Cottage garden ideas: 37 charming ways to create a character-filled outdoor space

Our stunning cottage garden ideas are perfect for designing a backyard that's full of flowers and romantic charm

cottage garden ideas: front garden
(Image credit: Andy Roland/Getty Images)

Our favorite cottage garden ideas are all about creating a beautiful space that’s packed with soft flowers and scent. From overflowing borders filled with cottage garden plants to pretty accessories and seating that adds instant charm, there are plenty of ways to create a cottage-style vibe in your own plot. 

Cottage gardens typically have an informal planting scheme featuring lots of different colors for a space that's packed with interest. Flowerbeds are bigger than you might find in a more contemporary style garden. So, keep it in mind that you might need to sacrifice some of your lawn to create the most successful cottage garden planting scheme.

But, if you're the owner of a small, urban garden, don't be discouraged. You don’t have to live in a picture-postcard thatched cottage in the English countryside for cottage garden design ideas. The look can work just as well on a smaller scale for a romantic, flower-filled city garden.

Cottage garden ideas: 37 beautiful looks for charming plots

Whether you want to create winding pathways, design a pretty seating area or introduce more cottage garden plants to your space, there's plenty to inspire you in our selection.

1. Go for easy-grow perennials

perennial planting in cottage garden border

Nepeta and Alchemilla mollis make a lovely pairing

(Image credit: Mark Bolton Photography/Future)

There are tons of low maintenance perennials that make perfect choices for cottage garden ideas. Think hardy geraniums for starters. They're ideal for pollinators and available in a wide range of stunning varieties from the prolific purple 'Rozanne' to the quietly elegant 'Kashmir White'.

Other best cottage garden plants that will come back year after year include nepeta with its spikes of violet blooms and aromatic foliage, as well as Alchemilla mollis with its pleasingly-scalloped leaves and lime-yellow flowers. As demonstrated above, they make a delightful summer duo for the border, especially with a rambling rose as a backdrop.

2. Position a bird bath amongst the blooms

cottage garden ideas with bird bath

A stone bath adds a delightful touch to this flowerbed

(Image credit: foto-mix/Alamy Stock Photo)

Cottage gardens are a celebration of vibrant colors and life, so why not encourage feathered friends to pay a visit to your plot?

One way to do so is by introducing bird bath ideas amongst your borders – old stone designs will fit right into the theme and provide a visual focal point. What's more, watching the birds flit to and fro as they take a drink or wash their wings will bring delight to any onlooker.

We love how this design has been surrounded with hot-hued blooms – including the likes of marigolds and geums. Neatly clipping back evergreen shrubs with the best garden shears is a timeless approach that also works well for this style of garden, and helps to provide a sense of balance to the wilder planting.

3. Create an air of mystery with hidden gateways

hidden gate with flowers in cottage style garden

A secret gate adds a sense of intrigue

(Image credit: Mark Bolton Photography/Future)

Garden gate ideas come in all shapes and sizes, but more traditional-looking designs can make lovely additions to cottage style plots. This wooden style is a good example with its classic metal detailing, but picket-style looks work well, too.

Punctuating an old stone wall and surrounded by plenty of climbing plants and luscious borders, it adds a real sense of intrigue to the scene. If you're looking to separate garden 'rooms' or simply provide a greater sense of security from the outside world, then this is definitely an idea to consider.

4. Make a kitchen garden area

kitchen garden in cottage style plot

Try growing ornamental veg alongside your flowers

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

Traditionally the purpose of the cottage garden was to grow staple produce like peas, beans, cabbages, onions, leeks and carrots, but also a wide array of herbs used in cooking and for medicinal purposes. 

For a true cottage garden feel, grow produce in amongst the flowers in whatever space you have. If you have the luxury of more space, dedicated raised garden bed ideas could be created in a sunny south-facing area. 

5. Embrace classic charm with a greenhouse

Alitex green house in cottage kitchen garden

A stunning Alitex greenhouse in a cottage-style kitchen garden

(Image credit: Alitex)

Grow-your-own zones don't have to be well-tamed in a cottage garden – wilder looks are all part of the charm. However, you can still opt for a smarter style if you prefer, whilst sticking to the theme. Just take a cue from this scene above.

