The Key Elements of Cottage Garden Design

by Sophie Tsang 12/05/2021

Cottage garden design is a popular landscaping trend originating in late 1800s England. The style idealizes the informal and whimsical aspects of “cottage” life and brings together many details and aesthetics that are still trending today. Here we will go over the key elements of the cottage garden design and some ways you can bring the style home.

Key Elements of Cottage Garden Style

Informal & Dense - Cottage gardens are just wild enough to be cozy while still functional. There is very little unused space (no expansive lawns here!) and the wide variety of plant colors and textures create a charming sense of randomness. When designing a cottage garden, avoid symmetry and pattern at all costs in order to create a calculated “mess.”

Natural Materials - Hardscaping in a cottage garden includes natural materials that are rustic while still being accessible. The style celebrates distressed and uneven materials with a preference for brick, stone and gravel for pathways. Go with natural wood and well-worn surfaces for decoration and other features like seating. The key is to stick to the idyllic rural lifestyle without being too rough around the edges.

Blurred Edges - With further regard to edges, a vastly important element of cottage garden style is plants spilling over fences and pathways. This softens barriers and creates an aesthetic both wild and cozy. Trailing vines and large flowering bushes like tea rose are a great way to add cottage charm to fences, gates and other outdoor structures. Allow groundcover to creep onto and in between stones of pathways and let lush shrubs and flowers extend as they naturally would. Just be sure not to impede foot traffic—go for cozy and casual rather than completely overgrown.

Mix of Ornamental & Useful Plants - One element of cottage garden style that has lasted since its originating days is the mixture of decorative, medicinal and edible plants. Adding herbs like rosemary and sage in with the purely ornamental florals is a great way to add texture variety, lush fragrances and practicality to the space. Other common edible plants included in cottage gardens are grapes, blueberries and figs. You can also try planting a fruit tree or two, depending on the space and climate.

Cottage Garden Design Ideas to Try

Now that you have a better understanding of the basics, here are some ideas you can try in your own garden or outdoor space:

Add a White Lattice Trellis - Trellises are an elegant and useful way to add privacy or define a space. Going with white lattice, either as functional structures or purely decorative elements, will instantly boost the English cottage charm. Add climbing plants like English ivy, climbing rose and clematis to create shade and color. If you’re short on space, simply adding a trellis against an outdoor wall can help create the cottage garden aesthetic with no need for a full garden.

Install Window Boxes - Wooden window boxes are another great way to add functional and beautiful decor to your outdoor space. This is an especially great option if you have limited ground space to work with. Try adding some rustic planter boxes beneath windows and filling them with a variety of your favorite plants and flowers. For the DIY inclined, building your own planters is a relatively simple and rewarding project to add to your garden design.

Cottage garden design is an extremely accessible and informal style that can work for any house or outdoor space. Just stick to these basic elements and it is easy to add that vintage English charm to your modern life.

About the Author
Author

Sophie Tsang

Sophie’s Civil Engineering background and marketing expertise contribute to her broad understanding and high efficiency in marketing real estate properties. She has been consistently a top performer since 2005, and personally ranks the highest 1% by volume of all Silicon Valley Realtors. 

As a seasoned negotiator, Sophie’s no-nonsense marketing system and meticulous attention to details have been key success factors. She is known as the The Fixer, frequently helps sellers sell their homes when other agents had failed or given up. She helps buyers get into homes when they previously struggled. 18 years in Real Estate, Sophie has honed her skills on getting the best possible results for her clients. Her trusted network of vendors and use of cutting-edge technology ensure each step of each transaction is executed to achieve next level result!

Sophie has done guest speaking at Faith Radio, and writes a column for World Journal to share her Real Estate Knowledge. She is a proud parent of 2 Eagle Scouts, a Palo Alto Rotarian and a Paul Harris Fellow, also a Golden Gate Keeper (Golden Gate National Park Conservancy).