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English cottage garden

Updated on August 17, 2014

Whats makes a cottage garden

The English cottage garden is basically an informal collection of traditional flowers and plants. The flowers are usually native species that will attract bees to pollinate crops and to make honey. Herbs and salad crops are grown in a cottage garden as well . It is believed that the cottage garden first appeared way back in the 1340's after the black death had killed a vast number of labourers in England. This made large areas of land hard to cultivate, so the households had to get what they needed from smaller areas of land, so the cottage garden was born. As well as the plants, fruit trees, bee hives, livestock and a well, were all features of the cottage garden. Of course these days we don't have the need for some of these things, so the cottage garden has developed into an informal collection of native plants. The cottage garden these days have come to include plants that were not native to England but are firm favorites. Planted in swathes and including flowers for height, texture and colour, the cottage garden is now a careful thought out design.

Cottage garden path

The path should be soft and meander through the garden
The path should be soft and meander through the garden

Seating

Seating should compliment the garden and snuggle into the plants
Seating should compliment the garden and snuggle into the plants

Features of a cottage garden

Appart from the plants a cottage garden has several features in common, the main one being a path. The path is the spine of the garden, but unlike a spine, it is best to have a path that curves and meanders. Why? Well the path should take you on a journey of discovery, wandering through the plants. Curves also serves to reflect the softness of the planting. The path of course should go somewhere, to seating or an arbour. Somewhere where the garden can offer a different view of the cottage garden. At no point should all the garden should be seen. This offers the feeling of wanting to travel and explore. Seating of course should compliment the garden, with soft lines and natural materials. It doesn't have to be expensive a couple of sturdy planks on some bricks can do the job very well. The seating looks best snuggled into the planting offering the senses all the garden can give. If you are more ambitious then an arbor can offer the garden a wow factor as you travel through the garden. usually covered with climbing roses, the arbour offers tranquillity and a design feature to display flowers on a different level. A well placed bird bath, statue or water feature all adds to the garden.

Cottage Garden design

Planting the cottage garden

Planting in swathes softens the look of a cottage garden
Planting in swathes softens the look of a cottage garden

The plants

To plant your plants in a cottage garden and to keep the design soft, it is best to plant them in curved shapes or swathes. To do this get a skipping rope or string and then lay it on the ground making a squashed circle. Inside this shape either prepare the soil for seeds or plant your plants. When you have done this remove the rope/string and do another shape next to it and plant with another flower. If, when your seeds germinate, you have a space, fill it with a bedding plant. Another thing to consider is a succession of flowering. Your aim is to have plants flowering throughout the growing season. You may also want to consider a plants that can add another dimension to the garden with an unusual texture, like spiky seed heads or leaves. So what plants to choose? The choice of course is yours but there are a few essentials that make a cottage garden. The first is Roses. Roses are the framework to the cottage garden and also Lavender. These shrubs will last for years, when treated right.

Roses

Roses are a must for the cottage garden
Roses are a must for the cottage garden

An early bloomer

Aquilegia also known as Granny's bonnets
Aquilegia also known as Granny's bonnets

Autumn Joy

This Sedum will attract butterflies into October
This Sedum will attract butterflies into October

A mixture of common garden flowers

A mixture of flowers planted in a random way, produces the typical English cottage garden look
A mixture of flowers planted in a random way, produces the typical English cottage garden look

Suggested Flowers

I would like to suggest a few of my favorite flowers, the ones that I have had success with in my garden.

  • Sweet peas-So easy to grow from seed. Start them on a sunny windowsill in March/April, in individual pots. When they are about 10 cm high harden them off and plant where they are to flower. They will need support. The scent from sweet peas are divine.
  • Lupins- Tall spires of color that softly sway in the breeze. Collect the seed after blooming to keep your garden well stocked with this elegant bloom.
  • Night scented stock-easy to grow from seed, planted outside where you wish them to bloom. Beautiful perfume in the evenings.
  • Bleeding hearts- One of the earliest blooms, with delicate feathery foliage.
  • Cosmos- available in soft pinks and whites, the blooms are striking but the foliage soft.
  • cornflowers- available in soft blues, cornflowers are planted from seed straight into the garden.
  • Snapdragons- soft spires of blooms that attract butterflies.
  • Busy Lizzie's- cushions of flowers that bloom from may-September. Very easy to take a cutting from in the autumn and over-winter as an indoor plant, to be re-planted next spring.
  • Delphiniums- Planted at the back of a boarder, they offer height and the perfect backdrop for your other blooms. Mostly available in blue, a soft subtle addition.
  • Aquilegia or granny's bonnets, an early bloom that has that old fashioned charm.
  • Sedum- an autumn version that attract butterflies even in September and October