Red brick walls, raised beds made from sleepers, and a jumble of vintage terracotta pots all offer a country-classic vibe which still feels laid-back. As well as all your favorite veggies and herbs, try training sweet peas up a home-made support of sticks for a shot of irresistible color and scent. Or, have a go at espaliering a fruit tree for a fall harvest – it's a great approach if you're a little short on space.

If you're a keen gardener, you may want to consider greenhouse ideas too. This glorious build not only looks the part, but will be hugely practical when colder weather comes around.

6. Create a tucked-away retreat

cottage garden with summer house

This summer house offers a hidden spot to relax in peace

(Image credit: Mark Bolton Photography/Future)

Have our summer house ideas got you tempted for one of your own? Undoubtedly, a calm and quiet retreat amongst the flowers is a lovely addition for any garden, so why not introduce one to a cottage-style plot?

We love how this ornate design can be spotted through the generous flowerbeds in front, which only add to its sense of privacy. Add a comfy sofa or chair inside, a small table, and perhaps a vase of freshly-cut blooms as a finishing flourish – it'll be your new favorite spot before you know it.

7. Add a pretty arbor

blue arbor with roses

A pretty spot to sit and take in the view

(Image credit: Photimageon/Alamy Stock Photo)

Good cottage garden ideas need to include somewhere to sit, so that all those flowers can be appreciated fully. 

A pretty bench – wooden or metal – will do the job just fine, especially when kitted out with a ditsy-patterned cushion or two. But, for a more sheltered approach, consider opting for garden arbor ideas.

This blue-hued design has got us head-over-heels, and of course, the climbing rose only elevates the look further. Tuck it to the side of your plot in a sunny spot for a real destination point.

8. Make a show-stopping display up high

hanging floral baskets at RHS hyde hall

Spectacular hanging baskets at RHS Hyde Hall

(Image credit: Joanna Kossak/RHS)

By now, you'll know the importance of flowers in cottage garden ideas. But if space is at a premium, it can be tricky to create that sumptuous look whilst still being able to use the area for seating and entertaining. 

Enter hanging basket ideas – a fabulous way to utilize the verticals in a garden – whether you have a small courtyard, patio, or even just a balcony. 

Fill with colorful summer favorites such as petunias, pelargoniums and lobelia. Then, hang from a bracket, a hook, or even your fence railings for an instant pick-me-up for your plot. Don't forget that you can switch them up as the seasons change, too – heather and cyclamen make a lovely pairing for fall containers, for instance.

9. Opt for a relaxed feel with curved borders

thatched cottage with pretty cottage garden

Use soft curves for a romantic feel

(Image credit: Kasia Fiszer)

While formal gardens were laid out with parterres and terraces, traditional cottage gardens would have had no predetermined layout. There would have been little space for lawn and no hard surfacing. 

To capture the romance of cottage garden ideas, try to avoid straight lines and instead, factor in plenty of deep, curved borders for planting. Curved landscaping always creates a more natural and relaxed feel that allows you to meander along pathways through the flowerbeds.

Looking for more landscaping inspo for your characterful plot? Our cottage garden layout ideas feature has lots more suggestions.

10. Get creative with color schemes

foxgloves in cottage garden

Try color blocking your plants for added impact

(Image credit: Jacky Parker Photography/Getty Images)

Garden designer Fi Boyle of Fi Boyle Garden Design shares her expert advice when it comes to colors in cottage garden style planting: 'Think about the color scheme and decide what you want,' she says.

'Do you want a hot border filled with oranges, yellows and reds or do you want softer colors such as blues through to purple, with hints of pinks and white?' Sticking to a specific range for your garden color scheme will add an enchanting yet cohesive feel to your plot, so give it a try.

11. Plant in bulk

walled garden designed by Fi Boyle

Plant a few cottage garden plant varieties in bulk – like in this design by Fi Boyle Garden Design

(Image credit: Fi Boyle Garden Design)

Although you may be tempted to fill a cottage-style garden with every plant you can find, it might be wise to hold back ever so slightly. 'Make a list of the plants you want to include, then go back over the list and tick the ones you most want,' says garden designer Fi Boyle. 'You may be a self-confessed "plantaholic" like me and simply want everything, but it is definitely best to limit the palette. Less is more, as the saying goes.

