How to Design an English Walled Garden

Written by karen holcomb
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How to Design an English Walled Garden
In an English walled garden, walls can be brick, stone or hedges. (Jupiterimages/BananaStock/Getty Images)

English walled gardens provide a natural haven of solitude behind a fortress of brick, stone or hedges. Successful English gardens appeal to all the senses. They combine trees, shrubs, flowering annuals and perennials of varied textures, colours, sizes and fragrances. A water feature is traditional and provides a tranquil sound. The heyday of the English walled garden was during the Victorian Age, when wealthy Brits enclosed their gardens for a practical reason: to protect against produce theft. Today these gardens are admired for their beauty.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Stone or brick walls
  • Gravel or stepping stones
  • Water feature
  • Garden sculpture
  • Garden bench
  • Plant material

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  1. 1

    Choose a flat expanse of land for your English walled garden. The area can be shaded or sunny.

  2. 2

    Select the type of walls you would like for your garden. English garden walls are traditionally made of stone, but they can also be constructed of brick, lattice covered with climbing vines, or garden hedges such as yews or boxwoods.

  3. 3

    Place wide openings or doorways in the walls if the openings will not infringe on your neighbours' privacy. Some 18th century English gardens had ''windows'' cut into the boxwood hedges to allow a view of the surrounding countryside.

  4. 4

    Choose small ornamental trees or large flowering shrubs to provide structure and a tall back tier in the garden. These plantings should be sited close to the walls, especially if they are stone or brick, to provide a green backdrop.

  5. 5

    Site a pathway of stone or gravel to travel through the garden. Formal English gardens have symmetrical, straight pathways leading one through the various garden ''rooms'' or plantings. Focal points such as a water feature, sculpture or bench should be placed strategically throughout the garden to become visible as one strolls through it, creating attractive garden vistas.

  6. 6

    Select a mix of perennials, bulbs and annuals that appeal to the senses and provide year-round interest. Place these throughout the garden, creating ''rooms'' or groupings around the focal points. The rooms can be divided by short hedges such as boxwood, creating a network of mazes or spaces.

Tips and warnings

  • The outside walls of a typical English garden are often quite tall. This maintains privacy and allows for the use of tall plantings inside. If hedges are used to separate the garden into rooms, ''The Book of Outdoor Gardening'' recommends they be short enough to see over so you don't obscure the view of other parts of the garden.

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