Country Gardens
Style Guide

Country Gardens share their origins with their citified cousins, the cottage gardens.  

Both garden styles arise from the practical working man’s garden, men and women who struggled to feed and clothe their families, while occasionally adding a patch of garden color gleaned from a more wealthy or connected neighbor. 

Anything that represented too much additional work in these gardens didn’t stay long, because these gardens were about survival.   An economy of purpose drove what was added and maintained within these gardens.

As the highly formal, perfectly manicured formal gardens maintained for rich landowners by a host of paid gardeners began to fade into history with the changing of landscape philosophies in the late 1700s, many rich landowners began to adopt a more relaxed style, one that blended nature with more formal features.  This movement birthed our modern day country gardens style.

Country Garden in Afternoon Light

In many ways, the modern day cottage garden style and the country garden we know today share the characteristics infused by this working man’s view of gardening.

As families moved closer together into towns or cities, the needs and practicalities of their different circumstances dictated the content of their garden plots.   The varying needs of the rural and city dwellers dictated the beginnings of the diversion between the two related styles.

So then, the primary difference between today’s modern style differentiation of country gardens versus cottage gardens is the space involved, and the widening gap between the practical and useful aspects of the two styles. 

Country Garden Shed and Garden

Country gardens in the modern day tend to be on larger properties, and continue to maintain some portion of the practical and functional content of the original working man’s garden, while the cottage garden has evolved into a highly decorative and less purposeful application of the same basic principles.

Both styles retain an informality that allows a great diversity of purpose and application, however.  Small urban plots can easily mimic the country garden style, while cottage garden style can be easily applied to large open properties, depending upon the gardener’s means and preferences. 

Characteristic Garden Elements

  • Informal plantings that appear randomly (or naturally) placed.
  • Heavily planted beds separated by larger areas of grass, gravel, or dirt
  • Heavy use of heirloom plantings that require little upkeep
Lovely Outdoor Table Setting
  • Emphasis on outdoor living and/or entertaining
  • Doors and windows often draped with plantings
  • An abundance of practical plantings, herbs, produce and medicinal in nature
  • Typically, smaller garden areas near the house are fenced off, while areas outside these fenced areas tend to be more informal and functional
  • Primarily use traditional, local materials such as wood and stone rather than more modern elements such as cement or wrought iron
  • Natural ponds or water sources
Country Garden Pond
  •  Pathways tend to be of natural materials, often grass, bark, or even dirt and gravel.
  • Plantings of mixed color, with little attempt to formalize color schemes
  • Strong relationships between the indoors and outdoors, provided by porches, patios, outdoor rooms.
  • Rustic benches, tables and other creature comforts that allow resting or entertaining outdoors
  • Emphasis on functional use of space as well as aesthetics
Rooster in a Country Garden
  • Some rural gardens may host domesticated animals
  • Old fashioned garden implements lend an air of authenticity
  • Trellises, Arbors, and Pergolas are often used to support vines and climbers, and to ease the transition between houses and gardens
  • Sheds and outbuildings provide functional work spaces 
  • Country gardens tend to incorporate elements and objects that have historical or sentimental value, and have been repurposed for the garden

Iconic Plants

Apple TreesCherry Trees
BlueberryEvergreen Trees
CotoneasterLilac varieties
Viburnum speciesHydrangea varieties
Shrub RosesClimbing Roses
BellflowerOriental Poppy
Shasta DaisyRudbeckia
NasturtiumObedient Plant
Iris varietiesColumbine
Daisy varietiesMorning Glory

Historical Examples

Mabee Farm, Rotterdam Junction

Mabee Farm Historic Site, Rotterdam Junction

Courtesy of: schenectady2009 

Beatrix Potters Country Garden

Hill Top Farm, Near Sawrey, Cumbria

Home of the Children’s Author, Beatrix Potter

Heathfield Old Vegetable Garden

Heathfield – old vegetable garden

located near Addington, Croydon, Great Britain

© Copyright Nigel Freeman licensed for reuse under Creative Commons License

Modern Adaptations

Restful Modern Country Garden

Pure country charm nestles at the corner of an expansive lawn. 

Meet me in the garden.

Water Wheel in Walled Country Garden

A water wheel evokes a country theme in this walled garden.

Fishing anyone?

Garden Bench in Country Garden

Shaded corner in a country garden. Imagine yourself relaxing in style!

Anyone seen my hat?