Imagine stepping into a cobbled courtyard with a chocolate box cottage and being greeted by the fragrance of lavender and honeysuckle, with lupins and hollyhocks gently swaying in the breeze. It's a classic, idyllic image that's often associated with a cottage garden. But how can you recreate this look and feel in your own garden?
Traditionally, cottage gardens weren't designed to simply look pretty. They were mainly comprised of planting areas with a focus on growing fruit and vegetables, alongside companion planting that often had practical purposes, such as medicinal value. But nowadays, we're looking to recreate the nostalgia of a cottage garden, rather than the practical aspects. Our gardens are a place for enjoyment and relaxation, rather than solely for growing food. So, it's more about using the favourite parts of cottage garden style rather than creating an authentic cottage garden.
If you're considering creating a cottage garden, start by choosing the right paving surfaces:
Old-style clay bricks are a popular choice for a traditional appearance, laid loose on an MOT type 1 and sand bed, and butted up close together. You can infill the gaps with sedum plants for a softer, more natural look.
Cobble setts also work well in a cottage garden, with occasional setts left out and infilled with house-leeks or alpine planting bedded into fine gravel.
Sporadic paving slabs using aged antique sandstone can also be used, with a mixed range of sizes set in small groups rather than across the entire area. The remaining area can be filled with small gravel, with intermittent alpine planting added for natural interest.
Brick edging or a scalloped edge can be used as a finishing touch to retain planting beds.
Cottage garden planting is often based on perennials and annuals, so it's important to ensure year-round interest by adding structural plants like lavender and rosemary, and repeating the theme throughout the garden. Honeysuckle and roses are also a traditional part of this garden style. When selecting roses, look out for old-fashioned varieties as they not only smell wonderful, but also have colour palettes that are more in keeping with an old-fashioned design. Moss roses are a good addition as their stems have a moss-like finish, which adds a soft and tactile feel. A rustic-style rose arch is perfect as an entranceway over a picket gate, and a climbing rose or honeysuckle adds to the overall aesthetic.
Experiment with different varieties of delphinium, lupins, and hollyhocks until you find a look you're happy with. Don't forget pot marigolds and nasturtiums as they are a must for cottage garden style and can also be used in salads.
Picket-style fencing is a great way to section off the garden. Alternatively, you can create a hazel stem lattice fence, which adds a higgledy-piggledy appearance that works wonderfully as a backdrop to cottage garden-style planting.
Add groups of terracotta pots in varying shapes and sizes, and plant them up with herbs. To add more interest, consider introducing other planting vessels, such as an old butler-style sink or a teapot, which can be planted up with winter pansies for a splash of colour. Willow cones are a great way to add sculptural interest to the garden. You can grow sweet peas up these in the centre of your planting beds.
Finally, water is always a welcome addition to any garden and is great for wildlife. Try to obtain an old washtub from a reclaimed yard, fill it with water and add some water plants such as a water lily or flag iris. Adding a bit of water to your cottage garden can create a peaceful and serene atmosphere.
Overall, creating a cottage garden requires a blend of careful planning and a relaxed approach. It's not about striving for perfection, but rather cultivating a sense of whimsy and nostalgia. By choosing the right paving, planting perennials and annuals, using traditional fencing and adding some sculptural interest and water features, you can create a charming and inviting space that captures the essence of a classic cottage garden.
So why not start planning your own cottage garden today? With a little creativity and patience, you can transform your outdoor space into a haven of beauty and tranquility, filled with the fragrance of lavender, the delicate blooms of roses and the soft rustling of hollyhocks. It's a wonderful way to connect with nature and enjoy the simple pleasures of life.
We hope our ideas provide you with inspiration. We would love to hear your ideas.