English gardens, or Cottage gardens, are my absolute favorite type of flower and plant garden. They always make me think of fireworks with their bright bursts of color throughout the flower bed and during their blooming season.
All those colors, beautiful flowers, fragrant herbs fighting for attention just dazzle me. Personally, my favorite part of a gorgeous English Garden is the lavender.
The lush purple pastel color that moves so nicely through the breeze really brightens up any garden or landscape and adds a punch of color in all that green. Wisteria comes in at a close second.
Building a Perfect Cottage Garden in 7 Simple Steps
In this post, let’s talk about how to build a beautiful Cottage Garden for the front, side, or backyard garden. There are so many ways to get creative with this and there is never a wrong way to build one, however, I will share some of my favorite tips!
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What is a cottage garden style?
Cottage gardens are very informal, sometimes a little wild, and display a ton of variety. They use different plants, some edible, but all ornamental. Their color profile tends to stay in the pale and pastel categories.
Typically, you’ll find a lot of plants in a cottage garden with dense spacing.
In order to have a successful garden, regardless of type, make sure you add pollinators and welcome insects and bugs along the way.
How do I make a cottage garden?
One of the signature traits of a cottage garden is a wild grown look that isn’t too ‘clean’ looking. For example, you should plant flowers and grasses along walking paths and at the edges of flower beds and allow them to spill over the sides. Let them be a little wild, because overly trimmed and pruned isn’t the look we’re going for.
1. Build Height and Dimension
You’ll definitely want to incorporate different types of plants and flowers to achieve that true cottage garden romantic feel. Use plants and flowers with different textures, heights, colors, and stems.
Incorporate plants such as Wisteria, that will hang beautifully and fill in space where ground covers can’t reach. Another traditional option? Foxgloves. These little beauties have tube-like flowers that come in a variety of colors.
Ornamental grass, like Fountain Grass or Zebra Grass, is great for breaking up floral bunches and filling in space and making sure that flower bed is covered.
Climbing vines are also a great addition, especially if you have a fence or arbor they can crawl over.
2. What plants go in a cottage garden?
There are no real rules about what flowers to use but to get that romantic cottage feel, it is helpful to use some traditional flowers. Definitely add some one your own favorites too. Add lots of lavender, daisies, phlox, peonies, delphinium and roses for the traditional patches.
Make sure your colors are varied and you’re spreading seeds seemingly haphazardly, at the very least avoid planting in straight lines. While I do love a variety of colors, my personal preference is to stay within the same color family such as all pastels, or shades of blues purples and pinks that seamlessly blend into one another.
Add ornamental grasses and easily maintainable bushes or shrubs as well to generate variety. Look for options that can grow and spill into each other.
3. Incorporate a Simple Water Feature
An elegant water feature that attracts birds, butterflies and bees will add the necessary element of water to your cottage garden. Aim for a low maintenance feature, like a bird bath! Find a free standing one with natural stone – as the purpose and goal of a cottage garden is to incorporate many natural elements.
A stone-like facade, or even one that is designed to look like stone will do. Gray-like tones will blend well into the lush pastel landscape that comes together.
You can also consider iron, or ceramic, but stay away from bright colors or modern shapes. Otherwise, resin is a great option as it’s lightweight and will be easy to maneuver. Try this affordable option!
4. Add Mulch
While the goal is to not see much of the flower bed, one would assume mulching wouldn’t be necessary. Some may opt to not mulch at all, which is fine, perhaps you have the vigor and time to manage the garden more so than others.
For those who don’t have the time or ability, mulching will help keep weeds at bay, keep the soil moist, and if you do end up with spots where soil can be seen, it’s going to make your garden look more pulled together.
5. Decorate with a Feature
White picket fences are a natural feature to add to a traditional garden. They make great backdrops and allow vines and roses to roam and spread. But white picket fences aren’t the only option.
Try using a vintage barn wood gate or a garden trellis. A trellis is the perfect place for climbing roses and wisteria to create a beautiful walk through for picture perfect gardens. Sometimes, a simple bench is the way to go.
A place to sit and soak in the beauty of your garden. Bird baths are also a fantastic way to attract different creatures!
6. Create a Plan
If you’re starting from scratch, it’s smart to start small. It’ll be easier to maintain and be sure which flowers do best for you and your vision. If you’re workable patch is a bit larger and you want to go for the gold, definitely have a vision in mind.
What do you imagine when you picture a perfectly crafted cottage garden? In addition to the above items, you’ll see a walking path of stone or grass. Otherwise, a perfectly manicured lawn or grass. Maybe a shapely border?
Whatever your ideal garden is, think about what option works best for you as this final touch isn’t necessarily your garden, but really brings the whole picture together.
7. Do whatever you want, it’s your Cottage Garden!
Again, there are no rules so feel free to test and experiment as you go. Every year your garden will be different so it’ll be a surprise year after year, even to you!
Plants and Flowers to plant in a Cottage Garden:
- Cone Flowers
- Zebra Grass
- Fountain Grass
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