'By having groups of the same plant repeated through a border you create a rhythm which helps the border to hang together and feel less busy,' she adds.

12. Set the scene with your front garden

cottage garden front borders

Deep borders full of blooms provide the perfect setting for this cottage

(Image credit: Andy Roland/Getty Images)

Cottage garden ideas aren't just for backyards. Why not set the scene with your front garden, too? If you're lucky enough to live in a period property such as this, billowing borders of soft flowers will provide the perfect setting to complement the architecture. 

But, even for modern houses, a cottage-style front garden will provide a wonderful welcome for you and your guests. Our front garden ideas feature is full of more lovely looks.

13. Include a stone wall for added character

stone wall with flowers

A stone wall adds an aspect of countryside charm

(Image credit: Sergio Amiti/Getty Images)

Stone garden wall ideas make lovely additions to cottage gardens, for a timeless, countryside look. It also provides a useful divider between 'rooms' of your garden, or for added privacy and shelter.

You can plant it up with foliage, succulents, moss, and even tumbling flowers such as erigeron, for a softer, fairytale-like feel. Our small rock garden ideas feature will help you discover more plants that will thrive.

14. Create a meadow-like feel by layering plants

cottage garden with densely planted flowerbeds

Layer up your plants for a wilder look

(Image credit: Joe Wainwright)

If there's one thing that's essential for a country garden, it's flowers! And, historically, the quintessential cottage garden would have evolved slowly and planting would have had no strict plan.

Self seeders were welcomed and plants propagated from cuttings (just like in our guide on how to take cuttings from plants). They would have also been gifted by neighbors and perhaps collected from the native countryside (although the latter may get you in a spot of trouble nowadays). All would have been planted in whatever space was available with little thought to hierarchy or height, which resulted in a magical jumble of shape and color. 

Although color blocking is a great way to create cohesion and impact, if you're really after a wild meadow feel, layer up a variety of hues and heights. Or, split your garden into two zones – one more naturalistic and care-free than the other. Our guide on how to plant a wildflower meadow may come in handy.

15. Choose flowers for every season

cottage garden planted with hollyhocks

Hollyhocks, everlasting sweet peas, evening primrose and poppies are beautifully framed by a classic picket fence

(Image credit: Clive Nichols)

Cottage gardens are all about abundance, so don't hold back on the flowers even if you are restricted on space. Pack your borders with a mix of favorites which will bring uplifting color year after year, such as hollyhocks, everlasting sweetpeas and oriental poppies.

Ensure interest all year round by planting for each season. In winter think about cylamen, hellebore and snowdrops, and try daffodils, muscari, bluebells and tulips for spring color, as well as iconic primroses. 

In summer, no cottage garden should be without roses, lavender, ox-eye daisies, delphiniums and foxgloves. Plant dahlias, rudbeckia and echinacea to keep the garden blooming into late summer and consider michaelmas daisies and Japanese anemones for autumn interest. And, if you only have a small paved space to play with, simply opt for large containers. Our cottage garden patio ideas feature has more inspo.

16. Add in meandering pathways

cottage garden with gravel paths

A pathway allows you to admire your garden from all angles

(Image credit: Clive Nicholls/Future)

Unlike formal country gardens, cottage gardens have a relaxed, casual feel. One way to help achieve this is to embrace sinuous pathways. 

Avoid geometrical, rigid materials like square paving, and instead try materials which are softer on the eye. Think, for example, a gravel path lined with reclaimed bricks that have a worn patina. You can find more inspiration in our cottage garden path ideas gallery. 

17. Make roses the star of the show... 

flowerbed filled with beautiful pink roses

Beautiful roses add color and fragrance

(Image credit: Beth Murton)

If there’s one flower that should take center stage in a cottage garden, it’s the classic rose. Romantic, English garden favorites, they are loved for their fragrance and beautiful blooms, plus there are so many to choose from and they can be grown in all sorts of positions. 

Autumn is the perfect time to plant bare root roses so that they have time to settle in before the coldest temperatures of winter arrive. Our guide on how to plant bare root roses is full of expert tips to help you get started.

18. ...and grow them up your walls for added impact

climbing roses on traditional style house

Climbing roses add interest to your garden's vertical views

(Image credit: Leigh Clapp)

With their abundance of pretty floral sprays, climbing or rambling roses are brilliant for softening harsh walls or fences. And, they can be used to bring height and structure when grown over an arch or obelisk. 

