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Cottage Gardens at their best

Updated: Sep 20, 2023

Cottage style gardens are like going into a sweet shop and choosing pick and mix! You can have it all with this type of garden – well nearly all!


Typically, Cottage Style Gardens are quintessentially part of a cottage style house where house and garden are so entwined that one can’t live without the other.



There may be brick paths, an arch, a pergola, white picket fences, a fruit tree, herbs sometimes even vegetables can be seen growing amongst in the plants.


There is always masses of colour with self-seeding perennials popping up in random places, jostling for space and feeling natural. It oozes charm, colour, and scent. Plants tumble and fall over walls and paths, there are roses, and climbers, hollyhocks and foxgloves, verbenas, nasturtiums, antirrhinums, salvias and penstemons, lavender, rosemary, geraniums and everything fits.


This type of garden looks like it can be hard work but it is the easiest because everything belongs and looks right. The high density of plants means that there are hardly any weeds and most of the work involved is about editing out rather than planting in. Sure, you can deadhead if you want to and spray and feed too but ideally you are encouraging the birds and bees and all the other pollinators to do what they need to keep the plants healthy.


The colour scheme is all embracing; the pinks, blues and whites mingle well with the orange and red nasturtiums and a splash of yellow in a hollyhock doesn’t need to be a horror to be avoided.


Cottage gardens are mostly planted for full sun situations – this means where there is sun for at least 6 hours in the day. The plants will more likely grow strong, upright and with less disease like mildew. There are some plants that will grow in the shadier situations like astrantias, phlox, sedums and so on and there are a few roses that don’t mind a bit of shade too.


We can tame this type of garden to suit our needs, making it less random and more rhythmic. This is a style choice because you may prefer the essence of a Cottage Style but with a bit more glamour. To achieve a bit more control, you could try restricting the colour palette keeping it to pinks, blues and whites. There are so many plants that will still fulfil the ethos some that are early to flower alongside the roses, some later that flower with the second flush of roses and others that come inbetween.



We can further tame the garden to include rhythm where groups of plants are repeated throughout the scheme. This can create a restful garden that can also be seen as contemporary, particularly if there is a lot of white.

Injecting some structure in the planting can further change it from the randomness of the traditional to a bit more modern in style. Think of adding some topiary in the way of clipped cones or evergreen lollipops. These green patches will illuminate the colour and of course bring some interest for the winter months.


Depending on the size of your garden you may consider removing the lawn altogether making the garden a colour zone with a winding path through it and a place to sit, an arch and a tree.




If this is too much what about creating a shape for the lawn and planting around it so that lawn is part of the scheme and not the left-over bit – this also generates a more modern look and with a bit more style. It may just be what you are after – if you edge the lawn in a metal edging strip and raise it making it higher than the borders then this further creates a statement.


If you enjoy a larger garden, do you have some axis that could enhance the space –statues can look wonderful on an axis or try a water feature or a destination like a special bench.





Whatever the size of the garden a tree is very important. It immediately creates a vertical interest and brings a sense of scale. If everything is on the same level the garden can be a little flat but with a tree that offers seasonal change with blossom, fruit, and leaf colour and sometimes with a special bark then you’ve started to create a garden with real dynamism. The tree can be a single stem one, or if you have the space it can be a multi-stemmed specimen.


Trees can also be used as screening –an unsightly view or even overlooking. If you have the budget, you could also consider pleached trees on one of your boundaries. Pleached trees are like hedges on stilts – where the branches are trained to run in straight horizontal lines. Try malus trees to retain the cottage garden look.


If it all seems too much and you just need a bit of help then why don’t you contact Susanne Boswell Garden Designs?


07900 312120

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