An English Country Garden in Summer

Fine Gardening – Issue 200
english country garden in summer
He envisioned a cottage garden, but with pizzazz. The traditional borders designed by Istvan Dudas are filled with many soft-hued blooms (below). But to keep things lively and a little unexpected, he also added bits of bright orange, moments of energetic magenta, and splashes of electric blue throughout the beds (above).

During his time designing and maintaining this private English country garden, Istvan Dudas has wholeheartedly embraced the cottage garden style. Being a creative plantsman, however, he still leaves room for lots of experimentation. Annuals and tender perennials are constantly being added, removed, replaced, and rearranged—a benefit to both the garden and the gardener. “I think if we use only shrubs and perennials, it can be very static, and that can be boring for the people who enjoy the garden—and for me. With my system, I can improve my plant knowledge and be more creative.”

long garden bed with soft-hued flowers


At a Glance

Size: 2 acres

Location: Oxfordshire, UK

Age of the garden: 8 years

Equivalent USDA Hardiness Zone: 8

Conditions: Partial shade; chalky soil, improved with organic matter


garden with purple and orange flowers
Color is king. This garden has varied forms and lots of texture, but it’s the vibrant blooms that reign supreme. The complementary pairing of orange and purple spices things up. Tangerine lupines (Lupinus cv., Zones 4–9) and lilac alliums (Allium cv., Zones 4–9) steal the scene in one area (above); purple salvia and orange pot marigolds mix well elsewhere (below).

Istvan’s creativity is more than evident in his exceptional combinations, which are true tapestries of color when in full bloom. Though his beds and borders are rich with varied textures and forms, color (primarily from blooms) is the key to Istvan’s design strategy. In early summer, showy annuals such as poppies (Papaver spp. and cvs.), pot marigold (Calendula officinalis), and white laceflower (Orlaya grandiflora) mingle with biennials like foxglove (Digitalis purpurea and cvs., Zones 4–8), dame’s rocket (Hesperis matronalis*, Zones 3–8), and silver dollar plant (Lunaria annua, Zones 5–9). In late summer, when the British weather gets considerably warmer, the early stars are replaced with more heat-tolerant options, such as Queen Anne’s lace (Ammi majus, annual), dahlias (Dahlia spp. and cvs., Zones 8–11), giant larkspur (Consolida ajacis, annual), and ‘Amistad’ salvia (Salvia ‘Amistad’, Zones 8–11) to ensure a continuous show of color throughout the rest of the season. Mixing all of these plants with various perennials in a meadow style, Istvan says, “looks both naturalistic and artistic.”

purple salvia with orange pot marigolds

Istvan Dudas

Just as Istvan doesn’t limit his plant palette, he doesn’t limit his sources of inspiration. He visits and enjoys gardens of all styles, and he names Michelin-star chefs as some of his biggest inspirations for their “passion and amazing hard work.” Above all, Istvan loves to constantly try new things in the garden and views each mistake as a valuable lesson. “I believe that all plants are beautiful,” he says. “We just need to find the right places for them.” He adds it’s important to get a deep understanding of your plants and to look after them with care. If you do that, positive results are sure to follow.

*Invasive alert: Dame’s rocket (Hesperis matronalis)

This plant is considered invasive in CO, CT, IL, IN, IA, MA, ME, MI, NH, NJ, OH, PA, TN, VT, WI, and WV.

Please visit for more information.

Kaitlyn Hayes is a digital content production specialist for Fine Gardening.

Photos: courtesy of Istvan Dudas

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