English cottage gardens have a very romantic feel to them. The look may seem haphazard but is actually planned. To choose cottage garden plants, think of tall flowering perennials, self seeding annuals and hardy biennials to give your garden just the right look.
A cottage garden has a very distinct style that throws formality out the window. A couple of aspects of this style of gardening are lots of flowers and dense planting. The beauty of the garden comes from charm and grace rather than ornate and grand structures and design. Many cottage gardens also incorporate edible plants along with flowers as part of the overall design.
My husband is English and my mother had an Irish background, so I’ve had plenty of exposure to the beauty of the cottage style of gardening and and have planted most of my gardens with this in mind.
Choosing Cottage Garden Plants
While a cottage garden may LOOK somewhat unplanned, it does take some forward thinking about choosing the right plants to get the desired informal look. All types of plants, from annuals to perennials, (and everything in between!) can be candidates for a cottage garden. Arbors, benches, walls and fences are all part of the look of a cottage garden. Flowers are meant to interact with the structures.
Most cottage gardens have an overall floral look to them, even though edible landscaping is increasing in popularity as more and more people are concerned about the quality of fruits and vegetables in stores. Seating areas are a common item in this type of garden.
If your style of gardening is informal, a cottage garden may be just the right look for you. It has less rules to follow since a haphazard look is one of the key elements, so you don’t need to worry about graduations in height, conscious design and spacing concerns.
Advantages of Cottage Gardens
Other than the romantic look of a cottage garden, there are several other benefits as well:
- You can accomplish a nice look on a small budget.
- Cottage Gardens can be grown in small yards.
- Changes are easy to make if you change your mind, and can be done quickly.
- You don’t have to spend your weekends pulling weeds since the dense planting style seems to keep weeds at bay.
Cottage Garden Plants
I’ve divided my list of cottage garden plants into four categories: perennials, biennials, annuals and bulbs. Try to choose a few of each category to get long lasting color and easy care all season long. I also like to choose shrubby plants, climbing plants (for arbors and mailboxes and fences) and border plants.
Perennials for Cottage Gardening
The beauty of perennials in a cottage garden is that you plant them once and they continue to flower for years to come. Perennials also increase as they mature, so they will fill in spaces in your garden spot quickly. The list of perennials seems endless and most will do well in an Cottage Garden. Some of my favorites are:
- Bee Balm
- Bleeding Heart
- Coral Bells
- Roses (both traditional and climbing roses)
- Shasta Daisy
- Balloon Flowers
- Baptisia Australis
Biennials to incorporate in a Cottage Gardens
Biennials normally grow for a couple of years and then die back. One advantage of growing them is that they are normally good self seeders, so once you have some of them, you are likely to have them in years to come. Some of my favorites are:
Annuals for English Style Gardens
There is nothing quite like annuals for a show of color in an English style garden. They put all their energy into flowering for one season, so they give instant color and size in your garden quickly. They can easily be grown from seed, as well, so they are an inexpensive way to get a lot of plants. These are my favorite annuals for Cottage Gardens:
- Sweet Peas
- Sweet alyssum
- Dahlias (can be perennial depending on your zone.) I have to dig them up or replant each here here in zone 7b.
Bulbs to use in a Cottage Garden
Most bulbs that will grow in traditional gardens also do well in Cottage Gardens. Generally bulbs are perennials and will return each year. Choose both tall and lower growing varieties to give your garden the haphazard look and choose early, middle and late blooming types to give a long season show of color.
Early Blooming Bulbs:
- Snow Drops
Late Spring and Summer bloomers:
If you plant a combination of perennials, biennials, bulbs and annuals in your cottage garden, you will have the best of all worlds and a succession of flowering plants from early spring until late into the fall. What are your favorite cottage garden plants?
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