Plants to go careful with

Some of the plants in a cottage garden has some things that you have to be aware of-

  • Nasturtiums- They re-seed themselves with a vegence, and will come up all over the place for years.
  • Mint- Every cottage garden needs herbs but mint must be contained. They spread on runners under the ground and will swamp the garden in no time.
  • Foxgloves- they are a traditional plant that is poisonous- not to be grown if you have children
  • Laburnum- dazzling yellow and green tree that cascade it's foliage to the ground, but the seeds are very poisonous 

Grown from seed

Poppies and Marigolds all grown from seed gathered the previous year
Poppies and Marigolds all grown from seed gathered the previous year

Comments

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    • Movie Master profile image

      Movie Master 

      7 years ago from United Kingdom

      Hi Jayjay40, nice to meet you and visit the cottage garden, you have all my favourite flowers here, really enjoyed my visit, thanks.

    • jayjay40 profile imageAUTHOR

      jayjay40 

      8 years ago from Bristol England

      I 'd love a cuppa tea with you, you sound like fun. Thanks for your very kind comments, see you soon.

      love Julie

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 

      8 years ago

      ...like that Vera Lynn song - ....until we meet again!

      ...your mum and dad and my mum and dad lived during that time .....

    • epigramman profile image

      epigramman 

      8 years ago

      so nice to meet your acquaintance - and tell you that I too have an english cottage garden in my backyard in Ontario, Canada which is our summer here - finally after a long cold winter. I also have the biggest pond in the world in front of me (100 feet or so across the lakeshore road) in the form of Lake Erie - lol lol

      ..you write lovely hubs and you sound like a lovely person - we must get together for a cuppa tea some day!

    • jayjay40 profile imageAUTHOR

      jayjay40 

      8 years ago from Bristol England

      My Delphiniums were eaten by the dreaded slug, they somehow got across the crushed egg shells. However my foxgloves grow like weeds. Thanks Dolores for the comment and I'm glad you like the cottage garden as much as I do

    • Dolores Monet profile image

      Dolores Monet 

      8 years ago from East Coast, United States

      jayjay, I can't think of a prettier place than a cottage garden. I had some foxgloves growing but they have somehow disappeared. Had trouble with Delphiniums too, but I think that they like alkaline soil. It's gardening season again, and I appreciate the inspiration!

    • jayjay40 profile imageAUTHOR

      jayjay40 

      8 years ago from Bristol England

      Thanks oliversmum for the kind comment, I'm glad you enjoyed the hub.

    • oliversmum profile image

      oliversmum 

      8 years ago from australia

      jayjay40. Hi. What a beautiful hub, that has given me some wonderful ideas, I absolutely love cottage gardens, The photo's are delightful, could almost imagine myself walking through them. Loved reading it. Thank you so much for sharing it with us. :) :)

    • jayjay40 profile imageAUTHOR

      jayjay40 

      8 years ago from Bristol England

      Thanks azlynnakohl for the very nice comment, it is much appreciated. I am glad that you enjoyed the hub

    • azlynnakohl profile image

      azlynnakohl 

      8 years ago

      This was very informative...and just enchanting to read. I adore flowers and herbs. I have worked as a florist for 25 years. I really loved the hub and will be reading more of you. Thank you for sharing.

      Az

    • jayjay40 profile imageAUTHOR

      jayjay40 

      8 years ago from Bristol England

      Thanks ladyjane1 for the comment I am glad you enjoyed the hub

    • ladyjane1 profile image

      ladyjane1 

      8 years ago from Texas

      Very nice hub. When I think of these cottages I think of a fairytale house compared to homes here in America. The cottages and gardens were lovely. Your presentation was superb.

    • Super Chef profile image

      Super Chef 

      8 years ago from Around the world

      Your very welcome jayjay

    • jayjay40 profile imageAUTHOR

      jayjay40 

      8 years ago from Bristol England

      Thanks for the comment Super chef,nice to hear from you

    • Super Chef profile image

      Super Chef 

      8 years ago from Around the world

      Nice Hub jayjay well done you!!!

