Your Ultimate Guide to Creating a Traditional Garden Design

While we’re known for having a lot of rain in the UK, we’re also known for our sweet, traditional English gardens, manor houses, and chocolate-box cottages. From the winding, narrow paths and the luscious flower beds to the perfectly trimmed hedges and the fine use of colour, traditional English gardens truly are a wonder to behold.

But they’re no longer reserved for National Trust houses and the homes of those who can afford a gardener! Nowadays, we’re all spending more time at home and more of us are investing the time and money into beautiful gardens.

If you’re looking for ways to create and maintain a traditional garden design, we’re here to help. Read on to learn all about traditional garden design and what to think about when planning your new outdoor space.


What is a traditional garden design?

garden design in essex

Back in the day, traditional gardens were all about aesthetics; they often featured water features, mazes, statues, fancy seating areas, and elaborately-shaped plants. All of this sounds great in theory, but gardens like these were difficult to keep up with and often required a whole team of gardeners and groundskeepers to maintain them.

Fortunately these days, you can achieve that same stunning traditional look with a much smaller garden and without spending quite so much money or time on maintenance! Today, our renditions of traditional gardens often involve things like herb and vegetable gardens and built-in fire pits or barbecues. While the pomp and overly-demonstrative elements of traditional gardening have somewhat dissolved for the everyday garden, the aim is still to create an aesthetically pleasing and well-defined outdoor space.


Can you have a low-maintenance traditional garden?

Traditional gardens tend to focus on real grass, flowers, and plants, but it’s surprisingly easy to create a low-maintenance garden that mimics the traditional style.

Focus on well-defined spaces with hardscaping to ensure you don’t have to do too much work weeding and pruning. You can use artificial topiary bushes instead of—or in combination with—real ones so you don’t have to learn how to prune your bushes or risk losing their shape if you don’t get around to pruning them for a few weeks in the summer.

Traditional garden lawns are often like a golf green – perfectly smooth and cut at all times. If you’re not planning to spend a few hours a week looking after your lawn for most of the year, consider installing an artificial lawn instead.

Artificial lawns allow you to have that perfectly manicured lawn look year-round and are perfect for the gardens that experience high traffic – that is, children and four-legged friends galloping around on a Sunday afternoon after lunch.


What should I consider when I’m planning my traditional garden design?

Planning any renovation can be exciting, but it’s important to make carefully considered choices before you do so. Here are a few important things to think about when you’re planning your traditional garden design:


The size of your garden and what you plan to use it for

The size of your garden will dictate your garden design, so get clear about the space you’re working with and what you need to work into your design. Do you need or want to:

  • Have a vegetable or herb garden?
  • Do you need an area for barbecues?
  • What existing outbuildings do you need to work into your design?
  • Do you plan to use your outdoor space as a dining area on warm evenings?
  • Do you have children or pets who will want somewhere to run around? In this case, you’ll want to focus on the type of grass you have, artificial or real, or creating a designated play area.
  • What existing landscaping do you want to keep? (Patios, trees, plants, etc.)

Think about how you can fit all your needs into your space. If you have a large garden, you won’t have a problem finding the space, but if you’re working with a smaller garden you’ll need to be smart or make certain areas dual-purpose. (Our Garden Design service can help guide you here.)



Decide how much maintenance you’re prepared to do (or pay someone else to do)

Ask yourself how much time you’re willing to spend planting, fertilizing, watering, weeding, and mowing every week. A garden requires upkeep and a traditional garden often more so, so it’s worth asking yourself if you’re happy to do it yourself or outsource.

Some people find gardening relaxing and meditative, while others find it stressful and time-consuming. There’s also a temptation to romanticize it in our heads, getting everything set up beautifully but then failing to keep up maintenance because we don’t really like to spend our time gardening.

Even things like trimming hedges are worth considering if you’re going for a traditional garden design. Box hedges and topiary need regular trimming, so unless you’re confident with a pair of shearers, you’ll want to hire a gardener or opt for something artificial. This will help guide you on your design so you don’t go all-in with elaborate flowerbeds.



Choose your hardscape first

This is where you get to flex those creative muscles! Your chosen materials can play a big part in how your garden looks overall. For a sleek and classy look, you could opt for a patio. For something easier to maintain, gravel and stone are great options. If you want to stay true to a traditional garden design avoid decking and stick to stone, but if you have your heart set on a deck, go for it!

The materials you’ll use will also be influenced by your budget, so look into how much each material will cost before you start making decisions. Consider how you want each part of your garden to look, focusing specifically on texture and color.

