Cottage Garden Design

Course CodeBHT110
Fee CodeS3
Duration (approx)100 hours
QualificationStatement of Attainment

Understanding What Makes a Cottage Garden

A "Cottage Garden" is not an easily defined thing. Originally, the term "cottage garden" referred to the garden surrounding a cottage occupied by tradesmen who served a wealthy landowner in the 17th or 18th century, in Britain. A lord might, for instance, employ a blacksmith to work on his estate, and provide that blacksmith with a small cottage to live in.  The blacksmith and his family would have the use of a small amount of land surrounding the cottage, in which they would grow mainly vegetables or other edible plants as well as some flowers to cut and bring inside.

Learn the skills and the knowledge to design beautiful cottage gardens

This is an ideal course for people with an interest in landscape design. Develop the skills to feel confident offering cottage garden design or restoration as part of your landscaping service.

  • Learn about the history, plants and hard landscape components associated with cottage style gardens
  • Learn to design a cottage garden
  • Broaden your landscaping skills and increase your business and employment opportunities

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction: Garden components, preplanning information, design principles.
  2. Designing a Cottage Garden: Landscape drawing (graphics), design procedure.
  3. History of Cottage Gardens
  4. Plants for Cottage Gardens
  5. Planting Design in Cottage Gardens
  6. Features and Components of Cottage Gardens today: Arches, furniture, lattice, sundials, barriers and walls.
  7. Cottage Gardens Today
  8. Designing a Complete Cottage Garden.


  • Explain the concept of a cottage garden.
  • Prepare concept plans for cottage gardens.
  • Prepare planting designs for cottage gardens.
  • Plan the incorporation of appropriate non-living landscape features in a cottage garden.
  • Prepare a detailed design for a cottage garden.

What You Will Do

  • Explain the concept of a cottage garden, both in historical and modern contexts.
  • Explain the influence of one famous landscaper on cottage gardens.
  • Explain the relevance of garden design concepts to cottage gardens, including: *Unity *Balance *Proportion *Harmony *Contrast *Rhythm *Line *Form *Mass *Space *Texture *Colour *Tone.
  • Analyse the designs of three cottage gardens inspected by you.
  • Describe the steps involved, accompanied by a sequence of illustrations, in the planning process for a cottage garden.
  • Develop a checklist of pre-planning information required for a proposed cottage garden on a specific site.
  • Compile pre-planning information for a specific site, for a proposed cottage garden, through an interview with a potential client, and surveying the site.
  • Prepare drawings to represent landscape features on a cottage garden plan, including trees, shrubs, herbs, walls, rocks, buildings and other landscape features.
  • Analyse the designs of three different cottage gardens, inspected by you.
  • Prepare different cottage garden concept plans for the same site, to satisfy given design specifications and pre-planning information.
  • Prepare a plant collection of fifty-cottage garden plants, which includes: *A photo, drawing or pressed specimen of each plant *Plant names (scientific and common) *Cultural details *Uses/applications in garden design.
  • Prepare a planting plan for a garden bed of 20 to 30 square metres in a cottage garden style, including: *A sketch plan *A plant list.
  • Design a perennial border of 30 metres in length, in an appropriate cottage garden style.
  • Design a 50 to 100 square metre garden bed, which incorporates companion planting principles.
  • Evaluate the companion planting design in a cottage garden visited by you.
  • Design a colour themed garden, such as a white garden, for an area of 200 square metres or less, to suit a proposed garden redevelopment, on a site visited by you.
  • Describe briefly, different non-living features that may be included in a cottage garden, including: *Seating alternatives *Bird baths *Sun dials *Fountains *Statues *Pergolas *Gazebos *Fencing *Ponds *Weather vanes.
  • Determine criteria for inclusion of different landscape features in a cottage garden, including: *Gazebos *Ornaments *Arbors *Tub plants *Water features *Paths.
  • Compare the characteristics, including: *Suitability for a cottage garden *Cost *Availability *Longevity *Appearance *Maintenance, of different landscape materials.
  • Explain the use of plant sculpting, including topiary and hedging, in cottage garden designs; including references to: *Ways of creating it *Ways of using it *Maintenance.
  • Analyse, in a report including photographs, the use of different structures as features, in the designs of two different cottage gardens, visited by you.
  • Prepare cottage garden concept plans, one each for different specified sites, which incorporate different types of features sympathetic to cottage or heritage gardens.
  • Develop a brief for a cottage garden design, for the redevelopment of an established garden around an old building in your locality.
  • Analyse the designs of two different well established cottage gardens visited by you.
  • Compile pre-planning information for a specified cottage garden development.
  • Prepare detailed plans for a cottage garden (following industry standards), including:
    • *Detailed plans *Materials lists *Costings.
  • Explain the reasoning behind a cottage garden you designed.

Tips For Creating Cottage Gardens

What is a Cottage Garden?

Traditionally cottage gardens were a random mixture of useful and ornamental plants, with more emphasis being given to the useful plants which could be eaten, used for medicinal purposes, or as animal forage. The ornamental plants were an afterthought, using colourful and easily grown annuals, herbaceous perennials and small shrubs to brighten the garden, space permitting.

These days the best cottage gardens are carefully designed to give a pleasing arrangement of ornamental plants, herbs, vegetables, garden ornaments and accessories. Cottage plants are generally chosen with more forethought, although colour and abundance are still the most important features. Anyone can throw down a handful of seeds and within a few weeks have a wildly profuse and colourful bed of poppies, hollyhocks, nasturtiums and the like, but it takes rather more planning to create a cottage garden that looks charming throughout the year.

Broad Guidelines for Using Plants in Cottage Gardens

  • Dense plantings - using fast-growing annuals and herbaceous perennials will help to create the effect quicker.
  • Self-seeding plants – these are used to perpetuate the effect. Use plants such as Myosotis (Forget-me-nots), Alyssum, Lychnis coronaria (Rose Campion), Tropaeolum majus (Nasturtium) and Viola betonicifolia.
  • Scented plants – bring fragrance into a garden and stimulates the senses.
  • Contrasting foliage plants – provides an avenue to produce focal points and places of interest.
  • Lawns are kept to a minimum – this allows maximum use of flowering plants and garden ornaments.
  • Climbers – these are used to screen sheds, fences, other bad views, etc.
  • The front garden is designed to showcase the plants right to the street.

Within these broad guidelines, gardening styles vary greatly. Some cottage gardeners like neatly mulched beds with colour co-ordinated plantings; others like their garden to be functional, growing herbs and vegetables among the ornamental plants; and yet others prefer the romantic, slightly unkempt look which is easily attained with cottage plants.


Opportunities After Study

This course may be studied by itself or along with other modules as part of a higher-level qualification.

It is of value to people wishing to work in:

  • Garden design
  • Landscaping
  • Garden maintenance
  • Parks & gardens
  • Horticulture
  • Education
  • Research


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