The classic country garden has been replicated across the globe, with lovers of the look taking inspiration from both grand country houses and smaller plots that surround rustic homes with colorful blooms, heady scent and wayward wildflowers.
Country garden ideas can be replicated in urban plots, too, where the softer foliage and less formal planting takes the edge off the urban landscape.
Key to developing your country garden ideas is to create a strong connection between the well-tended garden and the wilder landscape around it.
'We tend to make a distinction between garden plants and "wildflowers" as though they were separate categories,' gardener Monty Don has said. 'Yet has any garden ever been as lovely as a bluebell-carpeted wood, a bank of cow parsley, honeysuckle, wild garlic and meadowsweet? I don't think so, and I try to incorporate the essence of the local countryside into my garden at Longmeadow.'
Read on to discover the secrets of country garden style. Find more amazing garden ideas, whatever your style, in our dedicated feature.
1. Fill borders with colorful blooms
Take inspiration from the cutting garden trend and make your country garden borders work even harder by filling them with colorful blooms that you can enjoy outdoors or cut and bring into your home.
'Depending on the size of your outside space, flowers for cutting can be grown in tubs, large pots, raised beds, or empty spots in the border,' says Selina Lake, author of Garden Style.
'When it comes to planting, choose cut-and-come-again plant varieties with long stems, as the more you pick, the more you will get.'
See: Flower bed ideas – beautiful ways to create floral displays in your garden
2. Create country garden 'rooms'
Hedging, fences, trellises, trees and other structures can be used as dividers within your design to create 'rooms'. Within a country garden, you might use this idea to zone specific areas for sitting, dining or play; to create distinct planting themes, such as a tropical garden, or a room of white flowers; or to give your garden an element of surprise and mystery.
The classic English country garden at Sissinghurst Castle Garden in the county of Kent, created by famed garden designer Vita Sackville-West, popularized the concept of garden rooms. But you don't need the grounds of a huge country house to create your own version. In fact, dividing a small garden into separate spaces can actually make the plot seem larger, as you don't see the whole area at once.
3. Add a garden gate
Figure a gate into your plot planning and country garden ideas – there's nothing like pushing it open to create a sense of expectation about the garden beyond.
Gates aren't just for entrances. They are a useful framing and dividing device within a larger garden, helping to create defined zones – or keep your pooch from trampling your prized plants!
4. Cover your home with climbers
'Nothing speaks of an English country garden like a beautiful wisteria or climbing rose, framing your windows and doorways, and adding character to your home,' says TV gardener David Domoney.
Natural climbers, such as ivy and Virginia creeper, will cling to walls but will leave marks on brickwork. Honeysuckle, roses and clematis will need to be supported with trellis or wire, but will clamber rampantly across these to decorate the exterior of your home.
Wide eaves may restrict the amount of water reaching the plants, while the aspect of the wall will dictate the best plants to position in the spot.
5. Plant a country kitchen garden
A desire for more outdoor space is often a driver for a move to the countryside – and that means more ground in which to expand your horticultural horizons.
Traditionally, every country home – large and small – would have a dedicated area in the garden for growing crops to eat. In small spaces, that might mean a few herbs and salad leaves, while grander country piles would have beautiful kitchen gardens that would stock the kitchens with fresh produce.
The kitchen garden trend is seeing a resurgence, as we seek a greater connection with nature and want to be certain of the provenance of our food. If you're new to tending a veg plot, or planning your homegrown larder, take a look at our kitchen garden ideas for easy ways to get started.
6. Provide shaded areas to relax in
For an ornate garden shade idea that doubles as a decorative garden focal point, consider a gazebo. These open-sided garden structures require little groundwork beyond laying a flat base.
'Our handcrafted rusted iron design can be left as an open structure for climbing plants or fitted with roof liners,' says Jan Howard, owner of Room in the Garden. She sited the gazebo in a walled garden, where it provides a destination at the center of the space.
7. Mow a meadow path
If you're looking for an alternative idea to the traditional sward of grass in your country garden, there is a greener solution than paving.
'A meadow is much more interesting than a regimented square of lawn – as well as being much more ecologically sustainable,' says gardener Monty Don. 'However, it's not enough to let the lawn grow.'
Don suggests adding plug plants to your lawn, such as fritillaries, narcissi, meadow sweet, cowslips and scabious. 'These should all cope with the competition from the grasses,' he explains.
