Arts and Crafts Garden Design: 5 Key Elements for a Backyard

Key elements of Arts and Crafts garden design can still be used to inspire modern gardens today.

The late 19th century movement produced some of the most influential and well-known gardens in the world, which continue to have a huge influence on the way we garden today.

Take inspiration from arts and crafts garden designs and incorporate some of the characteristic features into garden ideas for your modern backyard.

Here, National Trust gardeners in the UK advise on some of the key elements to include if you are planning a garden with traditional appeal.

lutyens bench in the arts and crafts gardens of goddards national trust

(Image credit: National Trust Images/John Miller)

Arts and crafts garden design – where to start

The Arts and Crafts garden design is, of course, the perfect choice for anyone trying to authentically create a backyard to match the style of their Arts and Crafts home.

“Our contemporary approaches to gardening – such as gardening with an awareness of nature and thinking of the garden as additional living space – come from the Arts and Crafts period,” says Rosie Fyles, National Trust’s Chief Gardener.

At the heart of the Arts and Crafts movement – ​​as promoted by Morris & Co as early as the 1860s – was a reaction against industrialization and mass production. There was a desire to revive craftsmanship and restore simplicity and honesty to the way buildings and furniture were created. This extended to the Arts and Crafts garden – the most British of English garden ideas.

“In the words of William Morris, have nothing in your garden that you don’t know to be useful or believe to be beautiful. The goals of valuing nature, simplicity and utility are achievable in any garden,” says Rosie.

1. See the garden as an extension of the house

arts and crafts garden at Snowshill Manor National Trust

(Image credit: National Trust Images/James Dobson)

An Arts and Crafts garden is considered an extension of the home and a space for outdoor living and recreation.

When we use our barbecue outdoors or include outdoor kitchen ideas close enough to the house for accessibility, we have garden designers and Arts and Crafts gardeners to thank for that idea.

“The garden was seen as a place for socializing, a space for recreation with places or garden rooms to enjoy,” says Patrick Swan, National Trust Gardens and Parks Adviser.

“The creation of gardens has become anchored around a more domestic type of garden, achievable in urban properties by the ordinary owner”, adds Patrick.

Embrace this aspect of Arts and Crafts garden design and incorporate patio ideas for relaxation, or sports and recreation areas and separate it into outdoor “rooms”.

“Think about the visual connections through the repetition of the house to the garden,” Rosie adds.

2. Use natural and handmade elements in the garden

natural and local hard landscaping materials used in Coleton Fishacre National Trust Arts and Crafts Garden

(Image credit: National Trust Images/Carole Drake)

Arts and crafts gardens incorporate the use of natural, often local materials and traditional craftsmanship, respecting regional traditions.

“The gardens have been created with natural finishes, in harmony with the built environment so that you can sit in your garden and relax,” says Patrick.

To emulate this style, use natural, handcrafted elements, “such as willow and hazel supports or natural wood seats,” suggests Rosie Fyles.

When planning backyard landscaping ideas, look to use local materials that complement and reflect the fabric of the home.

3. Draw on the surrounding landscape

planting in the long border of the National Trust Sbnowshill Manor arts and crafts garden

(Image credit: National Trust Images/Jonathan Buckley)

An Arts and Crafts garden will fit comfortably and harmoniously into the local natural environment.

“The house and the garden work together. It’s as if the house has grown out of the garden, the house fits into the landscape, the vegetation wrapping its arms around the features of the house,” says Patrick Swan.

When planning flower bed ideas, “draw on the landscape around you when possible – connecting color, texture and even wild plant cultivars found locally,” says Rosie Fyles.

The whole garden should be sympathetic to the surrounding environment, with natural beauty and aesthetic impact, always combined with functionality.

4. Design a strong garden architectural style

Topiary in the Arts and Crafts Garden at Lytes Cary National Trust

(Image credit: National Trust Images/Ellen Rooney)

The Arts and Crafts Gardens have a strong architectural style. “It’s not just in terms of hard landscaping, but also in the use of trimmed topiary and shaped fast-growing hedges,” says Rosie Fyles.

Incorporated architectural elements include terraces, sometimes with steps and balustrades.

For example, the Municipal Arts and Crafts Garden in Goddards has three terraces. “The planting closest to the house is the most formal, then the planting becomes more and more informal the farther you get from the house. The lower terrace has winding paths and a rock garden,” says Rosie.

“So to create a modern Arts and Crafts garden, keep it simple, but make sure the garden has ‘good bones’ – create an interesting structure with hard landscaping, trees and shrubs,” he adds. -she.

5. Plant bountiful flower beds

Arts and Crafts Planted Garden at Goddards National Trust

(Image credit: National Trust Images/John Miller)

The philosophy of the Arts and Crafts era was to fill flower beds with abundant flowering garden plants.

“These included romantic plants, such as vines, foxglove drifts, irises, roses, peonies, rosemary, lavender, nepeta and delphiniums. The herbaceous borders were planted in a naturalistic style and brought together in drifts of color,” says Rosie.

When choosing garden colors, the planting palette would complement the building materials, helping the garden sit comfortably and harmoniously with the house.

Profusely flowered borders of the Coleton Fishacre National Trust Arts and Crafts Garden

(Image credit: National Trust Images/Robert Morris)

Many of the flowers chosen were the same ones that would be used in the cottage garden styles of Victorian garden design. However, what sets herbaceous borders apart from an arts and crafts garden is often the strong geometric lines of beds and puffy flowers juxtaposed against hard landscaping.

“What I love about Arts and Crafts Gardens is the attention to detail. The individual details are beautiful, but the sum of these parts together is food for the eyes and the soul,” says Rosie.

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