Alternatively, choose shrub or bush roses for borders, or if space is tight you can grow them in pots, too. Our guide on how to grow roses has all you need to know for your own.

Of course, there are other gorgeous climbers that you can also add to your cottage garden ideas. Our stunning climbing plants for a cottage garden guide will help you find more ways to add interest and character to your space. 

19. Paint gates in pretty colors

cottage garden with rambling roses climbing a stone wall

This mint-green door adds a pretty focal point alongside the nearby blooms

(Image credit: Kasia Fiszer)

Add extra charm to your cottage garden by painting gates, woodwork and even wooden furniture in soft, muted colors such as pale greens and blues, or gentle pinks. 

These types of shades work well with pretty cottage garden planting and will add another layer of interest to your garden scheme. To get started, take a look at the best exterior wood paint in our buying guide. 

20. Go for deep flowerbeds and pack them with flowers

flowerbeds in a rose garden for a cottage garden scheme

Borders full of blooms work well in a cottage garden

(Image credit: Beth Murton)

Bigger is definitely better when it comes to designing flowerbeds in a cottage garden. Go as deep as you can so that you can fill them with colorful planting and stunning blooms that will pack your garden with scent and color during spring and summer. 

It’s also a good idea to plant flowers right up to the edge of the flowerbeds. That way, over time, they’ll soften the hard lines of garden landscaping ideas such as pathways or patios. 

It really is a case of the more the merrier, so plant in abundance and watch the texture and shape of your garden evolve in years to come.

21. Choose rustic furniture

country house and garden with a wooden dining table and pretty floral table settings

Try country-style chairs and tables for rustic charm

(Image credit: @setting_pretty)

Create a sociable space to gather friends and family for alfresco dinners as part of your cottage garden ideas. Choosing a large solid wooden dining table is a great way to create a social hub and focal point in your garden, and it's always worth investing in a quality design that'll last.

Classic designs such as the best wooden garden furniture are just the ticket for enjoying long balmy nights, while a comfy rattan bench lets you budge up to squeeze everyone in. 

22. Frame your front door with flowers

Cottage garden with hollyhocks

What could be more welcoming than a front door surrounded by flowers?

(Image credit: Brent Darby/Future)

Admittedly most of aren't lucky enough to live in a charming thatched cottage such as this, but you can still give your house similar Instagrammable kerb appeal by growing hollyhocks along the front of your garden or by the front door. 

Showcasing jolly spires of color in summer, hollyhocks like light, well-drained soil – which is why they are often found close to houses. It's thought that before homes were built with damp proof courses, hollyhocks would often be grown close to cottages to help take up the water.

23. Make a feature of your garden boundaries

picket fence at front of cottage

A chocolate-box cottage facade, lined with hollyhocks

(Image credit: Clive Nichols/Future)

Fixed features and boundaries like gates, hedges and fences all lend themselves to the overall look and feel of a cottage garden. Traditionally they would have been made from local materials, so across Britain you will find variations in vernacular design from the dry-stone walls of the Cotswolds to wattled fences in Wiltshire and white-washed stone walls of Devon. 

There's nothing quite like a charming white picket fence to give your garden some instant cottage garden appeal though is there? And this is especially the case if there's a vibrant mix of flowers poking over the top. 

Fancy something different? Our garden fence ideas feature has more looks.

24. Create a pretty seating area...

pretty metal bench seating area

A perfect place to sit and admire the view

(Image credit: Jody Stewart)

After all your hard work in the garden it's important to have somewhere that you can sit back and enjoy it. With its curved details, an ornate metal garden bench would work well in a romantic cottage garden – match it with a coffee table for somewhere to pop your cuppa. 

25. ...and surround it with flowers

garden bench in cottage garden

Surround yourself with flowers as you relax

(Image credit: Joe Wainwright/Future)

Before you invest in garden seating, think about where it will be positioned. It's a good idea to position seating areas at various points in the garden so that you can make the most of the sun as it travels throughout the day. 

Sitting a bench close to a border billowing with plants, or even on a small patio or clearing within a border, will create a magical, cocooning space to relax and will allow you to appreciate the medley of aromas.