    • jayjay40 profile imageAUTHOR

      jayjay40 

      8 years ago from Bristol England

      You are very kind DAL, thanks for the comment

    • D.A.L. profile image

      Dave 

      8 years ago from Lancashire north west England

      jayjay, another of your enjoyable hubs I found great pleasure I reading. Thank you

    • jayjay40 profile imageAUTHOR

      jayjay40 

      8 years ago from Bristol England

      Thanks very much for the kind comments 2patricias, I mentioned slug control in my gardening with rubbish hub, but it's a good idea to do a hub about it. thanks for the idea

    • 2patricias profile image

      2patricias 

      8 years ago from Sussex by the Sea

      This hub is a brilliant example of the right way to write a hub about gardening. It has a title with wide appeal, not seasonal, good photos and useful information. On top of that it is genuinely interesting. We have had success with all the plants you include except delphiniums, which slugs tend to eat. Maybe you could write a hub about slug control? It anyone could do that well, you could.

    • jayjay40 profile imageAUTHOR

      jayjay40 

      8 years ago from Bristol England

      Thanks 2uesday, yes it is surprising how many plants have a growing ambition to take over the world

    • 2uesday profile image

      2uesday 

      8 years ago

      I enjoyed a nice to stroll thro your cottage garden hub jayjay. Good reminder about foxgloves and laburnum being poisonous to children. I have nasturtiums - but I must be lucky as they do n't seem as keen to take over as yours.However there are a couple of plants that I planted in the past that should have had a warning on about how they have ambitions to take over the garden. Nice to read this hub.

    • jayjay40 profile imageAUTHOR

      jayjay40 

      8 years ago from Bristol England

      Thanks reddog for the comment- lucky you with the Nasturtiums I curse the day I planted mine about 5 years ago. Funny old world isn't it

    • reddog1027 profile image

      reddog1027 

      8 years ago from Atlanta, GA

      Thanks jayjay for a lovely and informative hub. I wished nasturtiums reseeded in my garden. I always plant tons. Also, thanks for the heads up on plants that could be dangerous.

    • jayjay40 profile imageAUTHOR

      jayjay40 

      8 years ago from Bristol England

      Thanks ethel for the comment, It says a lot about the pupils if you plant a laburnum in the playground-LOL

    • jayjay40 profile imageAUTHOR

      jayjay40 

      8 years ago from Bristol England

      Hi Bristol Boy, not singing 'drink up the cider ?' LOL Thanks for the comment

    • ethel smith profile image

      Eileen Kersey 

      8 years ago from Kingston-Upon-Hull

      It always used to puzzle me why deadly laburnum was planted in school yards. Perhaps there was methiod in their madness.

      I did not know any off the background to Cottage Gardens. Thanks you for the info.

    • BristolBoy profile image

      BristolBoy 

      8 years ago from Bristol

      Very good article and it even got me singing 'English Country Garden!'.

    • jayjay40 profile imageAUTHOR

      jayjay40 

      8 years ago from Bristol England

      I'm glad you enjoyed a flavor of the cottage garden, they are such a pleasure, as is your comments-thanks

    • scarytaff profile image

      Derek James 

      8 years ago from South Wales

      very nice, jayjay

    • Hello, hello, profile image

      Hello, hello, 

      8 years ago from London, UK

      I love cottage gardens. I don't know what it is but there somethings homely there. Thank you for a wonderful hub.

    • lmmartin profile image

      lmmartin 

      8 years ago from Alberta and Florida

      Lovely walk through a cottage garden and the first photo! -- heck of a cottage! Thanks so much and I'm sure we all wish we lived in a lush climate where such things were possible -- but many of us don't. We'll have to settle for traveling your hub instead. Lynda

    • jayjay40 profile imageAUTHOR

      jayjay40 

      8 years ago from Bristol England

      Thanks guys for your comments, they are much appreciated

    • World-Traveler profile image

      World-Traveler 

      8 years ago from USA

      I really enjoy gardens and your post has provided me with some very nice new ideas. Thanks!

    • RTalloni profile image

      RTalloni 

      8 years ago from the short journey

      Very nice article and I am glad to learn that foxglove is poisonous. Thanks.

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