Throughout history cottage gardens were far more practical than they are today, the main emphasis then being on self sufficiency including growing vegetables, herbs and fruit in the same space, many also kept bees and livestock .Flowers were used mainly to provide colour and fill in spaces but the main emphasis was on production. In today’s cottage gardens flowers are far more dominant and include many modern interpretations of the traditional English cottage garden.
A cottage garden blends beautifully into both large and smaller properties, you may not have a large space but traditionally cottage gardens were small, even a tiny courtyard bed can be transformed into a billowing herbaceous border providing a mass of long lasting colour and scent, an old brick wall is the perfect place to plant roses and clematis or to support climbing peas or beans. Why not plant an old tin bath or sink with herbs and place by your kitchen door or fill hanging baskets with tomatoes or strawberries? An old galvanised water carrier or dustbin can provide the perfect place to grow and contain rhubarb and even be placed on a patio. There are plenty of imitation bee hive composters available which are great for achieving a rustic look, but why not find an original and create your own?
Cottage gardens are all about recycling and your local salvage yard is the perfect place to find old and interesting items, all you need is a bit of imagination, creativity and the right plants to create your perfect cottage look Herbaceous borders are a must and consist of an informal mix of old fashioned Delphiniums, Lavenders, Fox Gloves and many more. They look and smell great when spilling over the edge of a patio and are surprisingly low maintenance. Many plants are perfect for attracting birds and wildlife especially if seed heads are left on. Most traditional cottage plants are perennials or self seeding annuals and don’t require much care. Genuine old-fashioned roses don’t need much pruning, just an occasional tidy up. Self-seeding perennials and herbaceous flowers need thinning out, dividing, staking and dead heading. Try to include plants for seasonal interest, snowdrops, crocuses and tulips for spring, anemones and daisies for the autumn. Fiery-coloured rosehips from old roses are perfect to brighten up dark winter days. Fill gaps by sowing Snapdragons, Poppies cornflowers and night scented stocks. If your borders are narrow plant climbers and tall plants such as Holly Hock & Lupins towards the back and low-growing or trailing plants towards the front, in wider borders a mixture of all heights creates a stunning hap hazard display.
It is also really important to choose the right types of natural materials. Reclaimed bricks, natural stone or terracotta pamments are perfect for creating pathways, seating areas and retaining walls and painted picket fencing to divide up larger spaces. Modern materials look really out of lace in a cottage garden setting. Willow and hazel is very easy to use and perfect for creating garden arches, fencing or wigwams, bare root plants are very affordable so instead of buying pre maid items its much more satisfying to create your own. A wooden bench painted in a pretty pastel shade can create an attractive focal point when placed inside an arch planted with scented climbing roses and clematis. Try to use English herbaceous plants, trees and shrubs as apposed to modern hybrids, they are not traditional cottage plants and do little to attract wildlife.
Most importantly what ever you decide to do just have fun and be creative as anything goes in a cottage garden.