Meadows should be cut once or twice a year, with all the cuttings removed and composted. So that you can cross easily through the long grasses in the meantime, mow a wide path – it will create a romantic walkway that leads you on into the garden.
For more inspiration, take a tour around Monty Don's garden at Longmeadow.
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8. Attract butterflies and bees
Making our garden more attractive to bees, insects and other creatures is a superb way to connect with nature. Not only will it increase the health of our plot by increasing its biodiversity, this gentle, green-fingered approach is better for the planet, too.
'Making your garden more biodiverse means creating an environment that is not just about you and the plants you grow but encouraging all the world’s species into it,' says gardener and TV presenter Frances Tophill. 'That includes fungus, bacteria, insects, birds, even foxes.'
Ideas for your country garden include growing pollen-rich flowers, such as sunflowers or lavender, for insects to feed on. 'Once you have insects in your garden, then all the other wildlife will follow,' Tophill explains.
'Make sure you have flowers for as much of the year as possible and choose varieties that produce fruits and berries. Include white, scented flowers that are at their best at night as that’s when pollinators like bats and moths are most active,' Tophill suggests in her 'Get Green Fingers' campaign with Weleda.
9. Break up bowling-green lawns
However green and well kept your lawn is, it can tend to look a bit flat and lacking in interest. All that grass also creates a monoculture – a lack of plant diversity that will diminish the wildlife and natural wellbeing of your plot, both fundamentals of a country garden.
To keep the greenery but to give it some additional gardening 'oomph', break up your lawn by digging out beds, planting shrubs and trees, or simply adding a path or a trail of stepping stones across the sod.
10. Repair rustic walls
Just as the architecture of your home will inform your decor decisions, looking to existing structures within your plot can help when planning your country garden ideas.
Rustic stone and flint walls are likely to have been made from local materials, so will echo the surrounding landscape. Preserve these where you can, calling in specialist stonemasons if necessary, and use these as the backbone of your rustic plot.
Natural weathering, as well as moss, lichen and self-seeded wildflowers, will soften the look of these hardy borders, bringing a beautiful patina and depth to your country garden.
11. Plant up pots and containers
Whatever the size of your country garden, from tiny courtyard to expansive acres, groupings of pots filled with seasonal blooms will add extra depth and dimension.
'Pot gardening is quick and satisfying because the whole job of planting and replanting is done very quickly – a sharp look for a whole season can be prepared within an afternoon,' says gardener Arthur Parkinson, author of The Flower Yard.
'You can also treat a container garden like a profoundly changing stage, with the pots as props that can be moved around as you see fit.'
12. Make space for a pond
'Water reflects all the changes and characteristics of the surrounding landscape and brings an enchanting quality to the garden,' says award-winning gardener, Chris Beardshaw.
Unless you are lucky enough to have a stream running through your garden, or an existing pond, you'll need to dig out a hole to be lined and filled with water.
'Introduce oxygenating plants that will create a vibrant, evolving pond ecosystem and stop the water stagnating,' recommends Beardshaw. He suggests a mix of free-floating, submerged and rooted marginal plants, including water starwort, flowering rush and water forget-me-not.
13. Put a mirror in a shady corner
Increasing a sense of space and bouncing light in shady corners, a mirror can add a new dimension to a country garden.
'Pop it on a potting table or hang it on a wall,' suggests Homes & Garden content editor, Tara King. 'Just make sure it won't reflect direct sun, as this could cause a hot spot that might cause flowers to scorch and burn, or else shine into your eyes as you enjoy your garden.'
Don't worry if the glass becomes mottled over time; it adds a rustic feel.
14. Let chickens roam
'Hens love to have a lawn to peck on – grass is what makes for a rich egg yolk, along with calendula petals,' says Arthur Parkinson.
'Given the liberty of the garden, they will bring it wonderfully alive. My hens are on bug patrol and weed in between the brick pavers in the yard. Bantams are lovely and better for a small garden as they are gentler with the plants.'
15. Set up a sheltered seating area
Stone walls will absorb the heat of the sun during the day and radiate it in the evening, making a sheltered corner the perfect place to set up an outdoor living room in your country garden. Add cushions and throws for extra comfort.
16. Introduce woodland plants
'You can echo woodland planting in a relatively small space, with just a single tree underplanted with a vibrant mixture of small shrubs and bulbs,' says Chris Beardshaw, winner of numerous Gold Medals at the RHS Chelsea Flower Show.
