Create a traditional country garden in a tiny plot

Statues, deep borders and topiary give a hint of grandeur, says garden designer Nicola Oakey

Statues, deep borders and topiary create the English country garden look

by Nicola Oakey |

The classic English country garden is a stately affair: a winning combination of formality and romance. It has generous, floriferous borders, historic vistas, fountains and statues, and surprises around every corner.

These vast, elegant spaces feel like a far cry from the average back garden where we have to squeeze in wheelie bins, a shed and washing line, as well as a seating area for summer. However, elements of these grand gardens can be used to inspire smaller gardens too. Although they won’t transform your garden into a rural parkland with deer and a 'haha', they do bring some timeless chic to your space.

Choose natural materials

The choice of materials helps to set the atmosphere of a garden. Think about using salvaged pieces with a weather-worn patina that have an older appearance, such as natural, random-coursed paving in a mixture of slab sizes. These help make the garden feel bigger by not having a precise pattern or direction that leads the eye. Stone setts also have a traditional look and can be used to create exciting shapes and patterns. They also create movement by directing the eye and can emphasise features – such as framing a water feature.

In winter, these paving shapes add to the structure of the garden and provide more interest that just looking at an expanse of gravel.

Put plants centre-stage

Bringing plants into the centre of a garden is a great way to divide the space and see plants from different angles. A deep border allows for lots of layers of planting, so don’t be afraid to go big, even in small plots. Using harmonious foliage and flower colours is easy on the eye and stops the garden feeling too busy, despite being full of rich colour and interest.

An English country garden wouldn’t be complete without classic fragrant roses, geraniums and phlox. These can be balanced with ‘modern’ planting too, such as swaying ornamental grasses.

Don’t forget that formal garden essential: topiary. In this design, clipped balls of yew are mirrored on either side of the pathways, acting as markers highlighting that there’s more to see, as well as providing year-round structure.

Create the illusion of space with screening

A lattice trellis screen with a doorway is a good way to obscure a practical area at the far end of the garden, where a shed, bins and storage space are hidden from view. The doorway creates the illusion that there’s more garden to explore, making the space feel like it’s a room within a bigger garden. It also adds an eye-catching support for climbers – perhaps clematis, wisteria or another rose. The lattice of the trellis stops it looking like a completely solid boundary, preventing the garden from feeling more confined.

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