Redesigning the look of your garden is an exciting project to liven up your existing space and create a new atmosphere to enjoy for the summer.
Perhaps you’ve noticed that your garden could do with a little bit of a refresh, or maybe you have just moved into a place where the garden needs a total overhaul. Whatever the case, a cottage garden is a fantastic look that is so easy to replicate as well as maintain.
The epitome of English countryside, cottage gardens are a relaxed and informal style, with an emphasis on riotous planting schemes and quaint pathways and fencing.
They work perfectly in small spaces as well as large and are also great for unusually shaped gardens due to their informal style.
A classic cottage garden will surround the house from front to back, with plants spilling over walls and fencing and onto pathways.
In the past, cottage gardens have been reserved for quaint countryside dwellings, but their popularity in recent years has led to a surge of the style being implemented to complement any style of house, even the incredibly sleek and modern.
The informality of the style also allows you to spend less time working in the garden, and more time enjoying the splendour of your plants.
Plant Style Cottage garden
A really good place to start with any garden design is with your plant choices.
The plants found in a cottage garden will be an invasion on the senses. Strongly fragrant and vibrantly coloured blooms will tangle together amongst lush green foliage, whilst bees can be regularly found bumbling busily amongst the vast array of nectar-rich plants.
No cottage garden would be complete without an English rose or two, preferably a climbing or rambling, strongly fragrant variety such as ‘Madame Alfred Carrière’.
Go for a romantic creamy white, red or pink when choosing a rose and feel free to add more than one plant, luxuriantly tumbling over walls and fences and plugging any gaps in your beds and borders.
Other plants that are at home in a cottage garden include:
Foxglove: The tall unmistakable stems of foxglove with their speckled bell-shaped flowers are a delight for the bees and look especially striking rising up from the foliage below.
Lupins: Lupins are well-known foe their spectacular flower spires that bring wonderful height and a huge variety of colours to your beds and borders.
Hollyhock: pretty funnel shaped flowers appear amongst the jumbled foliage of hollyhock, which can be found in lots of colours to suit any planting scheme.
Wisteria: perfect for pergolas and archways, the luxuriously draping habit of wisteria is a fantastic feature in a cottage garden.
Did you know?
The Rose is the national flower of England. It was adopted as such after the War of the Roses (between houses of Lancaster and York) took place, and the two houses forged ties to create the Tudor Rose.
Peonies: the romantic peony is a classic cottage garden plant that offers beautiful double blooms in white, pink or red.
Sweet Pea: the frilly flowers of sweet pea are wonderful for adding lots of colour and fragrance and will scramble up pea sticks or other supports.
Whatever you choose to plant, just ensure your flowers are planted close to their neighbours, leaving no gaps in your beds and borders. Taller plants can be found at the backs of the borders with smaller plants and tumbling ground cover at the front. Most traditional cottage gardens will have crowded borders surrounding the house itself, with climbing plants at the back scrambling up the walls and framing doors and windows.
Pathways and Lawns
Cottage gardens, if large enough, tend to be divided into sections using functional stone pathways.
Traditionally, the small amount of land surrounding a house or cottage was used as a functional growing space to cultivate produce for the family who live there.
This meant the gardens were often enclosed and divided by pathways and fences.
Nowadays, the style is replicated using curving stone or gravel pathways to divide borders from each other and any small patches of lawn.
Always use curved or zig zag pathways in favour of straight edges.
Removing the lawn entirely in favour of more flower beds is definitely one way to go, but if you have a larger space you might want to keep some lawn sections in tact – just be sure to break up any large sections with planting and pathways.
Stepping stones are a great way to add come cottage charm to your lawn and join up different areas of the garden.
Always plant close to the path or lawn, with unruly, fragrant plants like lavender spilling over and softening the edges.
You can always try lawn alternatives such as chamomile or creeping thyme to enhance the cottage look and bring extra fragrance. To help fill your borders, try mixing fruit and vegetable plants such as redcurrants, rhubarb and gooseberries.
This is quite common in a cottage garden as they were originally designed to be mainly functional. Peas, beans and cabbages also work well inter-planted amongst your flowers.
Did you know?
It’s thought that cottage gardens originated during the Elizabethan period, and were mainly filled with potato plants and other vegetables until the late 19th century.
Fencing and Archways
Cottage gardens are often admired for their picturesque style, complete with picket fences and romantic archways.
As cottage gardens are often fairly small, the style of fence you choose will have a big impact on the look of the entire garden.
Try a pretty picket fence or a trellis drenched in climbers.
If your existing fence can’t be changed, you can always try painting it white or training some rambling roses all the way along for that extra burst of romantic colour to frame your cottage garden.
Rustic stone walls are also a good choice but again, just remember to embellish with pretty climbing plants, or perhaps a fan-trained or espalier fruit tree. Apple trees are a classic choice, but pear and cherry can also work well.
Archways and pergolas are often used as a feature in cottage gardens and are excellent for bringing shelter and privacy to your space.
A bistro table and chair set underneath a pergola draped in honeysuckle is the perfect place to enjoy a coffee in the mornings, whilst a rose adorned archway leading to a hidden corner will add mystery and romance to any cottage garden.
Don’t forget that every available space in a cottage garden is somewhere new to plant, especially around the house itself and up the walls. Planting climbers to surround your front door will help to tie your hose seamlessly to the rest of your garden, and incorporate it into the look as a whole.
Did you know?
Archways have been used in gardens since Ancient Rome, and were particularly popular in England during the Edwardian period.
Rustic features will lend a finishing touch to your cottage garden.
Old wheelbarrows, bikes, wagons, watering cans, buckets and carts all make great features, especially when filled with compost and used as quirky planters.
You can even make unique containers out of an old pair of wellies! Upcycled furniture such as ladders and sets of drawers also work great but just limit yourself to one or two feature items to avoid the jumble sale look.
Add ornaments such as staddle stones or stone finials haphazardly in your beds and borders if you like and allow moss and other creeping plants to envelop them in to the scheme.
This informal style of garden is great for a low maintenance space but remember to keep plants in check every now and again to prevent it from becoming too wild and unruly.
Don’t forget to add furniture to your space, old rustic styles in cast aluminium work much better here than modern rattan or wicker dining sets.
Did you know?
Staddle stones (mushroom shaped stone features) were originally used to raise structures such as granaries and beehives off the ground, protecting them from water damage.
Keep patio areas small and intimate, surrounded by fragrant plants with quaint table and chairs perhaps a bench for the perfect place to relax and enjoy the beauty of your garden.