Set of the Landscape: English-Style Gardens

An English landscape is characterized by sweeping vistas across rolling lawns, remote groves of trees, natural lakes and ponds, discreetly placed Greek and Roman”ruins,” and a sense of rustic peacefulness. It’s a parklike setting that reflects the landscape of the English Isles and much of North America.

This is not the English cottage garden look, with its masses of uncontained annuals and perennials, nor is it the French-style garden set in a rigorous geometric pattern. In reality, the very first English gardens were designed in the early 1700s as a response to the formality of this latter. The goal was a pure landscape, albeit one that was prettied up and romanticized to conceal the unattractive and boring components.

Though the gardens designed by Lancelot (Capability) Brown specify the fundamental components of an English garden, the style itself has changed and grown over the past 300 years. It’s been altered to include influences from China and Gothic Revival structure, in addition to the sweeping flower beds popularized by Gertrude Jekyll.

Although most people do not have expansive estates, some basics of this style could be applied even to the tiniest backyard.

Windsor Firms

For many folks, the word English backyard has the same meaning as traditional garden design. Whatever you call it, capturing the sense of a house set in the midst of a green, parklike area is key. The large lawn and stately trees are the beginning point. There is a sense of flow between every part of the garden rather than separation.

Design tip: Lush greenery is a vital feature of this style. If you reside in a climate where water is scarce, the look might not be the best option. If you would like to attempt and replicate it, start looking for plantings that have the exact same feel but are drought-tolerant, and consider climbing the look back or integrating it in a smaller area.

Embrace the opinion whenever possible. If you’ve got a mountain or lake in the distance, this obviously is a simpler task. In this instance, rather than a straightforward expanse of lawn to the shore, a mix of shrubs and trees adds depth and height into the vista.

Planting beds filled with shrubs farther up in the lawn play the exact same function that walls and stepping stones or walkways would in other configurations: They draw the eye toward and edge the approach into the water.

Glenna Partridge Garden Design

If your lawn ends at a fence rather than a body of water, then it’s still possible to use the very same principles. A border filled with shrubs and trees helps disguise the fence line also adds interest and depth to the space.

Design tip: While a exceptional tree or tree always produces a focal point, do not go forward on range, especially in a bigger planting bed. Planting a number of the exact same tree or shrub throughout the space helps soil and balance the overall design.

Andrew Renn

Add curves. One of the hallmarks of English landscaping is the movement away from rigid geometric garden beds and toward serpentine contours. In this case, the arch of this arbor leading into a secondary”space” echoes the curve of the garden beds. The use of plants rather than formal walls lends a cohesive feel to the entire space.

orlando comas, landscape architect.

Smaller circles create curves in this space and help set off the individual trees. It’s a lush look that’ll work all year round in the ideal climate.

Design tip: Not many trees perform well with plantings under; most, in reality, will suffer from overwatering or root contest. Check with your nursery or local gardening specialists before planting.

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Formality remains possible. Because this landscape style developed, the transition from purely formal to organic occurred slowly, and the exact same approach can be utilized in your garden. Keep the proper areas near the home, to complement the design and offer a place to sit and revel in the remainder of the space.

The Outdoor Room, LLC

This modern estate stipulates the juxtaposition of formal and casual. Close to the home lie a formal seating area and pool; in the distance, a large meadow and forest. Between the two, discreet but significant, is the”ha-ha,” a uniquely English attribute. This very low wall divides the formal from the informal, and in days past, maintained livestock from wandering too near the home.

Woodburn & Company Landscape Architecture, LLC

Here’s another view of the exact same type of separation. Even though it’s not a genuine ha-ha, the raised patio area with its supporting wall softly separates the spaces and provides a sitting area that lets guests take in the backyard view. From that angle, it also offers a nice transition between house and garden.

Debra Prinzing

Make water a highlight. In an ideal world, this water feature would be a part of the English landscape. If you do not have a preserve on your backyard, it’s probably out of the question. Still, a small water feature with a softly curving outline, edged with grass rather than stones or concrete, might be a possibility.

Laughing Waters, Inc

Even though the look of this small pool is not strictly organic, it works. This pool combines two principles of the English landscape: a water feature and the appearance of a Roman ruin. Additionally, it is a good choice for a smaller space where a large all-natural pond is not practical.

Design tip: including a formal pool next to a patio is a nice way to make the transition from formal areas next to your house to a more nature-like garden outside. The lines of this pool play the formality; the water softens the overall look.

Schmechtig Landscapes

Insert a sense of antiquity. A classical statue, a Chinese pagoda, a tea house — all are possiblities, based upon your personal taste and style. Even though the statue and also pagoda might be mostly decorative, a tea house or gazebo in a classical style can add extra living space to a lawn.

Slater Associates Landscape Architects

You can also make your own ruins. A marginally crumbling wall (equipped with security in mind) can add dimension without overwhelming the space. In this case, it also serves as a background for a”key” backyard — and what might be English-inspired than that?

MESA Landscape Architects, Inc

Bridges also are a popular design choice for this particular landscape style. Although you needn’t reach the heights of the example, yours should have the exact same sense of being weathered, yet permanent — this is not the time to start looking for low wooden walkways or a modern, angular design.


Keep flower beds contained. While the first landscapes were concentrated on greenery rather than colour, flowers could and did make their way to the plan. The difference between these flower beds and those of English landscapes’ more enthused cousins, cottage gardens, is your sense of order. The beds are edged, both with the lawn and with bedding plants, and nothing is too riotous.

Design tip: Adding masses of annuals in 1 colour keeps the look more formal. Consider it a kind of colour.

Glenna Partridge Garden Design

This perennial bed provides an excellent mix of colour and exuberance, but nevertheless keeps a sense of formality, edged by stones and the neatly trimmed lawn.

Design tip: Perennials are a good option if you’re looking for easy maintenance. While they still require some care, once recognized, they’ll return every year.

Zeterre Landscape Architecture

A neatly contained rose garden would not be out of place in this landscape style. It would offer color outside in addition to flowers for your home’s interior. If you’re searching for a modern, fragrant update on a conventional rose, contemplate the David Austin varieties.

Glenna Partridge Garden Design

No matter how large or small your distance, an English landscape approach ends in a backyard that’s cool, calm, and tranquil… a place in which you wish to linger. What else would you ask for from a backyard?

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