Cottage gardens are defined by their lack of definition. Instead of straight, ordered rows, flowers grow in colourful, informal profusion. A variety of heights, species and colours contribute to the effect. Based on traditional English country gardens, cottage gardens are usually planted around a front or back door and include a mix of annuals, perennials, roses, bulbs, shrubs and flowering vines. Though cottage gardens may resemble a haphazard explosion of plants, they actually require careful planning and maintenance.
Annuals and Biennials
Annuals, or flowers that only live for one season, and biennials, plants that live for two years, can provide a variety of colour, height and texture. Choose species with different heights and bright blooms, such as begonias, black-eyed Susans, cornflowers, cosmos, hollyhocks, impatiens, larkspur, marigolds, poppies, sunflowers, sweet pea, and zinnias. Annuals and biennials act as "filler" plants to complete spaces without permanent plantings. Some annuals, such as alyssum, are self-sowing, which means they tend to return year after year.
Perennials, or flowers that bloom from year to year, form the foundation of your cottage garden. Choose self-sowing species, such as foxglove and sweet william. Other colourful perennials include anemones, aster, baby's breath, bell flowers, columbine, day lilies, delphinium, German iris, lupin, peonies, phlox and viola.
Flowering shrubs add structure and form to your cottage garden. Choose varieties that flower at different times of year for constant colour. Spring bloomers include chokeberries, lilacs, forsythia and viburnums. Summer bloomers include hydrangeas, Japanese spiraea, potentilla and smokebush. No cottage garden would be complete without that most famous of flowering shrubs, the rose. The Countryfarm Lifestyles website recommends varieties such as albertine and old-fashioned roses.
Spring and summer bulb flowers add a touch of colour to even the smallest space, and they'll come back year after year. Bulb plants prefer full sun. Try spring varieties such as crocus, daffodils, narcissus, Siberian squill and tulips. Summer bulbs include canna, dahlia, gladiolis and tuberous.
To complete the cottage garden effect, grow climbing, flowering vines on your home and any surrounding fences or walls. Good choices include clematis, honeysuckle, golden shower, jasmine, wisteria or climbing roses. Flowering vines such as honeysuckle and jasmine offer the added benefit of fragrance. Arbors add drama to gardens and provide perfect structures for climbers. Each variety requires specific soil and sun conditions. For example, clematis prefer shady spots but can tolerate full sun in northern climates, whereas jasmine can be planted in full sun. Flowering vines need support. Though many will climb directly up the side of your house, depending on the species, you may need to add extra supports in the form of a trellis that the plant's tendrils can grasp.