This was a Guest Blog I wrote for Tree to My Door www.tree2mydoor.com where you will find the loveliest of Christmas presents!
‘How to Make A Cottage Garden’
First buy your cottage in the country, then plant lots of roses, lavender, foxgloves, aquilegia, hollyhocks, pinks and delphiniums and Hey Presto, Bob’s Your Uncle, Simples – you’ve got your cottage garden!
Well OK maybe it takes a bit more than that. For a start on slug infested wet clay soil delphiniums are going to struggle and that’s why we don’t have them. Hollyhocks like it dry too, so it’s taken a long time to encourage them, foxgloves that grow all over the old vegetable garden refuse to do the same in the cottage garden, and no matter how many pretty different aquilegia we buy, the same old blue and pink ones dominate. I have no idea why the pinks are unhappy.
But roses, we can do roses, they love our clay and we’ve chosen varieties such as Felicia Buff Beauty, Ellen Poulsen and The Fairy which go on and on and on and on all through the summer into the autumn. And if there is one flower everyone thinks of when they think ‘cottage garden’ it’s the rose.
So, with a good selection of roses happily flourishing, we have had to find other plants that while perhaps not immediately obvious as cottage garden plants are giving a very convincing performance as cottagey. Shrub potentillas, for example, like the roses flower all through the season. Being shrubs they stand up properly and are useful for propping up their floppy cousins the perennial potentillas and the equally lax but deeply gorgeous geums.
Santolinas and box balls give a little structure and act as good supporting acts for the flimsier plants either side and behind them. The santolinas can be cut into smart balls if you sacrifice the flowers, (which we actually don’t as it just seems mean).
Mingling a few herbs amongst the flowers also works well. We have lovely grey leaved sages and a lot of marjoram which, though quite good at collapsing, flowers late and insects love it. Sadly we are too cold and wet for rosemary and have killed off I think at least a dozen before finally accepting the fact.
Lavender struggles here too but I cannot have a garden without lavender so I now have it in pots down the front path which keep it drier in the winter and will also be rescue-able if the weather drops down to -18 as it did last winter.
The main thing I think is to get as much in there as you can, repeat the plants often, get some spring bulbs in early for spring colour and also for later on - a favourite of mine is the drumstick allium which flowers mid to late season and whose seedheads look presentable for a long time after too They do have a habit of ducking around a shrub rather than growing through it which is what I would prefer them to do, but nature will have her way. And she’s generous with it too providing desirable ‘weeds’ like poppies, campion and cowparsley – all of which are welcome in our garden.
A cottage garden should be billowing, frothy, lively. Have a little patience – fill in the time and gaps with annuals if you’re any good at them (I’m not) and deadhead like mad. Pinks, blues and mauves are my favourite colours in this garden, although the rose Evelyn May is bright orange and is one of the best performers we have. Make some rules, then break them! Have fun!