The traditional English cottage garden is in some ways the very model of what a garden should be. This traditional style of garden design includes some level of comfort in its informality yet also retains its very Britishness through paradoxically calling for a formal layout consisting of pathways. The dominating plant style in an English cottage garden is the herbaceous perennials that hit their peak right around early summer.
The plants of an English cottage garden ideally should include the cottage itself as part of the landscape. Clematis is a vigorous vine that can be allowed to grow around the front door of the cottage. If that idea isn't an option or isn't appealing, clematis can be trained to reach horizontally above the cottage's windows.
The perennials can be planted in small drifts that locate the taller plants toward the back in a relaxed manner that doesn't look too staged. One tall plant that is a mainstay of English cottage gardens is delphinium. It may require staking to play its part in the symphony of colour.
Landscape Roses Instead of Hybrids
Roses found in English cottage gardens shy away from the hybrid tea species and toward landscape roses. They can be planted alongside a low-placed post-and-rail fence or a stone wall with age built in if it hasn't been in place for a long time. The roses should be allowed to fall over the fence or climb up the wall.
Another tall plant that you can mix among the shorter perennials is foxglove. This plant's high-reaching vertical spires give the garden a defining profile at the top of its height. A trellis with flowering vines can be added behind the foxglove.
Geraniums in a decorative container lend some informality to the English cottage garden. Medium-sized pots are better than large pots for geraniums, which tend to produce leaves instead of flowers when grown inside a spacious container.
Unless you specifically don't want your English cottage garden to attract birds, flowering currants add a different kind of texture to the informality of the landscaping design. Birds are attracted to the plant's fruit, and so your garden will have feathered visitors in spring.
Evergreen shrubs can provide an English cottage garden a continuing sense of structure during winter when the flowers have faded or died. Elderberry can be utilised as a hedge to provide a border around the garden's perimeter. Its berries can be used in the kitchen for cooking or making elderberry wine.