Choose this classic free-flowing English garden style and create a fairytale retreat
Houzz Contributor. I’m a London-based journalist with years of experience writing… More
Cottage gardens never go out of fashion. Their romantic look can be achieved by planting a mixture of wildflowers and traditional varieties, such as roses or honeysuckle, as well as the addition of rustic materials, such as terracotta and wood. Best of all, cottage gardens don’t require a huge amount of space – in fact, a tiny courtyard can look as good as a big plot. Browse these gardens for ideas.
Get some inspiration
You don’t actually need to live in a traditional thatched cottage to enjoy some cottage garden romance, but you can gain some inspiration from this gorgeous scene.
The best cottage gardens are about mixing up a variety of wild and traditional flowers for a relaxed, timeless look. Cottage garden staples include daisies, poppies, foxgloves, lupins, hollyhocks and stocks. Plant close together for a densely covered effect, and don’t worry if things get a bit on the tall side.
Pretty up a shed
A wooden shed can easily be worked into your cottage garden – painting it a rustic shade, such as this duck-egg blue, will give it a sweet, country edge. A heritage green or French grey would also look good. If your shed is plain, try adding scalloped edging or shutters to the windows to create a more old-fashioned look. You could even add some gingham curtains.
Don’t forget to install trellis up the side for your honeysuckle or roses to climb up – another mainstay of the cottage garden look.
Find out how these homeowners created their cottage-style garden from scratch
Add an arch
To add to the wild and free feel of your garden, build a structure that plants can clamber up. Find a spot where an archway would look good, such as the entrance to a pathway or a secluded seating area, and position the structure above it. You can buy ready-made arches in various sizes and materials to suit your space.
This rose arch has been perfectly placed above the bench to create a peaceful corner full of colour and fragrance.
In a classic cottage garden, formal and regimented lines are out, replaced instead by a natural, meadow effect.
Here, pretty woodland flowers, including foxgloves, have been combined with ground planting, such as hostas, for a dash of greenery. A russet acer adds another rich country tone.
Tour the whole of this garden
Pop in some pots
If your back garden is paved over, or you don’t fancy the maintenance of rambling flowerbeds, you can still achieve a cottage garden mood. Here, a courtyard has been livened up with a mixed collection of terracotta, stone and galvanised steel pots filled with a variety of pretty tumbling plants.
The key to achieving a natural look with container plants is to choose pretty, delicate flowers rather than structural plants.
Create a cosy perch
Design little corners in your cottage garden where you can hide away to create the feeling of a secret retreat. A classic wooden bench with metal arms is perfect, or you could copy this garden and install chunky stone seating tucked among the planting in a sunny spot.
Let flowers grow freely between the slabs to keep things natural – a good choice is Mexican fleabane (erigeron), which self-seeds to find its way into nooks and crannies.
Discover how to kill weeds naturally
Go for grass roots
A cottage garden doesn’t have to be dedicated to flowers and shrubs – it can still have a lawn while retaining a generous floral border.
Get your garden furniture right to set the tone. Choose a timeless design, like this wood and metal bistro set, to complement a country atmosphere.
Try out terracotta
Rustic materials are also key to the cottage garden look. Vintage terracotta has a beautiful warmth that brings to mind old-fashioned vegetable patches. Build up a collection of mismatched flowerpots for that lovely relaxed mood.
Step it up
Create a rustic feel with paths and steps made from natural, reclaimed materials. Here, old wooden railway sleepers have been laid in a series of steps leading to a raised area of the garden – or try reclaimed brick or stone.
Do you have a cottage garden and do you love it? Share your photos and gardening tips in the Comments section.