English Country Garden Ideas

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The English country garden look relies on a pleasing combination of formality and informality that uses tastefully planned color schemes and artwork as a counterpoint. An English country garden might contain a formal carpet bed, an avenue of pleached limes, an ornamental pond and fountain, and a well-filled perennial border. Often statuary, containers, or other ornaments are used to offset the garden plan.

Although these ideas may sound grand, they may also be scaled down to a more backyard-friendly format. A mixed planting of bulbs, annuals, and perennials surrounding a sundial or birdbath flanked by a pair of rose trees would make a lovely display that requires only the smallest of spaces. The English country garden ideas and garden photos that follow will explore an assortment of common English country garden features and should help get you on the way to your own spot of England right outside your door.


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Eighteenth-century elegance still thrives among the restored buildings, brick pathways, and white picket fences of Colonial Williamsburg, Virginia. American gardens during that era took their cue from the formality prevailing in the gardens of England and France, and the results are perfect examples of English country gardens. Forget-me-nots here give a dainty azure edging to rectangular beds planted thickly with spring favorites such as tulips, wild columbine, bleeding heart, and basket-of-gold alyssum.

Ready to transform those empty beds into a bounty of blooms that will return year after year? Continue to the next page for ideas on planting perennials in true English country style.

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Perennial Beds and Border Ideas

English country gardening with perennial plants can be particularly rewarding, as they return to greet you year after year. Whether a flower bed full of perennial blooms is the focus of your garden or one of many features, the garden photos that follow, along with the perennial beds and border ideas, should give you great garden ideas to spark your creativity.

Using purple as the primary color, this garden brings together a great many species. A richly overflowing border of country flowers presents drifts of bloom in variations on the lavender shade, including generous numbers of liatris, anemone, and phlox.


Also unified by purple hues, this more formal English country garden backed by a stone wall adds sparkle to the theme with the addition of yellow and white. This garden boasts perennials including platycodon, Shasta daisy, achillea, veronica, and astilbe.

The widespread interest in horticulture and botany during the nineteenth century led to the practice of mixing tropical exotics with more familiar annuals, shrubs, and perennials. Tall-flowering cannas such as these, brought to England from India during the heyday of the British Empire, are now familiar to gardeners all over the world. Cannas and other tropical plants are tender and should be lifted in the autumn and kept indoors until spring, when they can be replanted.

The carefully set rows of country flowers bring order to this garden, but the close planting and thick, leafy stalks create an impression of natural, untended growth at the same time -- in true English country garden style. This rustic, heavily planted composition gives equal weight to annuals, perennials, and grasses, including rudbeckia, eupatorium, pennisetum, verbena, and perovskia.

"England is a garden that is full of stately views," wrote Rudyard Kipling, and although this particular view is located in Chicago (above), it demonstrates that the mixed-planting principles of traditional English country gardening may be applied in many different locales. Perennials including liatris, white coneflower, yarrow, and veronica mingle with annual cosmos, pansies, and zinnias and offer ample material for fresh bouquets.

If you prefer a bit more order -- and perhaps even a pattern -- among your blooming flowers, continue to the next page for some fine examples of the oh-so-English country garden tradition of carpet bedding.

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Carpet Bedding Ideas

Deepak Gupta

If "attention to detail" is your middle name, this fine English country garden tradition may provide you with hours of enjoyment. Carpet bedding is the process of planting blooming annuals close together in a carefully planned design -- think Persian rug made of petals. Start simple and graduate to more complex styles, or just jump right in. These garden photos and carpet bedding ideas are sure to delight even those who plan only to admire.

An open field is transformed into an elegant work of art in this carefully planted example of carpet bedding. Assorted shades of daffodils and rich red tulips are complemented by spiky blue blooms that add contrast in shape and height -- as well as color. The curving borders also play nicely against the straight lines of leaves.


The practice of creating patterns on the ground with botanical material originated with the Elizabethans and their knot gardens of clipped herbs or shrubs, but the Victorians expanded the idea by using colorful annual flowers to create the popular carpet bedding designs of the era. In this composition, swirls of lilac, gold, and white are formed by bedded-out pansies in the foreground, while yellow tulips and pink and white dogwood complete the background picture.

OK, if you feel your head starting to spin -- don't worry. There are other ways to add artistry to your English country garden. Click to the next page for a look at the ways garden ornaments can be used with style.

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Garden Ornament Ideas

Add elegance or whimsy to your garden when you "plant" a garden ornament in just the right spot. Whether a work of art or sculpture or something more architectural, these added elements will only enhance your enjoyment of your outdoor space. Have a look at the garden ornament ideas that follow, and you'll be on your way to proud participation in the English country garden tradition.

Any garden will benefit from a few ornaments and witty surprises. An unexpected human form among the greenery appears in the shape of this friendly statue, which appears to wave a greeting to the viewer from amongst the coneflower, cleome, and sedum. Lacking the solemnity of more formal sculpture, this example seems to have hopped down from its pedestal to gather a country nosegay in an excess of high spirits.


Garden ornaments have long been a welcome feature of country gardens. Art in the garden can make a very effective outdoor focal point, displaying one type of artistry against another. Here, the sinuous forms of the crane statuary are echoed in the weeping branches of blue Atlas cedar and the uplifted purple spires of salvia. Gray stone steps and bright green boxwood complete the contemplative scene.

