Charming Cottage Gardens

Cottage gardens have a vintage and charismatic charm that resonates with plant lovers. For some they symbolise memories of a grandparent or a drive through the English countryside.

The primary elements in cottage gardens are flowers and colour.

Modern day design is all about clean lines, with a less is more approach to plants, furniture and furnishings. Cottage gardens are the complete opposite, the more plants the better. The mix of plants are captivating with their myriad of old fashioned looking flowers, perfume and variety.

Part of the appeal is the unstructured, romantic and whimsical look, almost like Mother Nature created it herself. Once established, plants readily self seed and multiply, covering all available soil, becoming almost a blur of foliage and flowers.

The cottage garden style has been evolving for centuries; its origins are traced back to working class Victorian times, where the workers lived in cottages. At that time, growing food was the priority, as time went by, flowers started to creep into the vegetable garden along with chickens, fruit trees and herbs.

Creating a cottage garden

Cottage gardens don’t really have any rules, its up to the individual; they tend to suit those who don’t like to be restricted to plant choice, straight lines and formality. Some may say, a more casual approach, but on the other hand a well thought out and carefully planted cottage garden will have all year round seasonal interest and it can pretty much manage itself once planted.

Recycle and reuse

A cottage garden layout can blend in all sorts of features from picket fences to brick walls to pergolas and statues through to chicken coops, tee pees and seating areas. Old water tanks, farm implements, rustic furniture, corrugated iron, railway sleepers and old tools, like water cans all add to the charm.

Top tips for cottage gardens:

  • Don't be afraid to plant in every available plot of soil.
  • Group plants of a similar colour together.
  • Find room to place a seat in a secluded or tranquil corner.
  • Select plants that readily self seed and multiply, these will fill in any gaps as the seasons go by, leaving no room for weeds.
  • Avoid planting in straight lines and rows.
  • Scatter wild seed packets around in spring and autumn to see what pops up.

Typical cottage garden plants - here are just a few choices:

Regardless of what flowers you want to grow, you will only be successful if you choose flowers that suit your local climate.

  • Flowers – cosmos, delphinium, dahlia, foxgloves, cornflower, poppies, hollyhock, larkspur, marguerite daisy, lady’s mantle, lavatera, stock, penstemon, echinacea, gaura, salvia, and achillea
  • Wildflowers and herbs
  • Vegetables – silverbeet, kale, cavalo nero, runner beans
  • Shrubs – hydrangea, roses, cistus, lavender
  • Old fashioned roses
  • Climbers
  • Fruit trees, currants, brambles
  • Hedges – beech, escalonia, buxus, lonicera

Remember you don’t need to have a cottage like house to have a cottage garden; modern houses and apartments can blend in cottage elements into the garden by using low hedges as a border in behind which cottage plants can be grown.

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Charming Cottage Gardens Comments

  • On very good reason to have a flower-filled cottage garden is to attract insect life - bees, butterflies etc. The more fashionable gardens nowadays with their clean lines and bark covering, and the lack of old-fashioned flowers, may be easy care, but they aren't insect friendly. With the insects too come the birds, of course, which is a real plus. I love to stand in the middle of my flower "jungle" on a Summer's day with my eyes closed, smell the flowers and listen to the hum of myriad insects at work in them gathering and feeding on nectar.

    Elizabeth Amber

  • I love a cottage garden. I try to be structured but it never works for me. I love growing cuttings from other friends gardens.

    Rose innes

  • Part of our new garden is cottage style. We love it.

    Sophie

  • One of my favorite poems... I do floral bookmarks too... An hour in my garden Can bring me such rest, For when I am weary, Not feeling the best, I take my heat there for Solace and Mending and find Peace and Contentment and Comfort unending... about 1964 this one...enjoy

    Mary

  • Hi Mary, thank you for sharing this wonderful poem with us. I am sure this will be enjoyed by other gardeners. Thanks, Jenna - Tui Team.

    jenna

  • We are getting married in a couple of months and a cottage garden is what my garden is starting to look like,[which I'm starting to like] I like the idea of bees and butterflies in the garden so I have catered for them in my planting as well as having blue and white featuring for the flowers for eg blue mountain grasses in front with white candytuft and white cosmos behind, the odd mauve allysum poking thru inbetween...it all looks lovely swaying in the breeze, I just hope they will keep flowering till after April 2nd

    veronica and ian

  • Hi Veronica, your garden sounds wonderful. The cottage garden style is beautiful and we're sure it will look very effective on your big day. All the best. Thanks, Jenna - Tui Team

    jenna

  • Im starting a new garden and I want it to be a cottage garden

    Bessina Pehi

  • That's great Bessina, these tips will be a good help to get you started. All the best - Jenna, Tui Team.

    jenna

  • I have just started planting out a cottage gardenand what I enjoy about it is gathering plants from nurseries or getting cuttings from friends friends

    Ken

  • made a bloop in my poem...should be..I take my HEART there

    Mary

  • I have just finished building a small 'cottage' in red brick and am planning a cottage garden in what is a huge space. This will be my first garden from scratch so need all the help I can get, the website is really good and hopefully will help me get it right.

    Susan

  • A list like this of pet friendly plants would be awesome. I'm wanting to put in a cottage garden but so many cottage garden plants are poisones to dogs :-(

    Matthew

  • Thanks for this idea Matthew, we will definitely keep it in mind as an idea for an article. ^Tui Team

    jenna