Creating a Cottage Garden From Scratch

As someone who grew up with a love of the outdoors and gardening it was no great surprise that when I was “grown up” and house hunting a good sized garden was high on my list. However, what the estate agent thought was large I thought was tiny.

I wanted a good outdoor space to create my ideal cottage garden. I have been gardening and interested in plants for as long as I can remember. A very early memory is being given a packet of polyanthus seeds by my grand mother who helped me sow and nurture them. They grew to a massive size and the story is often recounted by my also garden loving father.

As a child I was allocated an area of my fathers garden to look after and grow whatever I wanted. I remember growing a wide range of flowers and having a herb garden. Many of the plants are still thriving today.

My father is still a keen gardener although his area of expertise is the lawn. In fact it is an obsession. Being a golfer each blade of grass stands to attention and is manicured throughout the year. Personally I see lawns as wasted planting space.

Having graduated from this area in my fathers garden to my own, I was excited rather daunted at the prospect of a blank canvas. I expect there are many gardeners out there who would relish the opportunity to start from scratch.

As someone who usually rushes into things, I planned, researched, re planned and mulled many ideas over. What was really essential to me was that the garden had year round interest and the boundaries were hidden. I wanted to create my perfect cottage garden.

I have a strong aversion to structure, routine and straight lines in a garden. This aversion also includes soil and boundaries. I like to hide all evidence of garden boundaries so the garden can look as natural as possible. Covering the soil also has the benefit of suppressing weeds. Order, a place for everything and everything in its place is so unnatural and is not my gardening philosophy. Lots of billowing flowers, verticals, garden rooms and year round interest are order of the day.

I aim to mimic or imitate nature as far as possible. I simply adore the sight of plants mingling into each other, jostling for position like fans at a rock concert. This way the garden has texture, colour and form throughout the seasons.

Evergreen shrubs form the structural back bone of the garden with trees and arches providing height. All shrubs and trees are under planted with spring and summer bulbs and many have clematis growing through them, timed to flower before the leaves unfurl. The snowdrops are the first brave little flowers to emerge about February. I welcome the sight of their delicate flowers which have a delicate honey fragrance. So heart warming in those bitter winter months where little else is brave enough to flower.

I am a strong believer that a plant needs to provide interest for more than just one season. This is vital in a small garden. One of my favourite trees the Coral Bark acer, acer sangokaku, has wonderful red stems as its name suggests. This superb tree has the most delicate green leaves in early spring maturing to dark green. Finally in the autumn it erupts into vibrant yellow as it sings autumns finale. For me this tree gets better with age.

I must confess that I am a bit of a plantaholic. Buying, planting and sowing are all gardening pleasures. In my garden I have four distinct areas but they are all connected by arches,small paths and subtle nooks between plants. The garden was planned to appear unplanned, a garden to wander and explore. Each are has a slightly different feel but there is year round interest be that from frost on the remnants of last years sunflowers and perennial flowers,spiders webs glinting with dew in autumn with the fireworks of Rudbeckia, Sedum, Echinacea and acer foliage.

Spring is glowing with a wide variety of Daffodils,Tulips, Fritillaries and of course the cherry blossom. I adore cherry blossom especially when viewed against a clear blue spring sky.

Summer is my favourite time of year. My favourite flowers Sweetpeas are in full bloom. Vases of their sweet fragrance fill most rooms in my house. My other weakness are Roses. My garden is full of Roses, from ramblers to hybrid teas. I use Roses to climb walls,fences,shrubs and trees. I adore fragrant Roses especially if they are climbers or ramblers. There is nothing better in the summer than sitting under an arch of Roses with a glass of wine in the evening soaking up the scent. I also love the shape and form of Roses. From the tight bud to the full open bloom I find them exquisitely beautiful. Roses also fill my home. They also fill a large border outside my house which is planted with spring and summer bulbs. The border billows in high summer with fragrant Aquilegia, Penstemons and Lavender, an essential plant for me in the garden and romance. To me its perfect.

My large border is cottage garden heaven. It has no rules, plants are allowed to self seed freely, plants are divided, if something is not working or thriving it is removed as there are so many plants I love its like a games of swapsies. This border has trees for the vertical, evergreen shrubs, lots of bulbs and carpets of flowers from Forget-me-nots in Spring, Aquilegia, Peonies, Sweet Peas, Larkspur, Calendula, Poppies in a variety of colour, Alliums, Nemesia, Lavender, Scabious, Verbascum and Verbena. These flowers are allowed to self seed and thus follow the seasons. I leave the seed heads for birds and insects, the rest germinate and I enjoy the following year. I simply adore my flower borders as its all about feminine pastel shades and whites which simply glow in the evening light.

I adore flowers and growing them for the house is such a pleasure. There is no secret to successful growing.

Trees are something that I feel are essential in the garden. I have two fruit trees and the rest are ornamental. I have trees for the colour of their bark and trees for Autumn colour. The great thing about trees is that the add instant height and interest. Trees are also fantastic for growing Clematis, Wisteria or Roses through the branches.

This year I decided to enter Warminster in Bloom. I entered for fun and won first prize! I was so thrilled that my cottage garden had won despite being only three years old. Lets hope next year the weather doesn’t wreak such havoc on the garden.

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