Ashleigh Smith + photo

Ashleigh Smith

May 23
4 min read
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English Cottage Garden

Once you have learned about growing seeds and how to pair different plants together, you may wonder, what comes next? To elevate your garden skills and appearance, consider the type of garden styles you prefer. As you pair different plants, materials, and design styles together, a particular “look” can be achieved. One of the most popular garden styles goes back to the Victorian days. The cottage garden was originally developed by workers who lived in quaint cottages throughout English villages. Their open land allowed for a natural and wild look full of flowers springing up freely. With time, this relaxed and free-flowing style worked its way into the British leisure class. With the additions of structures and fencing, the cottage garden style became what it is today.

Designing an English Cottage Garden

The wild and dense flower growth quickly identifies this garden style. Designing a cottage-style garden is rather easy as the most important rule of design for this style is to keep it fun, full, and sporadic. To start your cottage garden design, take note of important factors that will affect your plant choice and growing practices. Start by identifying your USDA hardiness zone. This will help you select perennials that can withstand your average low winter temperatures. Then, take note of how much light your garden gets throughout the growing season for selecting shade, full, or partial sun plants.

shaded english cottage garden bench

Observe areas of your soil that stay more wet or dry than other areas. Use this information to tailor your irrigation systems while keeping your selected plants in mind. Next, select your favorite flowers, herbs, fruits, and vegetables. An important aspect of the cottage garden is the inclusion of both edible and ornamental plants. To increase the visitation of pollinators and conservation of water, consider incorporating wildflowers into your plans.

save the monarchs wildflower mix

Save the Monarch Wildflower Mix

*10% of your purchase of the Save The Monarchs Seed Collection goes to Monarch Joint Venture, partnering to conserve the monarch butterfly migration

Save the bees bee friendly wildflower mix

Save the Bees Wildflower Mix

*Your purchase benefits the protection of all bees! With every purchase of Save the Bees Wildflower Seeds, True Leaf Market will make a special donation to The Bee Conservancy, a nonprofit organization that puts bees first.

hummingbird and butterfly wildflower mix

Hummingbird and Butterfly Wildflower Mix

Wildflowers attract hummingbirds, butterflies, and other beneficial pollinators with a charming mix of blooms.

Elements of the English Cottage Garden


Cottage gardens typically feature soft and curved lines. When planning a pathway, make it curve for a more relaxed feel. Straight pathways can be softened by adding spilling plants and sprawling groundcovers. For a large landscape or garden using the cottage style, I recommend adding a meandering pathway for you to enjoy the abundance of beauty throughout the seasons.

curved english cottage garden path

english cottage garden plants


The hallmark of a cottage garden is the densely grown plants that help the garden to feel full and wild. To enjoy the abundance of blooms while taming the growth to your liking, consider placing plants at varying depths. By placing tall plants towards the back of your growing areas, you can create the feeling of an enclosed area without it feeling too close. Then, stagger your plants with decreasing heights the closer you get to the walkways. This will allow you to view each of the beautiful blooms throughout your garden without difficulty.

Natural Materials

In addition to plants, other natural materials play an important role in tying this style together. Walls, pathways, and fences are typically made of natural stone, brick, gravel, and wood. Be sure to allow your plants to grow over, around, and up these materials to soften their rigid appearance.

stone wall covered with plants

wood shed with plants

Variety of Plants

To create a garden that is enjoyed at any time of the year, select a variety of spring, summer, and fall blooming plants. In addition to bloom time, look for plants of various types. Include a variety of annuals, perennials, shrubs, and trees.


English cottage gardens are the perfect opportunity to add your own personal touch. Include various decorations, furniture, and signs that express your personality. I like to include a nice sitting bench in a shady spot to fully enjoy the beauty of this relaxing garden style.

metal bike with flowers garden decoration

40 Popular Cottage Garden Plants

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