If you’re a fan of Downtown Abbey or any English period film, the lush, fragrant gardens, lawn tennis and the images of tea and cakes enjoyed from dainty, heirloom china are all part of the fabric of the story. Indeed, English gardens date from the first century A.D., when the Romans invaded Britain. This primitive garden included symmetrical gravel walkways, manicured short hedges, open lawn space mimicking a park, and a small planting of herbs and vegetables for cooking.


Afternoon Tea


Fast forward to the Middle Ages, when the garden appeared again, with the kitchen garden elements and a lawn space designed to resemble an outdoor room of sorts, with room to play lawn games. Typically they were kept close to the house or castle, and large swaths of land were left for deer or cattle. You can bring a bit of the English countryside to your backyard or garden with some of these design features.

1. Shape

Shape plays a distinctive role in an English-style garden. The more traditional style is square, but currently, curved shapes and rolling paths are more in vogue. You could also frame your garden with low, neatly trimmed shrubs and put a circular or curved gravel path through it, taking your guests to different plantings. Or, add a circular cement birdbath in the middle as a focal point.

Another idea is to feature a topiary, a shaped shrub in a cone or spherical shape, to add a softer kind of architectural element to the garden scheme.

Winding Path English Garden

2. Flowers

Classic flowers are perennials like hibiscus, hydrangea, phlox and bee balm, along with annuals like marigolds and pansies. But don’t forget the roses! Roses are key for an English-inspired garden. You can consider planting a climbing variety along a trellis or archway; or create rows or borders with the blooms.

English Roses

3. Herbs and Vegetables

Both add variety and usefulness. You can create a section specifically for herbs, and then the same with veggies, or intersperse them amongst your flowers along a walkway or border.

English Garden Herbs

4. Shrubs

Shrubs at varying heights can help shape different areas of your garden space, or outline a lawn space for a croquet play area. They can be flowering or of different evergreen variety. Use your creativity and have fun!

English Garden Shrubs

5. Grass

You can decide how much mowing you want to do, and that may determine how much grass you include in your English garden plans. Think of grass as the “carpet” or “area rug” in your outdoor “room.”

English Garden Seat

6. Furnishing

As you would inside your home, consider how you want to furnish your garden such as with a bench along fragrant flowers, a chaise lounge for reading, a gazebo to create shade, or even a water feature like a small fountain. Though there are design elements that are considered “classic” for an English garden, you’re only limited by your imagination!

Tea Party Garden

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