English Garden Design Ideas

Thoughts and musings

English Garden Design Ideas

Josh | June 30, 2017 | 0 Comments

The English style garden has always been one of abundance. The sheer breadth of the garden’s features encompasses the magnificent panorama of colour, form and boldness for which the style is known. For many, this was the pinnacle of landscape art. Since its conception, English gardens have become sculptures of idealised nature while shaping the modern image of sophistication.

Gardening is an art. With these English garden ideas, you can transform your garden into a setting of style and splendour.

Abandoning Structure

The natural look is quintessential to the English garden. The English gardening style bloomed in the early 18th century as a reaction to the formal, symmetrical Spanish techniques. Paths curved and wandered instead of following straight lines. Landscapers bid goodbye to stiff topiaries and polished parterres and, alternatively, embraced the natural slopes of the hills and the unstudied grace of the landscape.

Rectangular ponds were no longer in fashion because gardeners preferred rounder lakes to complement the unstructured scenery. Romantic structures like grottoes and false ruins replaced classical ornaments to breathe life into the gardens.

A Colourful Profusion of Flowers and Trees

Variety was not the fashion in English gardens. What horticulturists did was they planted only a few species of flowers but do it in big sweeps. English gardeners call this a ‘drift’ of plants. If the colours of the flowers were far apart in the colour wheel or contradictory enough to catch the eye, it made the landscape more beautiful. Citrus-hued daylilies, for instance, would go well with violet clematis. The contrasting profusion of flowers is enough to achieve a garden’s lavish appearance.

Lancelot ‘Capability’ Brown was a landscape gardener who saw beauty in the effect of light and shade from trees. He rejected monuments, ornaments, ha-has and drew the focus towards painting the landscape green with clumps of trees dotting the gardens that he designed. Randomly arranged trees and shrubs were part of the design to give the garden a park-like setting for outdoor relaxation. The colours of the leaves and the size of the trees also played their parts in curating the aesthetic of a garden.

Flowers for the Season

Without the cornucopia of flowers in the landscape, English gardens lose their aesthetic vivacity. Flowers and seasons are intimately bound to each other. It is important to take note of climactic changes and choose to plant flowers that are set to bloom for the next season.

Here’s a quick list of flowers that flourish per season:


  • Narcissus
  • Lilac
  • Freesia
  • Delphinium
  • Hyacinth


  • Cockscomb
  • Gardenia
  • Star Gazer
  • Chrysanthemum
  • Carnation


  • Gladiolus
  • Juniper
  • Zinnia
  • Solidago
  • Kangaroo paw


  • Phlox
  • Evergreens
  • Gerbera
  • Star of Bethlehem
  • Helleborus

Lush Grass and Manicured Lawns

For the English garden style, there was no more room for hedgerows and formal beds. Brown merged the modern English house with the garden by extending the grass parkland from the backdoor all the way to the edges of forests and lakesides.

Despite their aim for naturalistic scenery, the English garden landscape artists were very fond of well-kept lawns. Gardeners would maintain a vista of manicured grass to maintain the lush condition of the lawn in the meadow.

Building Borders

English garden designers rejected tall and geometric structures, but borders made from plants are still a common feature in this style. Gardeners create dividers between areas in the garden with tall growing evergreen hedging plants like wegiela and boxwood to add a touch of elegance to the garden. Just don’t make it too tall – a height of six to eight feet is optimal for hedging dividers.

Two-legged or four-legged gates are also stylish installations. People usually opt for whitewashed gates and picket fences at the entrance of their gardens. This type of entryway provides an otherworldly feel to the garden, setting your landscape apart from the streets or the rest of your house.

Pathways and Dooryard Gardens

English gardens are famous for their picturesque pathways. Acting as a barrier between an abundance of colour and greenery, pathways become aesthetically pleasing visual pauses in the landscape.

Adding a walkway in the middle of the lawn allows visitors to get a wonderful view of the landscape while maintaining a healthy distance from the plants. Arches with climbing plants are also attractive features to pathways.

Dooryard gardens are also excellent features of English gardens. Creating an intimate space of plantings by the dooryard welcomes guests to your home. Situate flowers and shrubs by your steps or lace vines around the handrails to keep the eyes on the path towards the entryway.

Designing Cottages

Popularised by Victorian gardener Gertrude Jekyll in 20th century France and northern Europe, English gardens pulled the spectator’s attention towards cottages rather than the landscape itself. While the landscape tempts a wide ramble, cottage gardens invite guests in for a closer inspection of the garden’s artistry. Cottages are exuberant and well-designed features of English gardens. They are a plant lover’s haven.

Gardeners incorporate a famous English weaving gardening technique in cottages. Weaving involves the vining or sprawling of plants over the borders of the cottage to create an appealing, romantic attraction in the entire garden.

The Focal Point

English gardens are majestic paintings of breath-taking scenery, but the eyes will want to feast on a centrepiece that will stand out without destroying the picture. As a final touch to your garden, choose a unique structure that will blend in with your garden.

If you think Venus de Milo belongs in your masterpiece, suit yourself. Other homeowners opt for fountains, vintage outdoor furniture, water features or life-sized art installations for their gardens. Feel free to explore your options and choose which one you will love looking at the most.

There are so many ways you can create your own English garden. At Oakleigh Manor, it is our duty to make your dreams a reality no matter how grand they may be. Have a chat with one of our designers about your plans or contact us on 0800 023 1310.