Foxgloves, primroses, bluebells, snowdrops and sweet violets are quintessential country garden plants that will bring colour to dappled borders. The first two are also bee-friendly and will attract bees to your garden.
17. Potter in a potting shed
'Pottering about in the shed is one of life's greatest pleasures,' says stylist Selina Lake.
'If you're a keen gardener but have only enough space for one structure in your country garden, it has to be a potting shed. It will prove an invaluable garden headquarters – somewhere to store essentials, pot on seedlings and take shelter from the rain.'
If you don't have room for a shed, Lake suggests squeezing a potting bench into a corner of the garden.
'All you need is a sturdy and fairly weatherproof table to work on,' she says. 'For something more permanent, position the table against a wall and add a shelf or two above and large crates underneath for storage.'
18. Celebrate historic features
If your country garden has a feature such as an old well, keeping it will add to the narrative of your home and provide a focal point in your outdoor space.
Make sure the structure is secure, repairing any brick or metalwork, and make it safe – here, a grid seals the opening of an old well, while revealing its depths.
19. Grow vegetables and flowers together
Companion planting is a staple of country gardening – and a great idea if you want to maximise your crop and make your beds look prettier.
Planting flowers and vegetables side by side can help keep bugs and pests away from your prize produce. 'Nasturtiums helps to deter aphids, while the scent of marigolds confuses pests,' says Emma O'Neill, head gardener at the charity Garden Organic.
For more brilliant plant and produce pairings, take a look at our complete guide to companion planting.
20. Use characterful planters
Barn sales, rural reclamation yards and country antiques markets are great places to pick up interesting rustic pieces to use in the garden. Trolleys, trailers, grain bins and reclaimed timber can all be used as characterful planters that reflect your rustic setting.
Ensure there is drainage at the bottom of the container so that the flowers or vegetables you plant don't become waterlogged.
21. Accessorise a deck with pretty cushions
When layering soft furnishings, try taking the inside out,’ advises Sue Jones, Co-founder and Creative Director at OKA.
‘Incorporating cushions and throws from your sitting room into your garden makes the space more inviting, but it also continues the color scheme and enhances the feeling of having an extra room. If you’re planning on sitting out past sunset then throws are essential for cozying up but also for creating a welcoming aesthetic.’
What plants should I grow in a country garden?
'For a country garden, you want a mix of plants, roses, perennials, edibles such as herbs, annuals and a few shrubs such as hydrangeas,' says Sarah Raven, who runs a gardening and cookery school at Perch Hill in East Sussex.
Raven recommends five classic plants when you're planning your country garden ideas.
'The first is a lovely, scented pink rose such as the Getrude Jekyll, which will bring a delightful pop of color with its large, rosette flowers. It also produces the most quintessential rose scent, which is perfect for an English country garden,' Raven shares.
'I also recommend lupins. The amethyst purple is irresistible and with its architectural flower spikes, it will add an interesting texture.
'Scented climbers such as honeysuckles or akebia quinate are a must for a country garden. These are perfect for a garden arch or pergola or to clad external walls.
'Annual, self-seeding flowers such as nigella are a staple classic for country gardens too.
'I would also plant some architectural edible such as artichokes in a country garden.'
What are the key design and landscaping elements of a country garden?
'You want to use sympathetic materials with a strong sense of place in a country garden, continuing the textures and tones from the house into the garden,' suggests Sarah Raven.
See: Country decorating ideas – ways to bring stunning rustic style to your home
'So, if you’re in flint country, go for a lovely natural grey flint path and terrace or patio. If the house is built in brick, then stick with lots of bricks or stone.
'By doing this, you’ll build a connection between the home and the garden, which is very important when working with a country plot.'
I've been immersed in the world of homes, interiors and lifestyle since my first job in journalism, on Ideal Home. I went from women's magazine Options to Frank, a brand new title from the publishers of The Face and Arena. From there it was on to the launch of Red magazine, where I stayed for 10 years and became Assistant Editor. Two children and a move to the coast meant it was time to shift into freelancing, and I spent 14 exciting years writing for everyone from The Telegraph to The Sunday Times, Livingetc, Stylist and Woman & Home. When I was offered the job as Editor on Country Homes & Interiors, I couldn't resist – and now I combine that role with developing the H&G Country channel.
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