Lee Burkhill's favourite plants for an English country garden

Who's been watching Lee (aka the Garden Ninja) on BB2's Gardening Rescue with their morning coffee over the last few weeks or so? I know we have. He's also back on our blog with his favourite plants for an English country garden...

There's nothing more quintessentially British than an English country garden. In fact, most of my design clients lust after a flower-filled, highly-scented garden. Blousy aromatic flowers, an emphasis on plants over hard landscaping and plenty of plants that climb up and scramble over structures all bring this garden style to mind. However, they can be hard to manage and soon get out of control unless you pick the correct fuss-free plants. Let's look at several English country garden plants that offer colour throughout the summer and don't take up every spare moment being tended to! Giving you that English country garden style without the headache!

1. Rambling Rose - Rosa Crimson Shower

Rambling Rose - Rosa Crimson Shower from David Austin

It wouldn't be an English garden without a rose. Most roses require winter pruning, deadheading, feeding and quite a lot of TLC. Which, for time poor gardeners can put them off. However, Rambling roses like 'Crimson Shower' with its blood-red flowers require hardly any effort. It will quickly scramble 7.5 meters across sheds, arbours and arches. Hiding ugly walls. The best thing? To prune, you use hedge sheers to remove anything that gets in the way. Thats it! Feed once a year, and job done!

Available to purchase as a potted rose from David Austin (pictured above).

2. Hydrangea arborescens - Annabelle

Hydrangea arborescens - Annabelle from Crocus

This small, well-behaved Hydrangea is covered in white pop pom plumes throughout early summer and can fit even in the smallest of gardens. Giving much-needed structure for most borders, planting these in groups of 3 o4 5 around the garden can unite even the most chaotic of flower beds. Prune in winter to remove dead flower heads and tidy up any crossing branches. It will grow in any soil and almost any aspect, i.e., dappled and full shade. It may need the shadow of a nearby tree in full sun so out doesn't scorch.

Available to purchase from Crocus in a range of pot sizes (pictured above).

3. Verbena bonariensis

Verbena bonariensis from Sarah Raven

Verbana is one of the most hard-working herbaceous perennials in the garden and a staple of nearly all show gardens. Reaching up to 1.5m in height, this self-supporting plant casts no shade, but its purple flowers sit on a throne above all other plants bringing much-needed height. Easy to grow from seed or plant as cost-effective plug plants, this specimen will bring colour and structure from June to October!

Available to purchase as seeds, cuttings and in pots from Sarah Raven (pictured above).

4. French Lavender - Lavandula stoechas

French Lavender - Lavandula stoechas from Hedges Direct

Lavender is an essential plant for any English garden border, but my experience leads me to recommend not English lavender, which is super hardy, but French lavender for newer gardeners. Why, you ask? It flowers profusely for 4 months of the year and brings more colour to the garden. Yes, you may need to replace them every 5 years, but once established, they are foolproof plants with a gorgeous scent.

Available to buy from Hedges Direct in 10 and 20-cm pots (pictured above).

5. Physostegia virginiaia - False Devil's Beard

Physostegia virginiaia - False Devils Beard from Bradshaws

Got a more extensive garden and need to bulk up borders fast? Look no further than Physostegia; the false devil's beard. Providing soft pink plumes throughout the summer with little to no attention from the gardener. It will rapidly fill up to 2m of any garden border and provides late summer soft pink flowers. Loved by bees, this is a plant to grow if you need to fill space and also avoid slugs who seem to give it a swerve! It rises again to 1.5m, providing height in the garden and also is an excellent cut flower.

Available to buy in 1-litre pots from Bradshaws Direct (pictured above)

6. Salvia nemerosa - Caradonna

Salvia nemerosa - Caradonna from Hare Spring Cottage

Last but not least, we have rough tolerant Salvia 'Caradonna'. It's been known at Garden Ninja HQ to flower from May to November on a good year. Super neat and not one to spread too far, it has upright dark purple spikes of flowers for bees and visitors alike. Its dark green sage-like leaves (as it's part of the Sage herb family) provide a bit of depth to a border. Slug proof and pretty much unstoppable, even if you forget about it. Plant this in repeat patterns around the garden for maximum effect.

Available to buy from Hare Spring Cottage Garden Plants in a 9cm or 1-litre pot (pictured above).

If you want that English garden look without all the maintenance or simply want to create a varied and interesting low-fuss border then the above 6 plants will stand you in good stead. After all, surely it is just as important to sit back and enjoy the garden as it is to maintain it?

Happy gardening,


About Lee

Lee Burkhill aka The Garden Ninja

Lee Burkhill aka the Garden Ninja is a multi-award-winning garden designer, horticulturist, garden blogger, vlogger, TV Presenter and YouTuber. Hailing from the North West of England, Lee has an infectious enthusiasm for helping gardeners all over the world. The Garden Ninja is his garden design business and online gardening blog, and he was recently voted one of the Top 10 Gardening Bloggers and Garden Vloggers in the UK. Lee is also part of the BBC Garden Rescue Team, which you can watch on weekdays at 3.45 pm on BBC One or on BBC iPlayer. Here at Lazy Susan, we’re looking forward to sharing his exclusive horticultural tips, tricks and advice on our blog.

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