An English garden is a rather prestigious looking and remarkably beautiful classic design concept. Turning a part of your property into an English garden would provide a space of tranquil calm for you and your family, and it would be marveled at by your guests and neighbors.

It is often thought that the English garden consists of a wide swathe of beautifully cared for lawn surrounded by a herbaceous border, possibly with an avenue of deciduous trees leading to a vista beyond. There is some truth in this but it does not acknowledge the extraordinary development of the English Garden Design from the start of the 20th century.

The Principles Of English Garden Design

When gardeners speak of English gardens as a genreEnglish garden Design, they are usually referring to the Edwardian garden ideal created by architects and gardeners working together. The Lutyens and Jekyll partnership was not only the most famous of these, but also the most influential on the design of the English garden.

The English Garden is designed on the principle that formal and informal styles can be combined, even in a small garden, by making a strong and regular framework, a formal garden structure, and then filling it with relaxed, informal and bold planting of perennial flowers, bulbs and mixed shrubs which will disguise the formal geometry of the original plan.

The framework within which this planting is done depends on the division of the garden into a number of compartments. This forms the structure of the garden. The most influential style has been the creation of hedged rooms, inside which are mixed beds planted in a quiet 'cottage garden' style. In one of the best of these compartmented gardens, Hidcote in Gloucestershire, now in the possession of the National Trust, the structure depends on a series of interlocking axes to define the garden areas. The garden rooms are separated by several layers of hedging, but inside the hedges the planting is informal, with well-known cottage garden flowers mixing with rare plants – for the English, above all, are plant-hunters. (The genius behind Hidcote, however, Lawrence Johnston, was a naturalised Englishman, being in origin an American.)

The alleys under pergolas, the sunken gardens, the terraces and enclosures, all of which were previously used in large gardens to display the owner's wealth, can now be planted with a rustic simplicity. This is what is known as cottage-garden planting, a style originally English but which has been adopted with enthusiasm and terrific skill on the other side of the Atlantic. It remains, in much of Britain today, the most favoured garden style.

The English Cottage Garden

The garden of an English cottage is never bare and rarely ugly. Flowering starts with the snowdrops in January and continues until the fuchsia hedge blooms into late October or even November. For nine months of the year the gardens have flowers. This is partly due to the loving care that is given to the soil, digging, feeding with manure and compost, mulching between the plants, and partly due to the shelter that is given to the plants by the cottage itself and the surrounding hedge, a mixed hedge of fuchsia, hawthorn, sloe, hazel and holly, as old as the cottage itself. AEnglish Cottage Gardennother reason for the charm of the cottage garden is its lack of pretension in the planting. There is no formal planting scheme but the garden is thickly filled with roses, poppies, delphiniums, wallflowers, lilies, paeonies, larkspur, cornflowers, all mixed together in gay profusion with, here and there, a red-currant bush heavy with translucent fruit or a gooseberry weighed down by its scarlet globes. The overall effect is deeply charming.

This simple style is that adopted by the English garden designers striving to achieve a more natural effect without losing what gardening is about. The world-famous garden at Sissinghurst, created by Vita Sackville-West, has been probably the most influential garden in England today, with its self-sown seedlings coming up in unexpected places, its creepers growing through each other on the walls, its informal mix of wild flowers, old-fashioned flowers and newer exotic flowers.

For the modern gardener, the compartmented design can give endless delight. Gardens can be created within gardens – low box hedges can create a number of theme areas, even within a very small garden. A garden of cottage flowers, a herb garden, a tiny lawn of chamomile or thyme, a garden of attractive and ornamental vegetables – these can all be planted as a number of different rooms divided by box or lavender hedges. In the height of summer, the cottage-style effect will be very obvious.

The English Garden Design has gone through many variations, but the theme, of a good strong structure inside which you can do many different things, remains relevant for the present day.