9 cottage garden design ideas

Be inspired to create a romantic and nostalgic cottage garden bursting with colour, fragrance and decorative interest at every turn

Cottage garden

Humble and compact, the cottage garden is the symbol of idyllic of village life. What the cottage garden lacks in scale, it makes up for in charm. A relaxed medley of untamed flowers, homegrown produce and medicinal herbs, a cottage garden is a true celebration of colour and fragrance. From luscious borders to outdoor rooms dotted with flea market finds, be inspired by these cottage garden ideas.

Then, browse our practical tips on how to create a cottage garden.

1. Opt for an organic, curved layout

17th century cottage garden

While the formal gardens of classical country houses favoured structured, geometric layouts, sinuous lines and curvaceous borders give a far more relaxed feel suited to smaller gardens and vernacular old houses which are anything but uniform.


2. Create an illusion of haphazard planting

Cottage gardens originally began as neat and productive kitchen gardens, but later developed to include sumptuous arrays of flowers in different shapes and sizes as the trend for floristry blossomed throughout the 19th century. Choose a mix of colours, shapes and heights to create a rich tapestry.

Learn more about choosing plants for traditional gardens.

cottage garden planting

Although cottage gardens give the illusion of effortless charm, careful consideration must be taken when creating your planting scheme. Create height and structure at the backs of borders with busty shrubs like philadelphus, and the elegant spires of delphiniums, lupins, foxgloves and hollyhocks. At the foreground, choose pretty and fragrant perennials such as rose bushes, lavender and wild geraniums mixed with the invigorating and vibrant green of lady’s mantle.

cottage garden borders

Opting for perennial plants which flower year after year will save on maintenance. Of course no cottage garden should be without pretty spring bulbs such as tulips, daffodils and crocus; plant these in October and November for guaranteed spring colour.

Get comprehensive advice on how to choose plants for your garden in our guide. 

cottage garden mixed borders

3. Create interest with structural features

While formal gardens use architectural elements to create structure, simple wooden pergolas, arbours and picket fences are a perfect framework for supporting rambling plants such as rose and clematis and marking boundaries in a small cottage garden.

cottage garden pergola

4. Create a secluded seating spot

Well-positioned seating is essential in a garden so that you can sit back and admire your work and really enjoy the beautiful and peaceful surroundings. Avoid anything cumbersome; instead opt for wrought iron garden furniture for a romantic and traditioanl look.

We have the best metal garden furniture in our buyer's guide. 

cottage garden seating area

5. Enjoy well-structured garden paths

Walkways – simple herringbone paths and gravel paths snaking through flowerbeds – are a perfect way to be immersed in the colours and scents of the garden, but they are also practical, allowing easy access for tending to plants and garden maintenance.

(Image: © Leigh Clapp Photography)

6. Invest in a summerhouse

Cottage gardens are all about capturing a wild, romantic, playful and whimsical atmosphere, so what could be a better addition than a secret summerhouse or garden room hideaway? The perfect place to pen a novel or paint a masterpiece.

Learn more about adding a garden room in our expert guide.

cottage garden summerhouse

7. Add interest – and texture – with garden antiques

Old crates and vintage ceramics collected from flea markets add decorative interest to a forgotten corner and help bind outdoor spaces with quirky interiors of the cottage it encompasses.

(Image: © Leigh Clapp Photography)

8. Accessorise your shed with traditional tools

Choose vintage garden ephemera and invest in garden equipment created using heritage techniques, such as old iron watering cans and classic handmade Sussex trugs. Not only do they guarantee quality, they also make for pretty displays, and distract from the structure of the shed.

Then organise your beautiful tools with the helo of our garden shed storage ideas

cottage garden shed

8. Go for a romantic look with climbing roses

You can’t beat traditional climbing roses to inject a touch of English charm into a garden. The perfect foil to weathered brickwork and masonry, roses are essential for completing the chocolate box look.

Find out how to grow your own rose garden.

climbing roses by cottage doorway

9. Pick the best furniture for outdoor dining

There’s no better way to really make the most of your lovingly tended garden than dining al fresco on a balmy summer's evening. Vintage, ornate wrought iron patio sets and curvaceous mellowed wood designs will best complement the romantic ambience.

Take a look of our pick of the best outdoor dining sets

Roses around an arch near a seating area

(Image: © Photograph Leigh Clapp)

 Photographs: Leigh Clapp, Jo Sheldrake, Jody Stewart


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