English Garden Ideas: Inspiration & Layout

English gardens are amongst the most popular garden design styles and they offer a perfect way to bring a bit of natural beauty to your yard. Whether you're looking for a small, quaint garden or a larger, show-stopping design, creating an English garden can be a great way to bring a touch of elegance and romance to your outdoor space.

From planting the right flowers and shrubs to choosing the right features, materials or structures, whether you’re looking for a formal garden or something more whimsical like a cottage garden we will review a few distinct styles to inspire you.

English Cottage Garden

Cottage Garden Most Common Features 

The English Cottage Garden is a classic and charming style of garden design, often associated with the romantic and picturesque countryside of England. This informal and romantic style features an abundance of flowers, shrubs and herbs, as well as trees, all in a mixture of heights and textures. The design is often asymmetrical and curved, with winding paths weaving through the garden. Traditional elements like rustic fences and stone walls are often included, adding to the charm and character of the garden.

A well-designed English cottage garden has a natural, relaxed feel and is a great way to recreate the feel of the English countryside - aim for a garden full of color, with fragrant flowers and herbs, as well as vegetables and other edibles and don’t forget the classic ‘rose arch’ for the quintessential traditional look.

english garden layout

Cottage Garden Layouts 

To recreate a cottage garden at home, start by sketching out the layout you hope to achieve - even in a limited space you can still include borders, kitchen garden growing and traditional structures. Then research a planting list using temperate flower, shrubs and trees to keep a consistent ‘English’ feel to the garden.

Incorporate topiary such as Box balls or clipped Bay to give the garden a classic, structured look, and use a variety of textures for added interest, such as tall grasses and shrubs. Plant climbing roses, clematis or wisteria on a simple Arch or Pergola for a romantic, cottage feel and install paths and stone walls to define the space.

Adding a water feature, such as a pond or fountain can bring a calming element and an opportunity to use marginal planting such as Flag Iris and will attract garden friendly wildlife to help keep pests under control. Include a bench or seating area to provide a comfortable spot to relax and make use of decorative planters to add seasonal color to key areas. 

english cottage garden

Popular Cottage Garden Flowers 

English cottage gardens are known for their beautiful and fragrant blooms. One of the most beloved features of these gardens is the variety of flowers they contain. From tall and stately biennials to fragrant and beautiful climbing vines, cottage gardens are full of gorgeous flowers.

An idea is to grow ivy, wisteria or climbing roses up the walls of the cottage for an instant old world look. But you can also fix hanging baskets of flowers from the eaves and either side of doorways for an eye level display . 

Trellis or screens can help cover the walls and create a vertical garden of lush foliage. You will need to train a vigorous clematis or rambling rose up an old tree, or plant a pergola with a mix of climbing plants for an enchanting walkway. 

No matter what size garden you have, you can enjoy the informal beautiful English cottage feel with the right plants and structures to help them grow.  


Formal English Gardens

A formal English garden is a timeless classic  popular since the 18th century, and still a highlight of any visit to a stately home or palace. Formal English gardens offer a structured look that is both beautiful and practical. With neat rows of shrubs and trees, carefully placed statuary and fountains, and a variety of flowers and plants, these gardens bring a sense of sophistication and elegance to any outdoor space. 

Formal Gardens Main Features

The classic formal English garden features straight and geometric pathways, symmetrically placed trees and shrubs, and perfectly manicured lawns. These gardens are often inspired by classical architecture, with a focus on balance, order, and geometry. Formal English gardens often include a variety of species of plants, flowers, and trees, and are designed to have something in bloom year-round. They also often include hardscapes such as walls, fountains, and statues, sculptures, as well as elegant gazebos or walkway arches and even greenhouses.  

formal english garden

Formal English Gardens Layout 

When sketching out your formal English garden layout, green textures should be in the center of your approach to create a stunning outdoor tapestry. 

