The cottage garden concept is pulled from the 500-year-old history of English cottages that were surrounded by a wild array of scented flowers, herbs and vegetables to sustain the family, sell at the market or provide medicinal benefits. The best perennials for your cottage garden may be those plants that are available in your area and meet your landscape design for height and colour.
Tall perennial plants, those reaching heights greater than 3 feet, can include Delphinium (Delphinium) with its blue spike of flowers, foxglove (Digitalis) with blooms of red, yellow or white, or purple coneflower (Echinacea) with its daisy-like blooms. Mix in shorter plants like tickseed (Coreopsis) that offers small pink or yellow daisy-like blooms, pinks (Dianthus) with their carnation-like blooms, coral bells (Heuchera) with red, white or pink blooms, Shasta daisy (Leucanthemum) with a yellow centre surrounded by white petals, or any colour or variety of perennial geranium.
Group fragrant flowers near a walkway or window for the ultimate enjoyment. Scented perennial flowers can include sun-loving plants like Madonna lily with its large white trumpet-shaped blooms, pink cheddar (Dianthus gratianopolitanus) with pink flowers, or Russian sage (Perovskia atriplicifolia) with lavender blooms. For shade or part shade, consider tall garden phlox (Phlox paniculata) with pink, red or lavender blooms, long blooming catmint (Nepeta spp.) with pink or lavender blooms, or queen-of-the prairie (Filipendula rubra) with pink or white blooms. Roses of any variety can also play a part in a fragrant cottage garden.
Herbs for cooking, like chives (Allium spp.), oregano (Origanum spp.), rosemary (Rosmarinus spp.), sage (Salvia spp.) and thyme (Thymus spp.) are perennial plants that could be grown in a cottage garden. For fragrance that can be clipped to enjoy indoors as potpourri, grow herbs like lavender (Lavendula spp.), mint (Mentha spp.) or lemon verbena (Aloysia triphylla). All these perennials can be grown in full sun.
Vines for an arbor, trellis or obelisk might include clematis (Clematis) with many options for bloom colours like red, blue, white, pink and bi-colours. Climbing hydrangea (Hydrangea anomala subsp. petiolaris), which can grow up a wall or along a stone or brick fence, has white blooms. English Ivy (Hedera helix) provides a dark background for flowering perennials. Climbing or rambling roses (Rosa sp.) can offer fragrance, flowers for cutting, and either vertical or horizontal colour to a cottage garden.