Garden Design Ideas - English, Cottage and Contemporary

By Noelle Johnson, AZ Plant Lady

What is your garden style? How about English gardens with their bright splashes of contained color and formally pruned shrubs? Maybe your style is more informal like a cottage garden filled with flowering perennials and annuals along a meandering path. Or perhaps the clean lines and simplicity of a contemporary landscape is more to your liking?

Here are some ideas of how you can replicate these popular garden styles in your own garden.

English Garden

  • Create circular or rectangular garden beds with short hedges such as boxwood and fill with low-maintenance Knock Out® roses or large mass plantings of flowering annuals such as petunias.
  • Use straight paths throughout the garden, having them end at a focal point such as a fountain, statue, topiary or container filled with flowers.
  • Create garden rooms by planting 'living walls' using rows of trees, tall shrubs or trellised vines followed by low-growing ground covers.

Cottage Garden

  • Plant a variety of flowering perennials and annuals such as cosmos, hollyhocks, nasturtiums and bachelor's buttons, allowing them to intermix and self-seed, which creates an informal look.
  • Add curved paths to connect different areas together and select flowering plants that will thrive with little attention. Choose plants that will have overlapping bloom seasons for year-round interest.
  • Incorporate old, rustic pieces such as a wheelbarrow or wagon, planted with annuals.

Contemporary Garden

  • Use hardscape elements like concrete step stones or pavers to create straight or circular walkways. Border planting beds using sheet metal to create clean, straight lines throughout the landscape. 
  • Add containers, a fire pit, seating areas and/or a water feature for focal points within raised beds or at the end of the walkway.
  • Choose plants with a clean growth habit and striking shape like cacti, ornamental grasses and succulents. Plants should be kept at a minimum with enough space for them to grow so their individual shapes can be appreciated.