Creating a Modern English Garden in Your Backyard

As the weather clears up and prepares us for a warm springtime and summer, people are clamoring to get out and enjoy the fresh air. Now is the time to tackle your garden renovations, and one popular style is a modern take on English gardens. With big, beautiful flowers and trees, benches, sculptures, and the like, your lawn can be a garden fit for long walks in the afternoon as if you were 1700s nobility.

Stone tile paths lead by a gazebo one can stop and enjoy the view in, as is typical of an English garden (by Blueline, Inc Landscape Contractors)

What Is An English Garden?

English gardens came about in the 18th century as a response to 17th century French gardens. French gardens are symmetrical, orderly, and controlling of the nature within, whereas in English gardens nature is meant to be overgrown yet picturesque. Both are heavily manicured to fit an ideal of how man should interact with nature, but an English garden hides it under the guise of natural flower growth. On a much smaller scale, an everyday homeowner can enjoy an English garden through an abundance of flowers, winding paths, durable furniture, and sculptural elements strewn throughout.

Rockaway Metal Garden Swing, FZ4016 by Toscano

One of the components necessary for an English garden is “stops” along your path to admire or participate in, like a bird bath or a bench. A lot of times, these pieces of furniture are made of a heavy stone or wrought-iron because they’re incredibly durable to the elements. They can weather rain, wind, and time without cracking or rusting, making them good investments if you see yourself using them for a long time.

Built For Lounging

Roundabout Garden Bench, FZ50507 by Toscano

The point of an English garden is to enjoy and be in nature at your own residence, and benches are key to this. Outdoor benches are a staple of parks and trails everywhere, and they can be pretty enough to even serve your own home. Having at least one on your lawn means having a place to stop, rest, and enjoy your garden around you. Whether it’s in the sun, beneath a shady tree, or elsewhere in your garden, there’s no wrong place to sit down and relax.

Fiesta 3pc Bistro Set Sand Beige, GF-LD1060-SB by AFD

Garden furniture also comes in a variety of sizes, so that you can have a quiet sit for two or enough seats for a garden party. The flower requirements for an English garden (see: big and bustling) take up a lot of space. Since few of us have a sprawling, castle-sized lawn, it’s important to err on the side of smaller outdoor furniture appropriate for comparatively diminutive back yards. Think petite outdoor tea tables that can be packed away in the garage (rather than grand marble fixtures) when translating an English garden to your own home.

The Halfpence Bridge, NG30290 by Toscano

Having a stop in your English garden doesn’t (and shouldn’t) always mean benches though. A gazebo, bird bath, fountain, or other architectural bit of interest meant to be admired is plenty of reason to pause and enjoy the view – which is the real point of an English garden. Even tiny statues that peek out of your flowerbeds count toward your viewing pleasure when well-placed along your path.

While much of the advice out there about building an English garden has to do with what to plant to get that overgrown look, it’s important to remember that that little touch of “civilization” is an important part of what gives these delightful gardens their charm. So before you go out and buy your hollyhocks and primroses, imagine where in your garden you’d like to stop, pause, and smell the roses.