Carefree and flowing, the English cottage garden boasts an informal design and a plethora of flowers. Exuding grace and charm, it’s the antithesis of the formal French garden. “Gertrude Jekyll initiated the cottage garden style, which is characterized by a billowing overabundance of perennials, roses, and shrubs that appear naturally occurring but [in reality] are carefully maintained,” says Patrick Boyd, senior design associate for David Rolston Landscape Architects. “Texture, form, and spatial relationships are also very important.”
Water features, birdbaths, and small sculptures add the finishing touches. “They act as the reinforcer of structure, which is necessary in all gardens, to help direct the eye,” Boyd explains.
Both the spring-blooming Thrift (P. subulata) and the taller, longer-blooming summer phlox (P. paniculata) are nearly foolproof perennials in North Texas.
Coneflower (Echinacea purpurea)
This Texas native is a must in any garden for long-lasting perennial color. It can grow in full sun or dappled shade.
Lenten rose (Helleborus orientalis)
These bloom late winter to spring and take a medium amount of shade. The foliage stays year round, though leaves will droop in summer heat.
Lantana (Lantana camara)
Another great native, this perennial takes full sun and starts blooming in late spring up until the first frost.
Berkeley sedge (Carex divulsa)
This ornamental grass acts as a great low border plant.
Flirt (Nandina domestica “Compacta”)
For shrubs, this dwarf variety can be used in place of a clipped hedge.
“In England, you will find beautiful clipped hedges, and it’s usually Taxus [buccata], which is English yew. It won’t grow in Texas, but a great alternative is holly,” says Forehand. “Dwarf Burford, Needlepoint, and Oak Leaf can create that perfect [clipped] backdrop for all the flowering and evergreen plants that make up your English border.” The Arboretum’s Boswell Family Garden and McCasland Sunken Garden are prime examples of English gardens.