Gardening has been my favorite hobby for as long as I can remember. When I was 10 years-old, I convinced my parents to let me have my own garden along the west side of their house.
First, I had to prove myself by taking care of all of my Mom’s other gardens for a Summer. I was thrilled with the responsibility, because to me, picking weeds and dead-heading perennials is still one of the most relaxing things in the world. Eventually, they realized my desire for a garden wasn’t just a spur-of-the-moment idea, but a deeply rooted desire of a passionate outdoors-man (I mean, girl).
I got my own garden on the condition that I had to do all the work myself and buy my own plants. I was thrilled! I overturned the lawn, tilled it under, added topsoil, compost and mulch, and used all my birthday money to buy a mixture of annuals and perennials. I bordered the edge with rocks I collected from the creek in the valley and made a toad house from terracotta pots.
That garden is one of my favorite childhood memories, and one of the reasons I’m thankful for homeschooling. I want to afford my children the same opportunity to pursue their personal interests, whether that be woodworking, small engine repair, painting, or what have you.
Years later, I spent a couple Summers working for a landscaper – by far my favorite job as a teenager! I would have done the work for free, I loved it so much. Warm sunshine, fresh air, birds chirping, and all the beauty of a zillion flowering plants, literally at my fingertips! I learned a few tricks to achieving a professional-looking design in the process and have had fun building and experimenting in our gardens ever since.
Our new house already had great landscaping “bones,” with several mature shrubs, perennials, and hardscaping in place. There’s really nothing I need to do, but I can never leave well enough alone and am itching to plant “just a few more” perennials, move this over there, dig out that shrub, divide those day lilies, and…
Beauty truly is in the eye of the beholder, so there may be elements to garden design that look gorgeous to me but meh to you. I tend to favor the English Country Cottage look: a bit of formality paired with a bit of whimsy; neatly clipped boxwoods next to overflowing flowerbeds; formal brick and stone next to natural river rock and mulch; flowing with geometric.
Here are 10 ways to create an English Garden look at your own house. Keep in mind that English gardens aren’t made in a weekend; they are cultivated and developed over years of enjoyment. 🙂
1. Plant a hedge of boxwoods , yews, or similar shrubs to build “walls” in your garden. They create structure, add formality and an element of surprise on the other side.
2. Repeat the materials of your house in your gardens. Stone or brick walls, fountains, and paths help the garden look like a unified extension of the house.
3. Focus on perennial plants. An English garden looks vastly different from season to season. Bulbs and moss phlox are one of the first signs of spring; winter berries, bronze colored sedums, and golden ornamental grass blowing in the wind bring beauty to a snow-covered landscape. The “in between” spaces can be filled with annuals for color all season long.
6. Build a decorative structure. Picket fences, arbors, and trellises not only add height and functionality to a garden, but they also provide a place to showcase vines and other climbing plants such as roses.
7. More is more. English gardens utilize every bit of growing space. Forget spacing rules; go for blooming plants in a variety of shapes, sizes and textures that spill over into walkways, climb up arbors, and burst out of planters.
8. Add some whimsy. Too much “stuff” in a garden can make it look littered and messy, but an intentionally placed birdhouse, chair, watering can, birdbath, or gazing ball, keeps a garden fun and surprising.
9. Choose “old-fashioned” plants. English gardens explode with “romantic” blooms like peonies, hydrangeas, roses, foxgloves, hollyhocks, daisies, and cosmos.
10. Just add water. A fountain, a pond, a bird bath, a lake: English gardens typically involve a water feature of some sort. Water adds a sense of tranquility and peacefulness appreciated by all who stop to smell the roses.