Incorporating different types of green textures will create depth and complexity in your garden. Evergreen trees and shrubs are a great way to provide structure and permanence, when ornamental grasses provide a softer and more delicate texture, whilst foliage plants, such as ferns or hostas, can add a lush and vibrant backdrop in more shaded corners.

One of the most popular choices for creating a formal garden is the use of clipped hedges and topiary. Clipped hedges provide structure and symmetry to the garden, while topiary is the art of shaping shrubs and trees into ornamental shapes. The combination of clipped hedges and topiary can be used to create intricate patterns and to define pathways. They can also be used to frame focal points such as water features, sculptures, or benches. 

formal garden layout

Choose stately trees, evergreen hedges & fragrant perennials

Stately trees, such as Oak and Maple, provide a sense of grandeur and structure to a formal English garden. You can also include fragrant herbs, such as Sage and Rosemary, as well as shrubbery, such as Holly and Boxwood, which are also common in English gardens.

A formal garden does require a fair amount of maintenance in order to remain in top condition. One of the most important step to take to ensure its health and longevity, is to prune hedges and shrubs regularly. This will help keep them looking neat, tidy, and well-defined.

Also, make sure to use a combination of planting beds and borders to create a layered look. There are a wide range of plants, flowers or shrubs to choose from when creating formal layered beds and borders. From roses to lavender, and from tulips to hydrangeas, you can choose by color or height. When picking the right plant for your garden, it is important to consider the climate, soil type, and available sunlight. This will help ensure that your garden will look beautiful all year around.

formal english garden

English Courtyard Garden Ideas

Specific Elements

An English courtyard can be recreated by adding a few key elements such as hedges, shrubs, and topiary trees as well as materials like stone, brick, and wood that can also give your courtyard a classic English feel. 

Seating is essential to any courtyard, and providing plenty of comfortable seating options for your guests to relax and enjoy the atmosphere of your courtyard is a must. Consider adding a fountain or water feature to create a soothing atmosphere and make your courtyard a peaceful oasis. For those evening get-togethers, don’t forget the lighting. String lights, lamps, or even candles can add a beautiful atmosphere to your courtyard at night.

english courtyard features

Design & Layout 

Before you get started, layout your plan. It's important to take into consideration the size of your space and the types of plants and flowers that would be most suitable for the environment, as well as how much sunlight and shade the area receives throughout the day. Other important factors to consider include adding any structures such as obelisks, arches or screens, as well as any existing features of the area such as wall or trellis - vertical growing is perfect for courtyard gardens as it leaves floor space clear for seating, without losing the sense of lush green planting.

When planning for your English courtyard garden, you'll also need to plan for any hardscaping elements such as pathways. Drainage and irrigation should also be taken into consideration to ensure that the plants in your garden are properly cared for. Finally, you can select furniture and décor that match the overall style of the garden to create a distinct and beautiful look. With a bit of creativity, you can create a stunning English courtyard garden that will bring beauty and enjoyment to any shape and size courtyard space.

english gardens layout

Ideal Plants For An English Looking Courtyard 

Planning for smaller or enclosed spaces, particularly when looking at narrow or small courtyard, it’s important to draw the eye through simple, enticing design.Try using white flowering plants in small courtyard garden spaces, as they can help create light and draw the eye. 

Because courtyards tend to be shaded, large-leaved, glossy, green leaves, like Japanese aralia, bear's breeches or hostas, will thrive. Since space is often tight, evergreens such as box and yew can be sculpted into shapes for year-round structure. You can also opt for exotic species depending on your weather conditions, as the courtyard can be sheltered. Otherwise, climbing plants like jasmine, honeysuckle - which have fragrant flowers in summer - can also have a big role in courtyard planting schemes.

english courtyard plants

English Kitchen Garden Designs 

Creating a kitchen garden is a great way to have fresh, home-grown produce on your doorstep. Unlike a vegetable garden, a kitchen garden is typically smaller and planted with vegetables, herbs and soft fruits which benefit from being eaten immediately after harvesting.

Start by sketching out a design of your garden to get an idea of how to arrange your plants. Then, select your plants based on the climate and soil of your area - most importantly, grow what you like to eat!

