Defining Features of Classical English Gardens

English classical gardens trace their origin back to the first century A.D. when the Romans settled and developed the land. However, the landscaping trends that accompanied the classical English gardening style became significantly more widespread in the early 18th century, which was otherwise known as the British Romantic period.

For homeowners thinking about a new landscaping project, the classical English garden offers an organized beauty for either the front or back yard. A landscape architecture company can assist in creating an outstanding design for your new English garden and ensure that these outdoor spaces carry a lasting appeal for years to come.


English Estate Gardens

The classic English garden that dates back to the first century was traditionally reserved for the wealthy elite and noble classes, as they were the only subset of people who could own land. Manors, halls, and palaces were typically accompanied by a sizeable, multi-acre estate that stretched well beyond the shadow of the house. Here are a handful of the defining features of these luxurious outdoor spaces.

  • Symmetrical Layouts and Straight Lines

The architecture of the English country garden is symmetrical in nature, with straight pathways, neatly cut hedges, and squared planting spaces. The arrangement of flowers and other herbs is neat and trim, while open lawn spaces are well kept and organized. Creating this organized, clean outdoor space often required the assistance of garden staff. For this reason, the English country garden’s designs were originally only in use for the large estates of the wealthy and noble.

The late 18th and early 19th century’s Georgian architectural styles helped define the symmetrical aspects of English landscape design. For country estates with acres of lawn space, the front door and all of the windows along the front of the house were symmetrically aligned so that there was an even number of windows on each side and each floor of the house.

Outdoor pathways often directly lined up with the home’s symmetry so that each side of the garden was a mirror of the other and was perfectly split by the center of the house. The garden boxes, lowered hedges, and lawns were often square in nature, accenting the symmetrical designs with an organized appeal.

  • Fountains & Water Elements

Fountains, tiled pools, and other water elements often served as the tranquil centerpiece of the English country garden. The stonework of the fountain essentially created an art piece for the middle of the outdoor space and added a similar appeal to a birdbath. In many ways, the inclusion of a water element helped to continue the symmetrical designs of the garden across its central pathways.

The fountain also helped make the garden space seem more relaxing with its visual appeal and the tinkling sounds of falling water. Other art pieces or ceramic pieces often filled other significant gaps in the garden, allowing homeowners to take in these pieces while out for a pleasant stroll.

  • Neatly Trimmed Hedges and Natural Borders

Before the middle of the 19th century, the English countryside was a wide open land, dotted with smaller towns, roads for carts, and farms. The garden landscape that accompanied the wealthy estates and halls sought to bring order to England’s outdoor spaces and make them altogether more pleasant. As a result, hedges and other garden borders were neat, tall, and well-manicured. They also helped to create a luxuriously private area, so that visitors to the home could enjoy the sights and sounds of the garden during their stay.


English Cottage Gardens

As the English garden layout evolved over the course of the 18th and 19th centuries, its characteristic symmetry and well-ordered arrangements began to shift over to significantly smaller outdoor areas. Cottages and other simple country homes showcased beautiful landscaping arrangements, garden boxes, relaxing seating arrangements, and short gates and fences.

  • Colorful Flower Arrangements

The English countryside garden featured a wide variety of herbs, flowers, and other plants. Vegetables and other fruit-bearing plants were often kept aside from the main section of the outdoor space, in what was frequently referred to as a “kitchen garden.” Perennials are often the most popular flowers for the English garden and lawn, rather than annuals, which can be significantly more challenging to maintain.

Hibiscus, hydrangea, lupine, and phlox were and are still essential elements of the English garden, regardless of the size and scale of the yard space. These plants tend to stand up well against the harsher weather conditions that you’d find in a place like England, where rainy weather is typical throughout the year. To learn more about arranging perennials for your next garden project, check out this guide for designing a perennial garden in your backyard.

  • White Wood Gates and Fences

While many of the elements that defined classical English gardens applied only to larger homes and estates, many aspects of these landscape designs moved into the smaller garden spaces of countryside homes and cottages.

For smaller outdoor spaces, white wood garden gates and fences were (and are) a popular choice for creating a border around the edges of the garden in a similar fashion to the hedge borders around larger, more luxurious backyards. Organization and a neat layout of the outdoor space are still high priorities for the classic English garden, no matter the size of the available space.

  • Stonework Pathways and Stairs

Neatly patterned stone or gravel pathways divide the English cottage garden into proportionate sections and allow for easy access to all planting zones. These walkways make navigating the garden an elegant experience and leave room for cozy, tucked-away seating areas and lawns.


Conclusion- Defining Features of Classical English Gardens

Classical English gardens are symmetrical, well-organized, and colorful landscaping arrangements, regardless of the backyard’s size or shape. For many homeowners today, these gardens serve as models for new landscaping projects and renovations. Contact your local landscaping architecture company to learn more about building a beautiful English garden for your property.

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