Cottage gardens exude charm and character, with an informal style, very unlike formally designed gardens with their immaculate lawns and regimented borders. The cottage garden style typically consists of lots of plants, heavy on the flowers, with paths meandering between. The plants are chosen to suit personal tastes with the emphases on the pleasure of growing plants and enjoying their color, fragrance and form. A medley of colors and textures that is all crammed into the beds and borders.
Cottage gardens were originally constructed to utilize every bit of growing space for family needs. This meant, flowers, fruit, herbs and vegetables were packed together into even the smallest plots. One tip is to incorporate wildflowers and herbs as well as the more traditional cottage garden plants. Plant in clumps with large blocks of color to introduce rich patters of color and movement. Also, don't restrict yourself to planting tall plants in the back, with smaller ones in front. Mix some of the taller plants in amongst the middle planting area as well.
You should grow hollyhock beside walls and fences, plant climbers, such as clematis and roses, in amongst the hedges and trees, or up wall and fences. Annuals can fill in between gaps in the planting. You will find many of the flowers that are featured in traditional cottage gardens are self-sowing, so leave old flower spikes intact for self-seeding.
All gardens require care and attention and cottage gardens are no exception. You will need to do frequent deadheading in order to encourage a long season of blooming flowers. Divide and replant where appropriate depending on the plant, and, of course, the weeding necessary in any garden.
The first step in creating your cottage garden is to plan your layout. A classic cottage garden has a straight path to the front door, a simple fence and perhaps an arc over the gate, the path or doorway. A more modern design has a curving path. You will need to decide which path option works best for you.
A climbing rose or a wisteria would be a good choice to adorn the wall by and above the front door. The path should be edged with plants that will spill over and soften the edges. You should have a few evergreen shrubs, this will provide green all year and will provide a background to show off your flowers, as well as contrast with autumn foliage and your spring bulbs. Also in winter, your evergreen shrubs will provide color and inject interest while the rest of your garden is dormant.
Adding a tree will give scale to your garden, and lift the eye over the flowers. Deciduous trees have more than one season of interest since they provide autumn color, also many of them have beautiful flowers and fruits. Also, the frameworks of the branches provide height in winter and will not block the winter sunlight in small plots. Deciduous flowering shrubs will provide spring and summer pleasure, and some will give you autumn foliage and berries in the winter.
I believe one cannot have a cottage garden without roses. There are so many types available now, whether heritage roses or the modern roses bred for ease of maintenance and disease resistance, you have your colors and degree of work you wish to commit. There are wonderful climbers to adorn arches, doorways, fences and pergolas. Work roses into your overall scheme, and let them play their part, and they will contribute beauty, scent and structure to your garden.
Add different climbers, such as roses, clematis and others to the same support, whether it is a tree, arbor or fence. It is a good space-saving technique that creates colorful features for months on end and adds height to the garden.
Your landscaping should include more than plants. Add seating areas and containers to help you enjoy your garden. They contrast well with the flow and look of your plants. Containers are also a convenient way to add lots of extra color around buildings and sitting spaces. Containers can be anything, use your imagination, for example, objects such as old chimney pots, old watering cans, and bottomless metal buckets can be recycled to make authentic, aged features that will add color and character to your cottage garden.
Your cottage garden should be a color palate of your imagination, blending plants, objects and colors into a whole that is uniquely you. Add and change it through the years and watch it evolve.
About the author: Theresa is an avid gardener. For more information on creating lush, vibrant gardens visit her sites at Rose Gardens, Garden and Lawn and Garden.