Create Your Own Cottage Garden

Saturday, June 26th, 2010 by Jenny Watts
    • Finish planting the summer vegetable garden. Seeds of early corn, and beans can go directly in the soil and plants of tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash, cucumbers and basil can be set out.
    • Fertilize container plants every 10 to 14 days with a liquid fertilizer. Pinch off faded blossoms and they will keep blooming all summer for you.
    • Red, white and blue petunias, verbena or combinations of these with lobelia, geraniums, impatiens and salvia will make a nice display for the Fourth of July.
    • Attract birds to your garden with a concrete bird bath. They come in many attractive styles and make good gifts.
    • Feed rhododendrons, azaleas and camellias with an acid plant food to encourage lush growth. Pinch or prune to promote full, dense growth.

Create Your Own Cottage Garden

Whether the image comes from a childhood storybook or a memory of Grandma’s flower beds, the informal, joyful look of a cottage garden is appealing to many of us. Even the names are magical, like “lamb’s ears”, “pincushion flower”, and “love in a mist”. You will enjoy giving tours of your garden as much to share their colorful names as their glorious flowers.

Don’t worry about “rules” when making a cottage garden. Just have fun creating pleasing combinations of color, texture and proportion. You’ll need to take into consideration the amount of sun or shade the garden area receives and choose appropriate plants accordingly.

Traditionally, an English cottage garden is a front yard garden enclosed by a wall, fence or hedge. It has a welcoming front gate and a path to the front door. More paths define the beds which are filled with a rich mixture of plantings.

You may want to begin with a structure such as an arbor or trellis. Nothing says “cottage garden” more beautifully that a rose-and-clematis covered arbor surrounded by a rainbow of cheerful flowers. Or perhaps a fountain or birdbath, a statue or a gazing ball will give your garden a special touch that makes it uniquely yours.

The real show in a cottage garden is a relaxed jumble of free-flowing flowers, vines, trees, shrubs, bulbs and ground covers. The well-defined planting beds give structure to the garden: an “organized disarray.”

Try for a long season of color by using perennials that flower at different times through the spring and summer. Roses, peonies, carnations and hollyhocks were among the perennials commonly planted in days gone by. Hydrangeas, lilacs, lavenders and daisies of all types add a profusion of color. Tall sunflowers will follow the sun through the day. Ornamental grasses can be mixed in with the flowers, and bulbs can be tucked in between.

Even herbs and vegetables are welcome in the cottage garden. A ‘Patio’ tomato plant will stay neat and compact, eggplants can be enjoyed for their flowers as well as their fruits, and lettuces come in many colors and leaf shapes to add texture to the border.

Your cottage garden can feature similarly colored plants in groupings that paint the garden with swaths of color, or a mixture of contrasting colors that shout joyfully to passersby.

No matter how you interpret the cottage garden style, remember that a barely controlled jumble of plants suggests the workings of nature over time and gives the garden its much admired, storybook charm.