Quaint, charming and quietly muscular, today’s country gardens influences draw on everything from rambling cottage backyards to the formal heritage estates of 17th Century England. With such a broad sweep of inspiration a country style garden may suit all manner of locations and tastes. Whether you live in a farmhouse, a villa or a ranch house a well planned country style garden will not only be great to look at but should also productive too.
People, plants, space and place will define what and how you use your garden. It needs to work in with your lifestyle and family. A rambling country garden takes the viewer on a journey passing through ‘rooms’ like chapters of a story. Start planning with a centre bed, terrace or some other visual anchor and work your plans out from there. This may include some formality around the house, to help link the hard lines of the architecture to the garden.
Country garden landscapes are evocative, loose and effortless looking. They are full of hidden surprises, with rotundas, archways and open-roofed pergolas draped in climbing roses, wisteria or vines, linked by winding gravel paths, seats under a shady tree, vintage wagon wheels, wine barrels and lush lawns. Not to mention unrestrained garden beds dense with the rich colour.
A country garden is a flower-lovers delight that should provide fresh areas of focus with each season. Roses, lavender and daisies, irises, foxgloves and carnations are staples of the English country garden. To quickly achieve an established look, plan for a variety of plants that are staggered in height. For texture, movement and continuous background hues, punctuate those beds of tumbling colour with soft grasses and native plants.
Use formal touches like buxus or flowering hebe borders to define pathways and alfresco dining spaces or to lead the eye out into the yard. Beyond there forget geometry, straight lines and precise curves. Think in terms of shapes you want to create, then consider the aspect of your property. Wind, drainage and sun will determine how you plan for hardscape and planting in each area.
Structure and shape in any sized garden, can be achieved by choosing a feature tree. For a classic English touch in wide-open spaces try silver birch. In smaller yards go no higher than a crepe myrtle or a flowering fruit tree, then perhaps add a backdrop of juniper hedging to frame drifts of perennials like delphiniums and herbaceous shrub borders of clary sage, valerian, Macedonian scabious and valerian. The bees will love you for it.
Historically country gardens were designed more for practicality than prettiness. The prime consideration was the supply of food. Farm animals, beehives, fruit, vegetables and herbs were all necessities. A garden needed to be productive through all the seasons. Flowers on the other hand were usually planted as filler.
While there are no hard and fast rules in a country style backyard a kitchen garden is often a key feature. There is nothing sweeter to the taste or more rewarding to the soul than picking fresh fruit and vegetables straight from your door step. Add colour and draw insects away from your prize crops by framing vegetable patches with a bounty of Marigolds or sweet peas. Orchards of apples and pears are a given in any large country garden as are wide beds of rhubarb and strawberries.
Even if there is no room for a full size vegetable patch, consider a few essential herbs and salad greens. These can easily be grown in pots and containers that can be moved to catch the sun or meet your seasonal design and spatial requirements. Fruit trees can also do well in pots, or can be espaliered to grow flat along lattices, fences or a wall. This is a great way to keep trees shaped and ensure the delivery of easily accessible fruit.
Use potted fruit trees and flowering colour to pick up or highlight tones in a hardscape or frame a doorway, porch, deck or pavement. For a fruiting hedge try feijoa or lines of clipped citrus. Frame doors and archways in the Victorian style with manicured bay trees in earthy copper tone planters.
Low terraces can further stagger heights and create an illusion of space. Use small walls around entertaining zones, to conjure a sense of intimacy. Bring home and garden together by employing traditional materials for additions, sheds and patios. Use bricks and natural stone for steppers in a winding design to slow the viewer down as they move through the space. Where a straight line is required take the eye higher into a pergola or alley of arbors overhung with creepers.
As far as garden accessories go in a country garden the world is your oyster, Concrete birdbaths, fountains and sundials will all look at home. Vintage carriage lights are timeless on any wall and create a warm atmosphere. A squeaky iron gate will add some rustic point of interest, earth tones and in some cases provide climbing frames for plants.
For some real country flavour, upcycle existing and/ or salvaged elements like old posts, aged tools, machinery parts even a park bench to break the line of a long wall Old leadlight window frames make great privacy screens, concrete laundry tubs can double as container planting. Add a firepit or employ an existing chimney-stack for outdoor heating. A rusty wheelbarrow or vintage watering will suffice as a planter or a hint of texture among the flowerbeds.
A country garden tells the story of the seasons; it is an ever-changing narrative to be enjoyed as much outdoors as it is from the windows of your home.
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