Cottage Garden Design

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

Discover How to Create Authentic Cottage Gardens


There is something exquisitely beautiful about a well designed cottage garden.  Learn the art and craft of good design so you can include cottage gardens amongst your offerings.  Find out what a proper cottage garden is, and how to apply the principles of this concept to garden design and garden renovation.

Add to your design skills

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 to design a cottage garden, applying broad concepts and principles loosely or rigidly to create a landscape sympathetic to a period in history or style of architecture.

Who is this course for?

  • Home gardeners  who want to create a better cottage garden (and avoid costly mistakes that come with not fully knowing how to do the best job)
  • Professional landscapers who wish to better understand how to create this particular type of garden, and in doing so, expand and improve services they can offer a client

Lesson Structure

There are 8 lessons in this course:

  1. Introduction to Cottage Gardens.
    • What is a Cottage Garden
    • Components
    • Guidelines for Using Cottage Plants
    • Plant Naming
    • Principles of Landscape Design
    • Preplanning Information
  2. History of Cottage Gardens
    • 19th century Cottage Gardens
    • History of Cottage Gardening
    • Case Study
  3. Design Techniques and Drawing Plans
    • Garden Rooms
    • Positioning Garden Features
    • Framing Views
    • Drawing the Plan
    • Design Procedure
  4. Plants for Cottage Gardens
    • Mixing Plants
    • Designing a Garden Bed
    • Perennial Plants
    • Designing a Perennial Display or Border
    • Bulbs
    • Scented Geraniums
    • Lavender
    • Other Cottage Garden Plants
  5. Planting Design in Cottage Gardens
    • Using Colour in the Garden
    • Shade Trees
    • Repellent Herb Plants
    • Companion Planting
    • Planting Design
  6. Landscape Features and Components
    • Walls and Fencing
    • Pickets
    • Woven Wire Fencing
    • Stick Fencing
    • Stone Walls
    • Garden Art: sculpture, pottery, architecture, wall plaques, sundials, weather vanes, feature tiles, etc.
    • Furnishing; outdoor furniture
    • Paths, Gravel, Coloured Gravels, bark, brick, cobbles, etc
    • Guidelines for Path Design
    • Seating
    • Arches
    • Barriers and Walls
  7. Cottage Gardens Today
    • Where are Cottage Gardens Appropriate
    • Making a Courtyard More Exciting
    • Planning For Perfection
    • Old (disappearing) Garden Skills
  8. Special Assignment
    • Coherence and Contrast
    • Evaluating Cottage Garden Designs
    • Design of A Complete 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 *Arbours *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.


A well-designed cottage garden is a rich tapestry of colours and textures. Contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t happen by chance; each plant should be carefully chosen for its individual qualities, as well as its overall effect in the garden bed.

When choosing plants for a cottage garden, think of them as different types, each with a special niche in the garden. A well-balanced design will include plants from each of the following groups:

Annuals – These fast-growing colourful plants only last one season, but they’re very good for giving quick cover in new beds, filling in gaps, and adding colour to established beds.

Bulbs – Grow these under deciduous trees or in garden beds. They require little maintenance and will reappear each year.

Herbaceous perennials – These plants die back each winter, then reappear and flower the following spring and summer. They include many of the old-fashioned cottage plants.

Climbers – These can be productive (passionfruit, kiwifruit) or decorative (sweet pea, climbing roses) and are good for screening walls and fences, or used as cover for structures such as arbors or pergolas.

Shrubs – These are good for screening, and many can be clipped into hedges. They provide a framework for larger beds, creating a presence when other plants in the bed die down in winter.

Trees – At least one small-growing tree should be included in the cottage garden. They provide a vertical accent and summer shade. They can be purely decorative (silver birches, crepe myrtles) or productive (small-growing fruit trees).

Once you’ve chosen your main framework plants of perennials, shrubs and trees, also look at how you can include plants from the following groups to give your garden that distinctive cottage garden flavour:

  • Scented plants – A cottage garden wouldn’t be completed without scented plants.
  • Self-seeding plants – A number of annuals and perennials freely self-seed and help give the garden a natural, slightly wild appearance. They can be a nuisance in more formal, controlled designs.
  • Foliage plants – These are excellent as contrasts and as focal points.
  • Ground covers – These may be annual or perennial plants. They are good for filling in gaps, suppressing weeds and softening edges of garden beds and paths.
  • Herbs – Many of these useful plants have attractive foliage colours and textures, and are either grown in a separate herb bed or mixed in with ornamental plants.



  • Garden designers -  to extend your knowledge and offer your clients new ways with cottage gardens
  • Gardeners - learn how to maintain a cottage garden
  • Home gardening enthusiasts - fulfil your dream of owning a cottage garden
  • Specialist nursery owners and employees to extend your knowledge of the plants you sell and how your clients can use them



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