While modern landscape garden design has developed to cope with the constraints of urban living, the unrelenting pace of city life can often become a little too hectic and we often like to remind ourselves of the more rural, more relaxing surroundings the British countryside has to offer, so many will choose to create their own little English country garden, even if they live in town.
The first question to ask when designing a country garden is whether you want to create an essentially aesthetic space characterized by formal geometry, reflecting perhaps the gardens of the old great country houses, or something more relaxed and representative of more rural surroundings in the way of a cottage garden.
In any case your choice of surfaces is one that can be adapted to either need – reclaimed Yorkstone is considered the quintessential hard landscaping among stately homes and castles and fortunately it is easily available from reclamation yards, making it both economically and ecologically viable. Though if you’re on a tight budget then Indian sandstone is a cheap, but just as beautiful alternative. Lay it in a random pattern using different size slabs to achieve that authentic aged look. Reclaimed red brick is also seen as a hallmark of classical British garden landscaping design and construction, whether for walls or paths.
Summerhouses and gazebos are also traditional elements and are lovely places to entertain guests and relax. There are many on the market to choose from and you can also install lighting and heating to make them usable all year round. Follies are also an ancient British tradition and, depending on their appearance and age, can be equally suited to both formal and informal landscape garden design by granting either the architectural meticulousness expected in a formal setting, or alternatively a sort of pagan enchantment to those wilder spaces.
The presence of water and the means by which it is integrated can really define the identity of a garden. For a formal setting you’ll want symmetry and well-defined lines that help to frame and segregate separate areas like flower beds and ornamental lawns, so you might go for a formal pond. However, if you’re goal is to recreate a more naturalistic scene then you might opt for a reclaimed millstone or a drilled natural boulder with water bubbling through. Focal points such as traditional sculptures like dainty cherubs or classical busts help establish a sense of antiquity often accompanying a formal garden. A bird bath to further enrich your gardens biodiversity or sundial to infuse a sense of mythology and wonder also make suitable points of interest.
If you go for a formal design you’ll want planting that will do well under uniform maintenance, such as box hedging and lavender. Lawns are also a hallmark of formal gardening, though for the sake of water conservation you might consider exploring the many artificial options, since, to all but the most exacting horticulturalist, they serve the same purposes.
Conversely, cottage gardens call for a more rounded appearance, abandoning the straight lines of artifice for the laid back unruliness of nature, and for this, more relaxed feel we’d recommend Lilac, Buddleia and Hydrangeas as old-fashioned representatives of the classic English garden. A variety of climbers such as Roses, Clematis and Sweet Peas will help to add further dimension to your planting scheme and, finally, plant some perennials such as Delphiniums, Peonies and Pinks to fill any gaps left between your shrubs and climbers.
In this blog and its predecessor may you find all, or most, of the advice you’ll need to make either your own Mediterranean paradise, or British homecoming a reality.
Perhaps one in the front and the other in back? Just remember your passport anytime you go outdoors, who knows where you could find yourself!