Cottage Gardens - a guide to creating a cottage garden

Photo of Cottage Gardens

The cottage garden is one of the most popular styles of gardening and is popular throughout the world. In France this garden style is usually called the 'jardin de cure' (priests garden) or the 'grandmothers garden. The idea is basically the same and conjures up visions of rampant and informal planting where perennials, annuals and biennials mix togethere and often with vegetables and herbs too.

Perfume is also important and the scent of old roses should mix with the scent of honeysuckles, lilies and old fashioned pinks.

A traditional cottage garden would not contain a lawn but would have paths and large borders filled with a riot of planting. Modern versions of cottage gardens usually incorporate a lawn - important either for children to play on or for adults for relaxing and entertaining.

Hard features should be kept simple and made of inexpensive materials as would have been the case with the original cottage gardens - the gardens of rural cottagers. Make sure the materials match those used in the building of the house. For example use brick paths to suit brick walls and stone paths if the house is built of stone.

The original cottage gardens generally would not have included garden furniture but nowadays we want to enjoy and relax in our gardens and seating is important. Wooden benches and simple metal tables and chairs rather than exotic hardwood furniture would be appropriate.

Cottage garden style can be formal with paths edged by box or lavender or with symmetrically shaped beds, indeed this is often the style where vegetables are a significant part of the cottage garden style. When gardens have this formality the cottage style is introduced in the abundance and informality of the planting within the hedges or beds.

Cottage gardens are a real treat but only really to be attempted if you have a love for gardening - they are quite labour intensive with lots of weeding to do and lots of trimming back in autumn and early spring. They also tend to look very bare in the winter as they are so concentrated in perennial and annual plants rather than shrubs and trees.

Plants for a Cottage Garden

Tall plants for a Cottage Garden

Roses - especially old fashioned strongly scented varieties. Have rambling or climbing roses climing up pergolas, garden trellis and the walls of your house

Delphiniums - indispensible for a cottage garden

Gladioli - try to plant these amongst other tall plants to avoid the need for staking

Paeonies - the more the better of this lovely old-fashioned flower

Medium plants for a Cottage Garden

Iris - one of the first flowers to flower in the spring and so always a treat

Astrantias

Aquilegias (Granny's bonnet) - another old-fashioned favourite not to be missed in the cottage garden

Dahlias - add wonderful colours to the cottage garden

Nepeta (cat mint)

Dianthus - their lovely perfume means these should always be included

Small plants for a Cottage Garden

Geraniums

A selction  of herbs for use in the kitchen

Plant a selection of vegetables amongst the flowers especially decorative ones such as cabbages and swiss chard

Annuals and biennials for a cottage garden

Cosmos - has a very long flowering period

Foxgloves - another cottage garden favourite

Campanulas - Campanula medium (Canterbury bells) with  tall blue pink or white flowers

Love in a mist

sunflowers - great for the birds as well as the cottage look.

Climbing plants for a cottage garden

Climbing roses to cover pergolas, walls and trellis

Honeysuckle - plant very scented varieties

Climbing French beans and/or runner beans

Examples of Cottage Gardens in France

Jardin La Pomme d'Ambre - a charming 'cottage-style' garden on the French Riviera.

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