Cottage garden design is one of those interesting discussions in the world of garden design.
If you think about it for a minute – and ask yourself just “exactly what was a cottage garden?” you’ll be a long way towards creating and designing this kind of garden.
Who had cottage gardens?
A cottage garden was typically made by and maintained by someone who didn’t have a lot of money. They lived in a small house (cottage) in the U.K. The garden was typically taken care of by the housewife.
New plants were obtained from friends – from cuttings, divisions or seed. These weren’t the latest and greatest of plants, they were familiar older ones or those given to a loyal gardener from the estate and passed along from there.
They were as much about feeding the family as they were about creating some beauty. This means that fruit and vegetables were as important as the flowers
There was no extra space given to bare ground because every square inch of ground was precious. The resident didn’t usually own the cottage/house, they were provided it as part of their employment or rented it and a small bit of land around it (usually quite small).
So – when it comes to cottage garden design we have some garden principles to work from.
Cottage Garden Design Principles
Once you understand the nature of those who lived in and gardened in a cottage garden, then you’re able to duplicate that look.
Combine everything in the garden.
Small fruit trees to provide shade and fruit. Leafy vegetables to provide color as well as ornamentation. Flowers for the soul.
Use as many self-sowing annuals or perennials as possible because otherwise you have to propagate new plants from cuttings every year.
A cottage garden isn’t about going to the garden center and picking up a flat of petunias. It *is* about creating something on a limited budget.
Use the fences to support vines (edible or ornamental). Grow roses upwards on trellis or fences so you’ll have both flowers and the useful hips (for vitamin C and tea making).
Important: Fill Every Inch!
This would be one of the cardinal rules that you can’t ignore.
Do not leave a single square inch of ground unplanted or bare for very long if you harvest something from this space. Yes, it is a jumble of plants and plant combinations but therein lies the charm of the cottage garden.
Do not overly worry about design – or about color combinations.
Those are the worry of “designers” not cottage folk. A true cottage garden design is about serendipity. About the magic of plant combinations changing from year to year as plants mature and new seedlings appear.
Have as many plants of one kind as you like.
Or one of everything. It really doesn’t matter. What does matter is that they’re all grown together in one delightful jumbled garden.
Use containers for your plants that come from cuttings. Put some of the cuttings into the garden and some into pots. Enjoy both.
Save the pots for next year’s garden supply.
Do not use the latest fanciest designer pot. Use clay or something that matches the décor of your garden.
Do not use plastic; it doesn’t belong but if you do use plastic – use it without remorse (this is your cottage garden after all).
Save and Share
Save seed. Save cuttings. Dig extra perennials. Share with your friends and neighbors who are also starting a perennial garden.
Important Questions about Cottage Garden Design Questions
So. Is there a “design” for a cottage garden? Well, you can probably find some garden designers fancy one somewhere. But you don’t need it if you understand and follow the principles above.
But what if mine doesn’t look like I want it to? So OK, add some more plants in the color you do like.
I’ve never designed anything before. Yeah, neither had those who lived and garden in cottage gardens. Funny how a little bit of garden love will go a long way.
So all I have to do is start planting and crowd everything either up or in? You got it!
How can something so gorgeous be so simple to do? That is the beauty of cottage garden design. It is simple – it is gorgeous – and we can all do it to our own tastes.
If you want your perennial garden to be in bloom all summer, here’s what to do.
Did I Mention?
To have fun. To enjoy and don’t compare your efforts to magazines. To mix and match to your heart’s content.
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