An English landscape is characterized by sweeping vistas across rolling lawns, distant groves of trees, natural ponds and lakes, discreetly placed Greek and Roman “ruins,” and a sense of pastoral peacefulness. It’s a parklike setting that represents the landscape of the English Isles and much of North America.This is not the English cottage garden look, with its masses of uncontained annuals and perennials, nor is it the French-style garden set in a strict geometric pattern. In fact, the first English gardens were designed in the early 1700s as a reaction to the formality of the latter. The goal was a natural landscape, albeit one that was prettied up and romanticized to conceal the mundane and unattractive parts.

While the gardens designed by Lancelot (Capability) Brown define the basic elements of an English garden, the style itself has grown and changed over the past 300 years. It’s been modified to include influences from China and Gothic Revival architecture, as well as the sweeping flower beds popularized by Gertrude Jekyll.

Although most of us don’t have grand estates, some basics of the style can be applied even to the smallest garden.

Follow this slideshow for a visual garden tour!