26. Use obelisks to add height to your borders

packed flowerbeds featuring obelisks for growing climbing plants

These obelisks add structure and support to nearby plants

(Image credit: Kasia Fiszer)

Factoring in obelisks to your garden borders is a brilliant way to add interest, structure and to grow cottage garden plants. Use them to support traditional cottage climbers like honeysuckle, clematis and roses. 

We think these wooden ones painted in a soft green make the perfect addition to weathered stone and the vibrant greens and colors of the cottage garden flowers. But if you're not sure on obelisks, there are plenty more climbing plant support ideas you can try in our guide.

27. Grow flowers to display indoors

watering can filled with cut flowers

A watering can painted in Burnt Orange by M&L Paints is a beautiful way to show off pretty cottage garden blooms.

(Image credit: M&L Paints)

The beauty of having a cottage garden that’s filled with stunning flowers means you’ll have a ready supply of cut flowers to display in your house too. Growing a range of annuals such as sweet peas, zinnias and dahlias will give you beautiful, scent-filled bouquets for your home (and we have even more suggestions in our best cutting garden flowers guide).

Cutting flowers from plants such as sweet peas can actually encourage growth and repeat flowering over the summer months, providing they are kept well fed and watered. 

To ensure you have a steady supply over the summer months, try successional planting, where seedlings are planted out every two or three weeks so that you have plants that come into bloom at regular intervals.

28. Install a country–style she shed

white country style she shed with a chair and coffee table in a country garden

This shed was painted in Royal Exterior paint from Protek and we're loving the square windows and little porch

(Image credit: Protek)

If, like many of us, your garden is your happy place, don't let the rain hold you back from enjoying it. Our she shed ideas provide tons of inspiration to create a space for relaxing, doing hobbies, and just escaping the rest of the world. 

A traditional design like this will make for a cute-as-a-button design feature for your cottage garden ideas. It's the perfect way to shelter from wind (or even the sun for that matter) whilst admiring your flowers when they're in full bloom.

29. Choose traditional furniture to suit a cottage garden

Garden Trading bistro set in a traditional garden

Add an elegant bistro set, like this one from Garden Trading

(Image credit: Garden Trading)

Classic furniture such as the best bistro sets, wooden benches or dining sets are your go-to choices to suit cottage garden schemes. Nestle furniture in amongst the planting to soften the effect, and stick to natural finishes or colors such as pale greens, greys and blues to help them blend in with the background. 

You want your planting to be the star of the show rather than a bright and bold item of furniture that could detract from your beautiful blooms.

30. Introduce quirky planting ideas 

old cart used as a garden planter

An old farm cart used to display plant pots

(Image credit: Jody Stewart/Future)

The cottage garden was a humble space worked for necessity and crops would have been grown in anything that came to hand. To capture the quirky charm of a cottage garden think outside the box and reuse unwanted containers as garden planter ideas – ensure you drill holes in the bottom so that the soil can drain freely. 

In his book Cider with Rosie, Laurie Lee describes his mother's cottage garden in the Cotswolds in great detail and observes how, 'she also grew plants in whatever would hold them – saucepans, tea-caddies and ash tins. Indeed she once grew a fine crop of geraniums in a cast-iron water-softener.' 

31. Decorate a garden shed with vintage finds

garden she shed in cottage garden

Add a touch of vintage charm to your shed

(Image credit: Jody Stewart/Future)

What better way to make the most of your garden than a little hideaway tucked away that you can retreat to with a tea and a good book? 

Brighten up the interior with a lick of paint and furnish with a couple of comfy armchairs. In the make-do-and-mend spirit of a cottage garden, use the structure to support rambling plants which will also help soften the building, helping it to blend into its surroundings.

32. Tidy up your space

yellow painted door in a cottage style garden

This statement shade is called Yellowcake by Farrow & Ball

(Image credit: Farrow & Ball)

Make the most of a sunny day and give your woodwork a refresh. Start by making sure any climbing plants are kept in check and aren't covering up windows and doors – although they look fabulous, they can damage brickwork and creep into every nook and cranny if left to their own devices. 

Then why not give sheds and fences a smart new coat of paint? This vibrant yellow painted door would add a bold splash of color to any cottage garden, but it would work equally well for our modern garden ideas.

