Think meandering paths and curved flower beds, and allow plants to cascade over the edges of paths, walls and fences
How to create a cute cottage garden brimming with flowers
Originating three centuries ago in rural England, cottage gardens are typified by a profusion of flowers planted in an informal, uncontrived way. Think meandering paths and curved flower beds, and allow plants to cascade over the edges of paths, walls and fences.
Cottage gardens should have a romantic feel, so avoid too many brightly coloured flowers. Opt instead for the faded softness of creams, pale pinks and blues, lemon, lavender and lilac. Balance the soft forms of flowery plants with some structural plants such as evergreen shrubs or those with lovely foliage like astelia or coloured flaxes.
If you select species that like to self-sow (produce seed that easily germinates and produces new plants) you will soon have plenty of flowers to fill your garden beds. Good self-seeders include alyssum, aquilegia, California poppy, calendula, cineraria, dietes, helleborus, lobelia and viola. Help nature along by scattering seed in areas you’d like to fill with more plants.
Use natural or vintage materials and accessories such as stone, recycled bricks, furniture with distressed paintwork, wicker chairs, rusted metal archways and urns. Avoid matching sets of anything. The cottage-garden look should be relaxed and laidback. Add crafted touches with handmade embroidered cushions on outdoor furniture like the flowery ones in the Claxtons’ garden.
Counterbalance the soft, loose shapes of cottage flowers with metal or painted timber obelisks, pyramidal conifers, arbours and wooden pergolas. Go for birdbaths, simple ponds and fountains rather than contemporary water features.
Up the wall
No cottage garden would be complete without at least one flowering climber threading its way around the verandah, pergola or over the garden shed. There are hundreds of gorgeous climbers, but for that traditional look, you can’t beat roses such as ‘Dublin Bay’ or ‘Wedding Day’. Evergreen climber options include our native clematis (Clematis paniculata), or the scented azores jasmine (Jasminum azoricum) and ever-popular star jasmine.
Choose containers made of weathered and/or mossy concrete or terracotta, soft pastel-coloured ceramic glazes, distressed painted metal or timber. Fill them with geraniums, alyssum, pansies and other traditional cottage flowers.
Words by: Monique Balvert-O’Connor. Photography by: Helen Bankers.