structures for focal points. The key is to limit the number to create drama, not diversion. Seating, like a stone bench in a classic design, is both functional and adds interest.

What Suits You Best?

English gardens offer a transitional landscape design option for gardeners torn between the formal geometry of a symmetrical garden and the lush, irrepressible exuberance of a landscape gone wild. In an English garden, you can have all of the above at the most pleasing ratio to your eye.