Finally, prepare the soil so it is rich in organic matter and well-draining.Kitchen garden gardens provide a practical, cost-effective, and self-sustaining way to produce fresh, organic fruits and vegetables. They are easy to maintain and ideal for a variety of garden sizes, making them a great option for families.

Design wise, English kitchen gardens utilize vertical elements such as plant frames with netting, arches, trellises and other vertical elements that can help to maximize space and add visual interest. They often incorporate raised beds, which can help to improve drainage, reduce weeds, and make planting and harvesting easier. 

english kitchen garden

Rose Gardens Ideas 

Roses have long been a beloved flower in the garden. They are known for their beauty, versatility, and fragrance, making them a popular choice for gardeners around the world. Roses can be incorporated in any type of garden – whether you are planning to create a formal English garden, a luscious and wilder cottage garden or a neat courtyard. 

Rose Garden Layout

Creating a beautiful rose garden is a great way to add a dramatic color and traditional elegance to outdoor space. Plant an assortment of roses in your front yard to create a vibrant and eye-catching display. When choosing your roses, consider the size, shape, and color to ensure a harmonious garden. Pay attention to the sunlight requirements of the roses you choose - most roses require at least six hours of direct sunlight per day, but some varieties can thrive in semi shaded conditions so check which would be the best type for you. 

When selecting a color scheme for your rose garden, complementary colors are a great way to go. Warm colors like pinks, oranges, and reds look great together, while incorporating contrasting colors like yellows, purples, and mauves can give your garden a more dynamic look. Also, to have a continuous display of color, choose roses that bloom at different times of the year.

For more inspiration on rose garden layouts, read our rose garden ideas blog to find beautiful designs and tips on how to recreate them at home.  

Peggy Rockefeller Rose Garden New York Botanical Garden

How to Feature Roses

  • Make An Unforgettable Entrance 

One way to make your rose garden even more special is to add a grand entrance. This entrance will give visitors a chance to admire the gorgeous blooms and provide a feeling of anticipation as they enter the garden. You can include a garden arch right by the gate or include a path with low-growing rose hedges, so visitors can easily find their way. Along the path, consider adding benches so that visitors can take a moment to admire the beauty of the roses before they enter the garden.

Rose walkway entrance

  • Use Roses to Soften Fences or Walls 

Covering fences and walls with a luxuriant array of rose bushes and climbing vines can create a decorative and fragrant backdrop. Consider planting a variety of colors and types of roses, such as hybrid teas, floribundas, or old garden roses, to create a stunning visual effect. Planting a combination of large-flowered roses and miniature roses along your fence or wall can create an intricate pattern of colors and textures.

roses on garden walls

  • Create A Mix Border 

When choosing the roses for your border, consider different colors, sizes and fragrances to create a stunning look. When planting, group the roses in clusters of three or five for a visually appealing pattern. Plant the tallest roses in the back with a rose obelisk and layer down to the shorter roses in the front. To enhance the visual appeal of your rose border, include companion plants such as lavender, daisies, lilies, geraniums or asters. 


  • Grow Roses Over Structures 

Rambling roses are an excellent choice for gardeners looking to add a touch of romance and elegance to their outdoor spaces. These versatile roses come in a variety of colors and shapes, and their long, arching branches can be trained to climb on vertical structures like an obelisk, pergola or a few arches placed in a row for an eye-catching feature. The soft, fragrant blooms of rambling roses can provide years of bloom with minimal effort. Pruning and fertilizing are the only maintenance required to promote healthy growth and to encourage more blooms.

To find other ways to feature roses in your backyard or frontyard, read our rose garden ideas blog to find design ideas, but also places to visit over the weekend for inspiration. 

roses on structures

No matter which type of garden you choose - whether you prefer the timeless elegance of a formal English garden, the natural beauty of a wild English cottage garden, a neat courtyard, or a luscious rose garden – any English inspired looking garden will help create a stunning and unique outdoor space that is sure to impress.