Plants for a country garden

Discover key plants for creating the formal country garden look.

Classic country gardens feature many of the plants you might find in a cottage garden scheme, but tend to be larger and more formal. You’ll often find them in the grounds of a grand house, as at Hestercombe or Wollerton Old Hall.


They’re typically defined by long, deep borders planted up with herbaceous perennials and flowering shrubs. They might be framed by crisply edged lawns, neatly trimmed hedges and wide paths, often leading to a view or focal point. Formal meadows and ponds often make an appearance, too, their boundaries clearly demarcated by straight edges.

Symmetrical features help to give these gardens an ordered and harmonious appearance, but aren’t essential. Using hedging or walls to divide the garden in to ‘rooms’ themed with different colour palettes will help to create a sense of journey as you walk through the garden, and also create provide privacy where needed.

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Of course, you don’t need to garden on rolling acres to borrow from this style. Discover key plants to use in a country garden scheme, below.

Oriental poppies

Papaver orientale 'Patty’s Plum'
Papaver orientale ‘Patty’s Plum’

These flamboyant poppies provide generous splashes of colour in borders from June to July. The flowers are generally red, pink or purple, depending on the cultivar.


Nepeta subsessilis
Nepeta subsessilis

Catmint, Nepetais a fabulous alternative to lavender for creating informal hedges of colour. Go for a cultivar like ‘Six Hills Giant’, or ‘Walker’s Low’ for a shorter hedge. For planting in borders, try Nepeta kubanica or Nepeta subsessiliswhich is good for damp soils.


Clipped yew hedge with Melica altissima grassClipped yew hedge with Melica altissima grass
Clipped yew hedge with Melica altissima grass

Clipped pyramids, hedges, cones, balls and other shapes bring formality and structure to country gardens. Yew is evergreen and untroubled by pests, so is ideally suited to this purpose.


Delphinium 'New Zealand Hybrid Mix'Delphinium 'New Zealand Hybrid Mix'
Delphinium ‘New Zealand Hybrid Mix’

Towering delphiniums bring height and drama to herbaceous displays, and coming in shades of pink, purple, blue or white. They look fabulous with plants like phlox, shrub roses and veronicastrum.


Rosa 'Grace'
Rosa ‘Grace’

Roses are ssential in any country garden. Shrub roses can be planted in borders, while ramblers and climbers are fantastic for training over arches or against walls. They come in enough colours to suit any scheme and many have a rich fragrance.


Gypsophila paniculata
Gypsophila paniculata

Baby’s breath, Gypsophila paniculata, is a useful perennial for dotting amongst dense plantings of other plants – the haze of flowers have a lovely lightness and texture. Great for edging borders, too.


Antirrhinum 'Constantine'
Antirrhinum ‘Constantine’

Snapdragons are exceptionally easy to grow and look beautiful planted at the front of sunny borders, providing bold clumps of colour. They respond well to deadheading and are popular with bumblebees.


Pink dahlias
Pink dahlias

As summer progresses, dahlias start to flower and will provide magnificent bursts of colour from midsummer until the first frosts, if regularly deadheaded. The red, orange and yellow-flowered varieties are particularly well-suited to hot themed borders with plants like kniphofias and cannas.


Thalictrum delavayi 'Splendide'
Thalictrum delavayi ‘Splendide’

Thalictrums, such as Thalictrum aquilegiifolium and Thalictrum delavayi, are gorgeous, airy perennials with that are ideally suited to the middle of the border, though you can find shorter varieties, too. Most thalictrums are happy in full sun or partial shade, as long as the soil is moist.


Stachys byzantina with catmint and salvias
Stachys byzantina with catmint and salvias

The silver, fluffy foliage of Stachys byzantina is present all year round and in summer is topped by flowering stems bearing small pink flowers. It’s a popular choice for edging borders, but don’t discount other Stachys species. For example, Stachys officinalis has striking purple flowers and is a great choice for heavy, wet soils.


Penstemon 'Razzle Dazzle'
Penstemon ‘Razzle Dazzle’

More plants to grow in a country garden