British gardens are a little bit different. When you’re creating a space that’s all about celebrating the home turf, you’ve got to work with the temperate climate, high chance of rain, and relatively modest space afforded to the average home. The good news is, conditions are perfect for growing lush flower beds, delicious fruit and veg, and generally pottering around outside over the weekend.
In this post, we’ve curated the quintessential features from UK garden culture, practical kitchen gardens and traditional English cottage gardens to come up with a list of classic, British themed garden ideas. Whether you have your own little patch of grass here in the UK, or are trying to recreate the British vibe overseas, here’s everything you need to include.
The Basics of a British Garden
A typical British garden falls somewhere between the planning of a formal garden, and the chaos of a cottage garden. If you’re going to employ this style at home, you should focus on understanding which plants grow best in your local area, and how you can squeeze as much practicality from the space you have.
Although trends come and go in British gardening, the core elements are timeless; flowers, greenery, privacy, somewhere to sit, and somewhere to store all the things you need to keep your garden looking pretty.
British Themed Garden Ideas: Plants and Flowers
Thanks to the cool climate and endless drizzle, British gardens tend to be packed with greenery.
Lawns are considered the bare minimum, so laying some grass should be your first priority. If you’re living somewhere dry – or simply don’t want the faff of watering, mowing and weeding a big patch of grass – you should look at artificial grass, instead of the real thing. Leave space at the borders for your flower beds.
Roses flourish in the UK – as you might expect from the national flower of England. Grow them in bushes and as climbers to keep your garden traditional. Don’t forget the other national flowers of the United Kingdom; shamrock clover, prickly purple thistles and dazzling daffodils in spring.
Other popular flowers that are commonly grown (and used as gifts) include: freesias, irises, chrysanthemums, gerberas and sunflowers. You can also grow beds of wildflowers to enjoy the same burst of colours that you can find in the beautiful English countryside.
Victory gardens became popular during World War I and World War II, where people grew food to supplement rations and reduce the strain on public food supply. Allotments are still common in communities around the UK, and more and more people are looking for ways to grow produce at home to keep food costs down and support sustainability.
We actually have great conditions for growing a whole variety of fruit and veg, from leafy cabbages and root veg like carrots and radishes, to delicious strawberries, blackberries, apples and pears. If you want to start your own vegetable patch, read our post about kitchen garden ideas for tips and inspiration.
British Themed Garden Ideas: Take Shelter
Yes, it rains a lot here – but British homeowners have found plenty of ways to enjoy their garden without getting soaked.
Glorious garden sheds
The humble shed is a staple of British gardening, often used simply for storing DIY tools and outdoor equipment. It doesn’t end there though, and resourceful Brits have been known to relocate any traditionally outdoor activity to the sanctuary of a shed if necessary.
Potting sheds are commonplace, and the chances are you know at least one dad, uncle or neighbour that uses their shed as some kind of workshop. Garden “man caves” and “she sheds” have become increasingly popular, and of course our 2020 lockdown saw a huge increase in garden bars – proving that not even a global pandemic will stand between us and our beloved pints.
Adding a conservatory to the back of the house is a typical modification to the British home. These glass-walled rooms act as a bridge between home and garden, making them the perfect spot for an indoor garden. There’s something incredibly tranquil about curling up with a cup of coffee and looking out as sideways rain pummels the roof.
Greenhouses for the green-thumbed
Halfway between a conservatory and a garden shed is the greenhouse. If you’re passionate about plants but have less-than-ideal conditions for your preferred blooms, a greenhouse can give you the climate control you need.
British Themed Garden Ideas: Somewhere to Sit
Decks and patios are pretty standard garden features in the UK, offering somewhere more solid to sit than the lawn. Usually you’ll find them in the area immediately outside the back door, but sometimes they’ll be at the far end of the garden (especially if that’s where the sun reaches).
If that’s the case, you’ll typically find a path to help you get from A to B (pretty standard, really). Although flagstones and concrete paving slabs are perfectly common in the UK, red brick is a much warmer, prettier material to use. Brick paving has been historically used all across Britain, and is also used for brick walls in front gardens, and as garden lawn edging.
In the UK, ambitious outdoor furniture ideas are often curbed by wind, rain, snow and – occasionally – sunshine. Finding weather resistant materials can be tricky, or expensive (or both), although the range of practical options is expanding. Wooden picnic tables are a popular choice, and very reminiscent of traditional pub gardens. Benches and arbours are classic choices if you need somewhere to relax.
Although we don’t have the same outdoor dining culture as warmer countries, we understand that it’s important to try. BBQs are a great summer tradition, even if that sometimes means huddling inside while your dad hunched over the grill with a coat and umbrella. Outdoor kitchens are a slowly growing trend in the UK, but designated garden BBQ areas are pretty standard fare if you have the space.
British Themed Garden Ideas: Quaint, Playful Decor
No list of British themed garden ideas is complete without mentioning the variety of pretty and whimsical decorations you can find here.
Admittedly, gnome statuettes have gone in and out of fashion, but they’re iconic, really. I know a few family members that have been given one as a bit of a joke, and ultimately ended up with a whole army of these little sculptures in mischievous positions around the garden.
We do like a bit of nature over here, and we have such a wonderful variety of native birds that adding bird houses (and bird tables, and bird baths, and bird feeders), is a logical step.
You might also find squirrel feeders, hedgehog homes and insect hotels in any given garden. We’re generally very proud of our local wildlife, and the more rurally you live, the more likely you are to see foxes, badgers, rabbits, deer and pheasants strutting across your lawn. Our wildlife garden ideas will help you find ways to attract more species to your garden, if you’re interested.
Ponds feature in lots of traditional gardens, both with and without fish. Rectangular ponds look great in a more contemporary garden, but British ponds are usually a more natural shape, edged in plants and rocks. Pond decor ranges from functional fountains, to whimsical miniature bridges and, of course, the previously mentioned gnomes.
If you don’t quite fancy maintaining a pond, take a look at some of these alternative water feature ideas.
Quintessential British themed garden ideas usually have a vintage element, with rustic, weathered decor. The cosy, English cottage vibe leaves lots of room for worn paint, recycled furniture and rusted metal work – it’s the perfect backdrop for upcycling, bric-a-brac and home crafts.
Contrast these hard textures with pastel linens, floral fabrics, lace and bunting for a look that’s cosy and inviting even on the gloomiest “summer” day.
All that’s left is to enjoy the collection of your British themed garden ideas with some traditional pastimes. Of course, that includes drinking tea, consuming biscuits, sitting down with a nice book and putting your feet up.