It was another great Love Your Garden episode for series 4 – here’s what we learned from the show this week. Plus find out how to create that cottage garden look at home!

1 Cottage gardens are not old-fashioned

The finished garden for episode 8 of Love Your Garden

Many people think of cottage gardens as rambling and overgrown. But you can create a modern version by focusing more on the design. Think about the shapes in the garden and use curves and flowing lines to create walkways through the space.

Then you just need some flowers! Design beds and borders using the ‘tall at the back’ rule, or ‘tall in the centre’ for an island shape. Flower beds should be densely planted. Keep it low-maintenance with self-seeding varieties that come up again and again.

Put tall shrubs, trees and climbers at the back. Then create a mix of plants with big full flowers, round flowers, flat heads and strong, upright spires. Instead of building clumps of flowers, plant arcs that will create drifts. Finally, plant low-growing foliage and ground cover at the front.

Get the look

We mixed plants that gave a traditional cottage feel but that also give year-round interest. These included nepeta, verbascum, helenium, alchemilla mollis and nicotiana sylvestris.

2 There’s a rose for every situation

It’s the classic British plant, and every garden should have one. Cottage gardens suit traditional hybrid tea roses, which have big cabbage-like blooms. However if you buy a shrub rose, make sure it’s a modern variety as they are bred for repeat flowering.

For a more modern look, try a floribunda rose which has open flowers. Climbers and ramblers look great growing up walls and fences and across arches and pergolas. You can also buy smaller patio roses, which thrive in containers as well as flower beds. They are ideal for balcony gardens too.

3 You can grow veg in the shade

Love Your Garden 2014 wooden planter

Full sun is not always necessary for great crops – just choose varieties that thrive in cooler conditions. Salad greens are ideal because they are less likely to bolt (go to seed) in the shade. Try kale, cress, endive, spinach, leaf lettuce and mustard greens.

You can also grow traditional veg crops like beans, peas, beetroot, radish, Swiss chard and broccoli in the shade. Cooler beds are ideal for forcing crops like rhubarb under cloches too. You can harvest the young, bright pink stems when they first appear, or leave them to develop fully.

4 The lawn needs TLC too

You can have the lush green lawn of your dreams. In spring, just before you cut it for the first time, rake it to remove moss and dead grass. Then set the mower blades to their highest setting to avoid scalping the lawn.

Now reseed any bare patches. Prick over the soil with a fork, add some fresh topsoil and apply an even layer of grass seed. Cover with sifted soil and water in.

Feed the lawn twice a year, in spring to encourage new growth and in autumn to help roots develop. If you use a granular feed and it doesn’t rain for a few days, water it in with a hosepipe. Et voila! Grass heaven.

5 Plants will thrive in the shade of trees


It’s tempting to leave the soil around trees bare, as plants will have little light, moisture or nutrients. But as long as the soil isn’t riddled with tree roots, some plants can cope with those conditions.

We used a cotoneaster shrub, which has lovely white flowers in early summer and deep red berries in autumn and winter. Hypericum calycinum, known as the rose of Sharon, is another great spreading shrub with yellow flowers.

For big flowers, try hydrangeas. Then add low-growing ground cover like hardy geraniums (macrorrhizum is a good choice) and lamium maculatum ‘White Nancy’.

They might need a little help to get established, but after that they can be left to their own devices.

Looking for the garden features? Check out the Love Your Garden blog for our amazing suppliers and the products we used.