Add country charm to your outdoor space
The cottage garden is a romantic outdoor space, brimming with colour and interest. The planting is loose and informal, full of brightly-coloured and fragrant flowers all jostling for position and spilling over onto paths and lawns.
Despite the name, cottage gardens aren’t reserved for thatched cottages in the depths of the countryside. Create yours wherever you live and whatever size outdoor space you have. It's all about style, not size or location, so even the most urban, or compact of spaces, can evoke some country garden spirit.
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Tools & materials required
Top tips to create a cottage garden design
Landscaping ideas for the cottage garden
Country gardens are relaxed and unstructured. The key is to avoid obvious straight lines – this is a garden that is all about smooth curves and asymmetry. So if you’re adding a path or stepping stones, make them curved and winding.
Both hard and soft landscaping options, such as paving, decking and lawns, all work in the cottage garden. And if you have the room, use them alongside one other to create distinctive areas of the garden.
For larger paved areas, such as patios, explore our traditional selection of paving slabs. These feature weathered effects that give the impression of having been laid for years. We love the Natural Sandstone range with its riven profile and wide choice of colours. It also comes in a variety of sizes so that the slabs can be laid in a random layout – perfect for breaking up straight lines and for making small spaces seem larger.
For paths or smaller areas, check out our carpet stones (pictured). This rustic range achieves a cobble stone look but is quicker and easier to lay than the real thing. The cobbles are pre-laid on an underlying flexible mat that can be cut to size and shape as required.
And for soft landscaping, consider a wildflower lawn. Fragrant, colourful and varied, these look like mini meadows and are easy to care for. Create by adding wildflower seeds to an existing grass lawn or bare earth, or lay wildflower turf. For more on how to create a wildflower lawn, head to our helpful how to guide.
Planting ideas for the cottage garden
Historically, traditional country gardens were not only irregular in shape, they were also made up of a variety of plants. This outdoor space was a working area where vegetables and flowers were mixed in together. Nowadays, it’s a good idea to mix the traditional plants with plants that will add interest into autumn and winter, as well as providing ground cover that will help keep weeds at bay.
This is a garden that is all about the planting, so dedicate as much space as possible to it when planning your space. And if strapped for space, let planting spill out over paths or gravel. A clever way to keep the informal, untamed look and make the most of every inch.
When choosing flowers for your country garden, decide if you want pastels for a soothing look, or if you’d prefer to create a more energetic style with bolder, more vibrant colours. We advise planting both perennials and annuals so you have something beautiful to look at, all year long.
Sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus), a fast-growing annual climber, is strongly scented and comes in a range of colours. They produce flowers throughout summer and early autumn and are well-suited to cutting. Another flower that grows throughout the summer and into autumn, plus comes in a range of bold colours is the Dahlia (pictured). This perennial is bushy, quite hardy and looks great in sunny borders.
Don’t forget to think about scent when planning your country garden. Lavender (Lavandula) is an ideal evergreen shrub for your borders, low hedges or even your containers, giving you great smelling blue/mauve foliage from July until September.
Add some height with a tree. Silver birches (Betula pendula) make an eye-catching choice with their liver-white bark that develops black cracks as it ages. It also grows yellow catkins (clusters of flowers on a spike) in spring. Or why not choose the classic British apple tree (Malus domestica)? Plant it in a sunny, or partially shady area, and it will produce juicy apples from September to October. If you have the space, plant another variety of apple tree nearby. They’ll then cross-pollinate and you’ll get more apples from both.
Short on space? Create interest at different heights with colourful hanging baskets bursting with flowers. We offer a range of baskets in materials such as rattan, rope and metal, and even artificial ones to create the look without the hassle of planting.
Extras for the cottage garden
Country gardens love colour. Introduce more with exterior paint in soft, pastel shades. Opt for timeless, classic colours that won’t date rather than more on-trend ones that are more likely to go out of fashion. These look great on wooden structures, such as sheds and fencing, and to complete the rustic, country garden, add wooden garden furniture (pictured). We offer wooden options for a variety of patio furniture – from benches to dining sets – pile with patterned cushions for extra comfort.
Add more timber warmth with rustic arches, arbours or pergolas surrounded by, and even partially covered with, flowers and foliage. And if you don't have the space for these garden structures, consider trellis. This can be added to the top of existing fencing or used by itself to inject some intricate detailing and also a favourite spot for climbing plants.
If you’re limited for room in your country garden, stock up on pots and containers to bring the floral fun to your outdoor space. Available in a range of shapes and sizes, they help make the most of every nook and cranny, and, when used in numbers, can make any space feel like a rich and flourishing garden. Choose varying styles to keep things looking unfussy and, where possible, add planters and raised beds for visual impact at different heights.
And for the most personal of touches, why not add some upcycling charm to your garden? Use old wheelbarrows, wooden crates, watering cans or even wellington boots as unusual planters. The cottage garden is all about personality and British charm – so unleash your outdoor creativity.