33. Embellish benches with floral cushions and throws 

bench with pretty floral throws and cushions in a traditional style

(Image credit: ILIV)

When it comes to accessories for cottage garden ideas, floral fabrics are your friend. From outdoor cushions to throws and rugs, choose designs in soft pastel shades and pretty patterns to add interest to your space. 

Natural materials such as cotton, linen and bamboo will be soft to touch and in keeping with the natural country vibe.

34. Don't forget bulbs

daffodils

Beautiful bulbs add vibrant color in spring

(Image credit: Akarawut Lohacharoenvanich/Getty Images)

'Don’t forget bulbs, they bring another level of interest,' says garden designer Fi Boyle. 'Be careful how you use them – the strappy leaves of daffodils in a border can inhibit the growth of your perennials. 

'Alliums are very reliable and come in many sizes. Also, think about smaller bulbs such as crocus or cyclamen under shrubs for early season interest.'

If you need a hand getting started, our guide to planting bulbs will help.

35. Encourage wildlife with bee-friendly plants...

Lavender flowers to attract bees

Lavender will attract busy bees to your plot

(Image credit: Getty Images)

Attract bees and other pollinators to your cottage garden by choosing the best bee-friendly plants in your planting scheme. Popular choices include lavender, foxgloves, alliums, honeysuckle and dahlias. 

By including all of these plants you'll not only be encouraging more bees into your garden, but you'll also be helping other insects such as moths, hoverflies and butterflies. 

36. ...and add some wildlife-friendly accessories

bird feeders hanging in a tree

These quaint bird feeders are stylish and will help your feathered friends

(Image credit: Annabel James)

Attract birds into your cottage garden ideas by hanging the best bird feeders from your trees. Go for pretty designs, such as these apple hanging shapes that won’t dominate your garden scheme. 

Our guide on how to make bird feeders has some top tips on making your own bird feed to keep feathered friends well fed all year round.

37. Make sure there's winter interest

hydrangeas in frost

Hydrangeas can provide welcome interest in the winter

(Image credit: Kristina Timmermann/EyeEm/Getty Images)

A cottage-style garden will always look stunning in the summer, but there are ways to maintain its beauty over winter, too. 

'Think about putting in some plants that will give you structure during the winter months when there is less going on,' says garden designer Fi Boyle. 'Perhaps add in some evergreen shrubs or a small multi-stem tree with an interesting bark, such as a silver birch.'

You can also leave interesting seed heads, or hydrangea flowers, for added structure. Our winter garden ideas offer plenty of inspiration for creating a cold-weather haven.

What is a cottage style garden?

cottage garden border by Fi Boyle garden design

A beautiful cottage-garden style border, designed by Fi Boyle Garden Design

(Image credit: Fi Boyle Garden Design)

A cottage style garden is basically a very informal and traditional type of plot, where flowers steal the show. We're talking voluptuous borders full of color and texture, amidst traditional materials such as stone walls and red brick edging.

Often thought of as the opposite to clean-cut, contemporary gardens, cottage gardens are romantic, whimsical, and have more of an 'anything goes' attitude. Traditional cottage gardens would have been full of edible plants and even livestock. You'll still find the odd ornamental vegetable in cottage style borders nowadays, but less chance of cattle!

How do I start a cottage garden?

Start with a plan – where are your borders going to go, what shape are they going to be? 'Think about the aspect of the border – in other words, which way does it face? You can assess how much sun it will get or if the border is in shade most of the day,' says garden designer Fi Boyle. This will help you choose which plants go where.

'Do you know what the pH of the soil is? If not, do a test as some plants are fussy about the type of soil they grow in,' she adds. Our guide to soil types has more advice should you need it.

Once you've got a plan, start sowing your seeds. Annuals such as poppies, cosmos or zinnias are lovely in a cottage garden. Alan Titchmarsh offers expert advice on how to sow them (in spring, or autumn), in his video 'How to create a cottage garden', created for Waitrose

Alan shows viewers how to clear a patch of soil, rake it to a 'crumb-like' texture and then create small, shallow trenches. Then, you need to sprinkle in your seeds and lightly cover them with the soil. Give them a water, or let the rain do the job for you, Alan says.

Perennials like scabious or penstemons are also beautiful additions and will get bigger and better every year. You can usually plant them from small pots bought from the garden center.