English garden design is all about romantic whimsy. The traditional English garden is overstuffed with a variety of perennials in different textures, colors, shapes, heights and bloom style, coupled with natural hardscape elements such as rocks, fences made of worn wood or wrought iron, curving pathways and outdoor "room" living spaces. Inviting nature with bird feeders, birdhouses and places to bathe is another important element.
A number of plants are considered staples in the traditional English garden--many of which grow well in North America as well as Europe. Ultimately, though, plants native to your growing area or well-adapted to your conditions are the best bet for your own garden. Visit your local full-service garden center or cooperative extension office for ideas of plants that would fit well in the English garden design and work well for your particular growing climate.
English garden style is defined in part by the desire to move outdoors and create "living spaces" with outdoor furniture. Walls and fences are often covered with ivy, creeping plants such as creeping phlox or portulacas, nasturtium, sweet peas or moss. Hedges made of lavender, forsythia or boxwood are also prevalent as boundaries. Trellises and gates covered in climbing roses, sweet pea, clematis or wisteria connect spaces and lead to lush, curving walkways.
Designed with a helter-skelter, purposely random look, English gardens are intended to look like a natural space with plants of different textures, heights and blooms mixed together in an nonuniform manner. Annual blooms, such as floxglove, larkspur, globe amaranth, daisy, sunflower, zinnia, cosmo and pansy, intermingle with perennials, such as garden phlox, delphinium, herbs, lavender, globe, thistle, sage and roses, to create bloom-filled spaces through the growing season.
English gardens are lush with plants that tumble and fall over walls, spill out of containers and creep onto walkways and patios. Plant plenty of alyssum, Johnny-jump-ups, violas, pansies, ivy, creeping phlox, lavender, lungwort, stonecrop, forget-me-nots, petunia and marigolds to fill in spaces close to garden edges.