Wednesday, March 9, 2011

The Charm of a Cottage Garden

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!

And it doesn't have to be white — it could be PINK:

Or even a RAINBOW of colors!
(My favorite — I told you my taste borders on "tacky")

Next, you need to define entry points and seating areas, and that's where arches, arbors, gates, and trellises come into play. I love the idea of meandering walkways leading off the main path to little outdoor "rooms" with benches or chairs, where you can "sit a spell" and enjoy Nature.
Above photo borrowed from     

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:
Bleeding Heart
Coral Bells
Sweet Peas
Morning Glories
Cottage Garden Furniture Materials:
Wicker (white painted pieces in particular)
Wrought Iron
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?

Sources: Rafter Tales and Southern Living


racheld said...

Oh, the PERFECT getaway from this rainy day!! I just love all of these---the little retreats, and the secret paths, and the colors----couldn't you just nibble on that candy-colored fence?

And the names of flowers, especially the old-fashioned ones. In one of my journals, there's a list of about a hundred, some of which I've never seen, or only heard of in Austen or Alcott or Scott, or from the old ladies of my childhood---the romantic names, the medicinal names, the names which conjure color and shape, with the charm of the syllables and the words.

I made it one endless Winter, and it kept me bouyed until Spring.

I hope you are all doing well, and I know these photos BRIGHT you as they do your lucky audience.

Jenni said...

I just can't resist a cottage garden...

Thanks for sharing some "Spring-y" Joy with us today!


Deb said...

love all the picket fences...your garden should be a place for what every makes you what you should do...who cares what others think....

Merisi Vienna said...

No way would a couple of pink flamingos be tacky! :-)

Love all your cottage garden dreams, thank you.