For many, the garden is a place of respite, so why not make it as calm and comforting as possible? On the next page, have a look at gardens that truly bring peace.

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Peaceful Garden Ideas

Enjoy the silence -- punctuated only by the twittering of birds and a floral fragrance on the breeze -- when you escape to a garden designed with peace in mind. Aim to create a setting that soothes, full of all the flowers and foliage that are most pleasing to you. Explore our peaceful garden ideas and garden photos until you find just the spot that's right for you. Some of these gardens are rather grand, but each has elements that could be recreated in a backyard.

Pink flowering dogwood is one of the prettiest of all small trees that can be grown in a home garden. The flowers, as delicate in color as fine porcelain, are borne on gently arching branches before the leaves arrive. In this peaceful garden, the pink of the dogwood is matched by that of the flowering cherries behind, while both sorts of blossom perfectly frame the gray statues against dark yew hedges and a bright green lawn scattered with petals.


Pink-flowered varieties of the tulip or saucer magnolia frame a thick, sloping meadow laden with daffodils. Trumpet and large-cupped daffodils in yellow and white have been allowed to naturalize freely here to spectacular effect. To achieve these same naturalizing results, it is best to plant the daffodil bulbs fairly deeply and spaced well apart.

Reflective in both senses of the word, this lovely woodland water garden features a Japanese-style bridge, ornamental waterfall, and abundantly planted trees, shrubs, and palms. From the high arch of the bridge, a larger view of the landscape is available. The elegant white swan enhances the majesty of this large-scale peaceful garden.

A restful oasis is created in this cozy home garden with a graveled area flanked on all sides by flowers and foliage. Welcoming seating is provided by rustic twig chairs and settee and a weathered, carved wooden bench, gathered around a small stone table, while potted ferns and begonias line up along the edges of the graveled area. The gnarled old tree in the background lends the character of its twisting branches to the scene.

Whether your gardening style is formal or informal, and your focus is color or contemplation, there are elements of the classic English country garden you're bound to love. Review these garden photos and ideas as often as you like until just the right plan develops.

Learn which plants are best for an English country garden in the next section.

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Plants for an English Country Garden

Ageratum produces clusters of fuzzy blossoms.

Plants for an English country garden include a variety of annuals, perennials, and bulbs that lend an air of cultivated formality to the landscape. Organized around a focal point or along a well-thought-out line, the following plants display subdued color and beauty that could invoke a sign to pass your lips -- the perfect effect for an English country garden.

Organized around a focal point or along a well-thought-out line, the following plants display subdued color and beauty that could invoke a sign to pass your lips -- the perfect effect for an English country garden.


Ageratum, Floss Flower

This annual comes in white, pink, and lavender-blue (a rare color for annuals).

Anemone, Japanese

This showy perennial can reach up to four or five feet high.

Balloon Flower

Named for its shape when closed, this perennial grows well in borders or along garden edges.


This flower adds a splash of intense color and excels at keeping weeds at bay in a garden.


if you want to attract hummingbirds, this flower should be incorporated into your garden.

Coneflower, Purple

This flower, which grows wild in the Midwest and South, has petals that grown downward.


This annual is shaped like a daisy but features warm golden, brown, and red colors.


One stalk can give rise to numerous blooms that open and die within a single day.

Dusty Miller

A silvery plant, it leaves the impression of beautiful beds of coral.


This lovely plant is a member of the sunflower family and has reputed medicinal uses.


A small flower, best used in large quantities for an effect, blooms in the spring.


This tall flower develops clusters of muted pink or white blossoms.

Geranium, Crane's Bill

Along a border or in a rock garden, the geranium will flourish.


Returning year after year, the iris comes in a wide range of colors.


This tall flower comes in annual and perennial varieties, depending on the climate.

Pansy, Viola

Producing flowers continuously, it blooms during cooler months.

Perennial Pea, Sweet Pea

A lovely flower that grows easily in any good garden soil, it must be watched so that it doesn't grow a little too well and overwhelm other nearby flowers.

Physostegia, Obedient Plant

Named because its spiky blooms stand up straight in an arrangement, this flower is easy to grow.


Daisy-like, the black-eyed Susan is the best known of this type of flower.


Known for its blooms, which can be snapped open like a puppet, this flower also comes in open-faced varieties.

Sundrop, Evening Primrose

Common in gardens from the past, this flower grows quite well in poor soil and holds up well to drought.

Sweet Rocket

This bushy flower is incredibly fragrant.

Sweet William

This two-tone flower has fringed petals and grows easily, escaping gardens to grow in the wild.


Actually native to the Middle East, this flower is one of the most popular of spring.


This lovely flower is loved by gardeners because it grows well where other flowers will not.

Veronica, Speedwell

This perennial not only ranges in size -- from short to several feet tall -- but in color as well.

Vinca, Madagascar Periwinkle

As its name would suggest, this flower loves tropical climates -- hot, humid environments.


This hardy flower tolerates drought well but looks beautiful in a cut arrangement.

If you're feeling inspired by the English countryside, don't stop now. Gather more garden ideas as you peruse the following: