Vermont Garden Journal: Planning A Cottage Garden

Jan 26, 2018

Everyone loves cottage gardens! They overflow with color, texture and exuberance. This informal design is not simply “letting things go,” but more aptly called organized chaos. There's a method to the madness and and some elements to consider.

The original cottage gardens were grown out of necessity. Villagers packed  vegetables, fruits, herbs and flowers for medicine, animals and gathering spaces together because of the lack of space. There's a way to do this so the cottage garden is beautiful and functional.

The bones of a cottage garden are fences, hedges, walls and structures. These were originally used to keep animals and people out of the garden. They also can be used to create themed garden rooms. The paths in these gardens are purposely small and winding to not take up space and to create a sense that the garden is larger than it appears. Don't forget height. Using existing walls, fences and trees and building in pergolas, trellises, teepees, statues and arbors allows you to grow more climbing plants for added interest.

The plants are where you can have lots of fun. Add tall plants such as hollyhocks, delphiniums, sunflowers, small fruit trees and flowering shrubs as a backdrop. Mix in fragrant heliotrope, roses, and lilies. Add foliage plants, such as lady's mantle, hosta and ferns, for part-shade locations and climbers such as clematis and morning glory for height. Experiment with your plants. Let them run into each other and create colorful combinations that you hadn't imagined.

Finally, add a spot for sitting and enjoying your creation. Cottage gardens change month to month and year to year. Embrace the changes remembering a cottage garden is not a low maintenance garden and is always a work in progress.

Now for this weeks tip: if your amaryllis has finished blooming, cut back the flower stalk and let the strap-like green foliage grow. Come spring, start fertilizing and move it outdoors to a location with partial sun.