The garden could do with some zhoozhing up. The sparse lawn and boring fence need a makeover. But trying to work out where to start can be overwhelming – I know, I’ve been there!

I retrained as a garden designer and left my 20-year IT career behind in the process. However, this might be a drastic route for you to take, so I’m happy to help you with your new garden project and share my ideas on how to turn your back garden into a beautiful oasis.

Most people I talk to ideally want a cottage garden. It’s probably one of the most recognised garden styles and can be adapted to meet any kind of property – new or old.

When we think of a Cottage Garden style, our minds imagine a rustic pathway leading to the front door, surrounded by scented roses with a picket fence and billowing flowers throughout the borders.

It all sounds romantic, and it is easy to achieve, but before you start spending your money, have a think about what you need from your garden. Gather photos of gardens, plants and products you love – either in a traditional scrap book, or in a folder online.

Use this checklist for guidance:


Feature                                                   Essential                        Maybe                          No


Lawn/grass area

Flower borders


BBQ built in

Patio/seating area

Clothes drier or line

Tool shed

Garden seats

Play area

Gravel area


Herb garden

Raised beds

Veg patch


Rock garden

Water feature

Colour scheme






Dustbin hide


If you’re unsure, pull all your ideas together and book time with your local garden designer for help.

Once you know what features your garden needs, you can then think about turning those ideas into a plan.

Pathways & patio’s

The cottage garden style uses natural and rustic resources. So if you’re looking to create a pathway, patio or seating area, go for natural stone, herringbone bricks or gravel. Gravel is the cheapest option, and easiest to lay, however, a professional landscaper will always make anything look amazing – as the old saying goes “If you think it’s expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur.” It’s money well spent in working with a professional to lay paving and create the structure of the garden.

types of cottage garden style paths

Create a vista

It’s just the same as decorating a lounge – create a focal point. In a lounge it’s usually the fireplace, but in a garden, you could go crazy with a statue, water feature or piece of art.

I appreciate the sheep in this photo are more like ornaments, but they’re so cute. I used them in my very first show garden at RHS Malvern and were made from chicken wire by a very talented sculptor called ‘Animals in Wire’ and are now residing in Alan Titchmarsh’s garden (this isn’t Alan’s garden I hasten to add).

The water feature is by Solus Décor and this is the show garden border I designed and created at BBC Gardeners’ World Live in 2018 and won Platinum and Best Border.

Remember to install any cabling for electrics and water before the hard landscaping, so there’s no need to disturb the garden at a later date.

water feature, wire sheep and garden statue

Adding height

This could be as simple as incorporating a tree – see my blog about choosing the right tree for your garden.  But you could also use pergolas, arches and obelisks. In a cottage garden rustic materials such as wood and willow are ideal. If you’re unsure of plain timber, there are plenty of outdoor paints available in a colour to match your design. By creating different heights in the garden, it makes it easier on the eye and more restful.

garden archway examples

Next step – sun levels & soil

Before trotting off to the garden centre, study your garden and look at where the shade hits it – for example does the neighbours fence cause a shadow down the one side, or is a tree when in full leaf, creating a lot more shade than you were expecting. It’s really important to place the right plant in the right place in order for them to thrive. Buy sun loving plants for a sunny border and shade tolerant plants for a shady spot.

The soil type also needs to be taken into consideration so the plants thrive. You can tell the type of soil you have by rolling it in the palm of your hand. If it forms a sausage shape, then it’s likely you have clay soil. If it falls through your fingers, it’s probably sandy. Something in-between, will likely be loam/normal soil.

You can buy soil testing kits from the garden centre to check the pH of the soil – acid or alkaline. Or have a look at neighbours gardens and see what’s growing well. If its full of healthy rhododendrons its probably an acidic soil and you will need to buy plants suitable for that soil type.


Once all the hard landscaping has been done, you can move onto the most exciting bit – the plants! This is where you can go wild and stuff the borders with your favourites.

However, I appreciate this might scare a lot of people! So what is the starting point? I would encourage you to look through magazines and online resources to create a ‘scrapbook’ of ideas of things you love – whether it’s a colour scheme, specific flowers, and ensure you cover all the seasons too.

Cottage gardens are renowned for soft shades of flowing plants that intermingle and cascade over path edges to create a soft, unstructured space.

Traditional favourites are roses – which can ramble over the obelisks and arches or are equally at home in the borders. I personally love David Austin roses, as they have stunning old varieties that will bloom all summer and have delicious scents too.

foxglove rose lavender flowers

Other plants to consider are peonies, lavender, love-in-a-mist, foxgloves and hollyhocks. However, the structure of the garden borders also need some thought – make sure there is something for every season. Evergreen plants such as hebe, pittosporum and euonymus all have great foliage for year round interest – there should be a variety that suits your garden.

pittosporum euonymous hebe evergreen shrubs


Ready-made Garden Design Kits

If you would like some help with your planting plans, my ready-made kits have been created for you to easily and quickly plant a professionally designed garden with an English Cottage Garden style. Everyone loves this design as the traditional flower border compliments every style of home.

I have created a traditional planting scheme with blousy peonies, fragrant lavender and elegant foxgloves in a harmonious colour scheme.

The border measures 3m x 1m, but can easily be adapted to fit any size or shape of border.

All designs contain a mixture of perennials (plants that die back in the winter and return in the spring) and evergreen plants. The plans have taller plants at the back of the border, with shorter plants at the front of the border which provides a tiered effect. The taller plants will grow to around 1m in height but can be pruned to the required height and shape.


  • Garden design (fully labelled) to know what plant goes where
  • Plant list – containing simple and clear information about each plant in the design including plant care and flowering periods
  • Tips and ideas to personalise and help you create your gorgeous garden
  • 2x Packet of seeds to scatter between the plants for added colour from spring through to autumn
  • Mood board with photos of each plant so you can see how pretty they look together
  • 2 x wooden plant labels



If you have no clue about plants or what goes well together, these kits will help you easily create the WOW factor in your garden. You will be the envy of all your friends with a fabulous garden! No green fingered expertise required – it’s all worked out for you, saving you oodles of time and stress.

The shopping list enables you to buy the plants online or from your local garden centre easily without having to read lots of tiny plant labels with unpronounceable botanical names.

I’ve chosen plants that are simple to look after too and will provide enjoyment for many years to come.

Cottage Garden Border in a Box


For more information or buy your ready made garden design kit click here –