A proper cottage garden, explains Oxford Dictionary, is defined as “an informal garden stocked typically with colourful flowering plants.” And that’s the type of garden I’ve created at my home (Zone 6B/7), as you can see above.
From self-seeding poppies and German chamomile to richly aromatic roses, lavenders and sages, you’ll find my gardening style tends towards informal planting arrangements with plenty of colors, textures, tastes and fragrances. Come take a tour of Seasonal Wisdom’s cottage garden, and see what’s growing here.
Creating a cottage garden wasn’t my original intention when I first started this garden. Over the last five years, it just seemed to evolve into this design style. I’ve always tended toward romantic and historic plants, from the climbing Rosa rugosa on the wall to the heirloom herbs and vegetables. So, many of my plants were selected because of their history, aroma, taste or some other unusual characteristic.
Although I like things neat in the garden, I prefer a more natural look — rather than everything lined up perfectly. Best of all, the butterflies, bees, birds and other critters really like this approach too. So, my slightly wild garden is a bit of a nature refuge, as well.
Above is a portion of my kitchen garden (see more photos), with broccoli, carrots, peas and onions in the foreground. The peas have since been replaced with a bean tepee for the summer. Behind the raised beds are potatoes and herbs, which sit in front of a Rosa gallica ‘Apothecary Rose’ alongside red and pink Shirley poppies, English lavenders, variegated sages and more.
Here’s another view of the garden bed and the ‘Apothecary Rose,’ taken later in the afternoon light. If you look closely, you’ll see a green plastic container planted with purple potatoes, located between the roses and the fire pit.
I often tuck salad greens, pepper plants and other edibles in between my ornamental plants to save space and attract pollinators to my garden. Many edible flowers are scattered here too, providing ingredients for summer meals.
The ‘Apothecary Rose’ is a historic variety that blooms only once a year, and is susceptible towards fungal diseases, unfortunately. But the stunning floral display makes it worth the effort. Mulch this one well, and try to keep the foliage dry when watering.
Over the last few months, I’ve been creating more garden rooms in my suburban backyard. At the very top is my kitchen garden, with three raised beds, fine gravel and containers for vegetables, fruit and herbs.
Where the middle trellis is located, a ’Black Lace’ elder is planted, which is already growing quickly to fill that space. The plant can be grown as a shrub or small tree. I’m growing mine as a single-stem tree.
Directly above is a drought-tolerant garden bed with snow in summer, sedums, succulents and ornamental grasses. An orange ‘Sorbet’ viola in a terra cotta pot sits between two hot pink geraniums.
English lavender, yarrow, Shirley poppies, roses, Shasta daisies, oregano and lemon balm fill this garden scene. Many plants have self-seeded themselves, creating a lovely sort of controlled chaos in these beds. The lemon balm was planted by the previous owner into the ground. So, I spend a lot of time wedding out this invasive herb, which smells — at least — a lovely lemony fragrance. Be careful with lemon balm and mints, which can spread rapidly. Plant them in containers. Believe me, I wish the previous owner had done that in my garden.
Despite my casual nature, my plants need to prove their worth to stay in my garden. For the best chances, plants should either look good, taste delicious, smell nice, have an interesting history or play well with others. Otherwise, “they’re outta here.”
Outside my kitchen window are these charming ‘Going Bananas’ daylilies, which I tested last year for Proven Winners. The daylilies are surrounded by cheerful orange calendula, ‘Beergarten’ sage and feverfew.
This year, I’m testing several Proven Winners plants again, including this delightful Colorblaze® Marooned Coleus. It lives happily here, next to a low-growing juniper and other plants.
Rocks, sticks and other simple accessories from Mother Nature adorn our garden, and bring back nice memories from the places they were found.
Orange thyme burst into aromatic flowers, while salvia, chamomile and roses nestle nearby.
Each summer, I’m continually amazed how Shirley poppies manage to pop up in crevices and tight spaces between my plants. Here, they fill in spaces between the climbing roses, and above the English lavender.
One simple package of Shirley poppy seeds sowed years ago continues to bring back these red and pink flowers to my garden. If you look closely, you can see a white spider on one of the top flowers. During the day, lots of bees dance around the colorful petals. I like to think I’m helping to support the neighborhood’s fragile ecosystem.
A bee hovers over red ‘Shirley’ poppies, ready to make a landing.
Deadheading these poppies religiously will help poppy plants bloom more and keep a nice shape. Here are more tips about growing poppies in the garden.
Thanks for visiting my cottage garden. This type of gardening is not for everyone, especially if you prefer a more streamlined, contemporary look. But my “work in progress” garden continues to surprise and delight me each year, by sending out rogue plants that often seem to grow in just the right spaces. If not, then at least I have fragrant, beautiful and often edible weeds to pull out. With luck like that, who am I to argue with Mother Nature?
Regardless of your garden style, always add several inches of organic matter — such as well aged manure, compost or worm castings — to your soil each year. This will ensure your garden performs at its highest level.
Also, pay attention to invasive plants in your area, and avoid their use. Here is the USDA list of invasive and noxious weeds in regions across the United States.
So, what’s growing in your garden right now? Any good tips to share?
Disclosure: As a garden writer, I was provided with new Proven Winners plants to try before the public. These plants were provided to me at no charge. Others, such as the ‘Black Lace’ elder, I purchased myself.
All photos copyright Seasonal Wisdom.