If you are a regular visitor to Southern Lagniappe, you know that when it comes to decorating, I tend to be a follower of the "Less is More" School of Decorating. I want our house to look "homey" and welcoming, but I don't like a lot of bold, contrasting colors and clutter. I prefer to use neutral tones and add color and interest with accessories and plants.
However, when it comes to landscaping, my taste runs completely in the opposite direction, and for a little bit, could cross that fine line between "tasteful" and just plain old "tacky." I love whimsical "yard art," bottle trees, statuary, bold colored gazing balls, and rusty old garden carts, metal chairs, and wheelbarrows. I love a natural looking garden, with wildflowers and old-fashioned "passalong" flowers and plants like day lilies, irises, and Mexican Petunias. This style of garden is called a "Cottage Garden," and since I would love to have one someday, I thought it would be fun to take a closer look at what goes into creating a cottage garden.
First of all, I don't think you can have a cottage garden without a PICKET FENCE!
Here are some more ideas and guidelines I found to keep in mind if you want to create your own Cottage Garden:
Walkways should be small and informal, and made of natural materials such as gravel, wood chips, or stone. Old bricks are also nice for walkways and borders.
Pathway materials should also be irregular, and ground cover can be planted between them to give an established look.
Edge plant beds and walkways with old bricks or field stone to maintain the casual look.
Rather than pruning plants into geometric shapes and away from pathways, let them grow naturally to overhang (but not engulf) the paths.
Plant flowers in small groups, but don’t be afraid to mingle them. Look for pleasing color combinations and make sure to plant smaller plants toward the front so they’ll be visible without having to prune your larger plants.
Plants to Use in a Cottage Garden:
Along with "passalong plants" [plants that grow easily and can be traded and shared with family, friends, and neighbors], plant annuals for seasonal color and perennials in balance so that you get nice color all year round. Shrubs will add structure and stability to the garden, and small fruit trees that flower add color, as well as producing fruit. Use creeping vines on trellises to give your garden more privacy and vertical enclosure.
Old-fashioned blooms work best in a Cottage Garden rather than fancy tropical hybrids.
Some popular choices include:
Cottage Garden Furniture Materials:
Wicker (white painted pieces in particular)
Distressed, Painted Wood
Brightly Painted Metal Chairs, or Adirondack Chairs in Bold Colors
Accessory Ideas for your Cottage Garden include:
A cluster of birdhouses, painted and distressed
An old section of fence or a window frame used as a trellis
Old watering can or a wooden wheelbarrow could be used as a planter
An old wooden bench or swing at the end of a meandering pathway
One reason I like Cottage Gardens is because you are only limited by your imagination as far as what you put into your garden. While all the elements listed above are commonly found in a cottage garden, don’t get caught up in trying to follow “the rules.” Plant what you like and use materials and accessories you have on hand. It can be anything you want it to be -- so be bold and whimsical and, above all, have fun!
I may even add a couple of Pink Flamingos in my garden to keep Harry our Blue Heron company. Would that be tacky?