The English Garden. Every element designed with a purpose

Each year my wife and I have a simple tradition of toasting the spring equinox, saying goodbye to winter and hello to spring. This year it’s the 20th March, and by the time you are reading this we will have no doubt opened a very handsome French wine that we bought in a small vineyard in Burgundy last summer.  The very thought transports me back to that perfect holiday with the kids, and to thoughts of France with that flair and tradition that makes France unique. In the last few years, we have had a number of students from many different parts of Europe with each individual bringing some characteristic of their country to the table. The Italian students are invariably clean cut and rather handsome, while the Austrians have that Germanic efficiency and structure which can be a little bit scary, and yet gets the job done in a fraction of the time that the more laid back French students may take. All the students are here to study landscaping and a country we are world leaders. If you ask any of them to name something quintessentially English they would say, The English Garden.

From a seventeenth-century manor house to a ultra-modern ‘space-ship’ an English garden connects the old with new, the traditional with modern, but above all keeps us connected with nature, linking us to the wider landscape.

In today’s society, the garden space is becoming more and more important not only as additional living space but as a retreat, a private sanctuary where you can relax in a natural environment that has been custom designed for you and your way of living. An English Garden is not necessarily a country parkland surrounding a great estate; it could be the intimate and overflowing garden of a thatched cottage, or a small urban garden with contemporary paving, clean lines and minimalistic planting beds.

What makes your garden English?

The English Garden stands out because we design and construct every element of them with a purpose. Like the great artists from Leonardo da Vinci to Picasso, all paid particular attention to the composition itself. Nothing is random and nothing can be questioned. An English garden design will be based on strong geometric shapes, continuity and very importantly, planting. Every line drawn helps develop the strong design whether we are creating an intimate series of garden rooms or an open expanse of lawn. As a painting can be painted to stimulate a reaction, a garden is designed to evoke a sense of place.  An atmosphere which, in a temperate climate such as ours, can differ enormously from day to night and from season to season, (a very exciting concept for us English garden designers)!

One of the most famed garden artists who pioneered the use of the flowering herbaceous border is Gertrude Jekyll. Her designs were characterised by strong shapes and expansive planting beds filled with a carefully selected composition of billowing herbaceous plants against a constrained pallet of evergreen structure such as a neatly clipped yew hedge thus creating the perfect backdrop to the garden. This lush style of planting can continuously be seen in any contemporary or traditional English Garden.

Here at Graduate Landscapes our raison d’être is to ensure the finished landscape is cohesive and visually pleasing with all the functionality involved.  That is why we spend a great deal of time planning the shape and composition of any garden taking into account the changes that the seasons bring and the inevitable growth and alteration of the garden over time. An English garden may give the impression of an effortless, natural composition yet to get to this end result requires careful planning, meticulous attention to detail and most importantly the ability to maintain a garden. This careful maintenance ensures the garden can develop and grow as planned whilst safeguarding it throughout every season and over the many years, decades and even centuries of its life. As long as we keep our gardening traditions, visitors will keep visiting these shores in search of that quintessential Englishness to be found in our gardens.


Tony Richards