Traditional gardens typically feature light-colored stones and gravel, either light browns and grey or sand colors.

If you’re unsure about making big design decisions, especially when it comes to landscaping, ask a professional landscaper. They’ll be able to tell you all about the materials you’re considering using, how much they cost on average, how well they’ll age over time, and how easy they are to work with. (Find out more about our garden design service here.)

Lounging Area


Set your budget early

We briefly touched on this in the previous two points, but financial planning is so important that it deserves its own point! Budgeting is hardly fun, but neither is realising you’ve spent more than you can afford. While it’s not a huge deal if you go a little over budget, it can be so easy to spend more than this, so plan your approximate budget and then narrow down the finer details as the project progresses.

It goes without saying but hiring a full team to landscape your garden will rack up a higher cost than simply planting some new flowers and tidying up the bushes. Things like paving are fairly easy to estimate and can be a quick task in itself, but the ground preparation costs are trickier and can take some time. Excavating your existing patio, disposing of the waste, adjusting levels and installing a suitable sub-base and drainage tends to be where a large portion of the cost in installing a patio lies. That said, the costs will ensure you get better results than you ever could have achieved on your own.

Don’t forget how quickly the cost of new plants can rack up so make sure you’re aware of how much they cost. A single small rose plant can cost £15-£20, large lavender plants can cost £10-15, and shrubs are often £30-£100. The more established the plants and trees you choose, the more expensive they will be, but, will of course provide immediate impact.

Whether you plan to DIY your garden or leave it to the professionals will have a large impact on your end figure. Trying things out yourself might save some money initially, but in the long run, you may face far more expensive repairs if you can’t do the job properly the first time.


Assess your garden furniture

Traditional garden designs are well-known for their seating areas, so think about how your garden furniture will fit into your new space.

If you already own patio furniture, think about how you can work it into your new garden design. For example, rather than getting rid of the current furnishings and buying new ones, you could paint the existing table and chairs. If this isn’t an option, you can add outdoor cushions and tablecloths that match or complement the colours of your garden. For a traditional look, stick to neutrals and pastel colours.

Furniture Design


Assess the natural lighting in your garden

The natural sunlight in your garden will affect how you choose to arrange your traditional garden. Traditional English gardens often feature rambling roses, lavender, peonies, wisteria, hydrangeas, and foxgloves. And these stunning flowers need some sunlight to grow!

If you’d like lots of outdoor space but have a north-facing garden, you might want to reconsider having your patio installed right outside your backdoor as you’ll only want to use it when it’s too hot to sit in the sun. To get the most out of your entertaining space, put it where the sun shines, and for a north-facing garden, that’s at the very back of the garden. Similarly, if you have a south-facing garden, think about creating some shade for particularly hot days.

It’s difficult to predict the level of sunlight in your garden throughout the year if you’ve just moved in, but you just need to be a little crafty and think carefully about where your garden is located.

traditional garden design


Garden lighting

Now that you’ve mulled over the amount of sunlight your garden receives throughout the year, it’s time to think about a different kind of lighting. Garden lighting is not only practical, but it can also make your garden a more usable and welcoming space throughout the year – even when you’re only looking at the lights outside the window in the depths of winter.

For traditional gardens, think of simple lanterns and floor lights, though you can use fairy lights for a more whimsical look.


Focus on balance

Balance, colour, and cohesion are all important, regardless of the type of garden you’re designing, but even more so for a traditional garden design.

You’ll need to balance angular shapes (neat squares and rectangles) with softer shapes, which is usually brought into the garden with soft, natural flowering plants. Symmetry is common in traditional gardens, so you can often lean on that if you aren’t sure how to divide your garden.

Traditional gardens usually stick to natural colours for their flowers and plants, so look to shades of white, purple, pink, red, yellow, and light blues. Avoid anything that looks too manufactured.

traditional garden design essex


When it comes to designing a garden from scratch, there’s certainly a lot to think about, but it needn’t be overwhelming or stressful. It can be an extremely enjoyable process, especially if you’ve planned ahead. Of course, it always helps to call on a professional…


Need some help with your garden?

If you live in Essex and are having trouble deciding what to do with your garden, SE Landscapes is here to help. We’ll listen to your needs and help you create your ideal garden within your budget and as little time as possible. Whether you’re looking for a patio, decking, a gravel driveway, or an artificial lawn, SE Landscaping can help you out. Click here to learn more about our full range of services.




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Will Crozier, Managing Director

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