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Cottage Garden Design

There is something romantic about cottage garden design. Tendrils of vines frame pathways that lead to fragrant mounds of daisies and old-fashioned roses. Sweet peas bring their spice and color to a picket fence. Tall foxgloves and delphiniums overlook the smaller specimens with majestic grace.





Maybe a bench beckons you to sit for a moment and enjoy the sheer abundance of the garden. You may be surprised to see vegetables or fruit tucked in among the exuberant floral display.

Despite the fact that cottage gardens began because families needed to grow food and medicinal herbs in every square inch available, what usually springs to mind is a colorful splash of overgrown flowers.

Designing a Cottage Garden

Regardless of why you want to create your own cottage garden, it may be easier than you think. Cottage garden design isn't rigid like formal gardens. By planting your favorite old-fashioned plants and adding a few structural elements, you're already well on your way! Sure, you say, as you look out at that broad expanse of lawn in the back of your house. But how do you get it from flat and green to textured and colorful?

The first thing you need is a cottage. Don't have one? That's okay, you can still have a cottage-style garden. If there is anything you can do that will make your house fit the garden style, you may want to consider it. Maybe add a trellis or two, shutters or something else that makes your house seem more like a cottage.

Cottage Gadren Structures

cottage garden design with gate You need some structures in the garden. They should have something in common with your house and add some stability and structure to the design. The most common structure to add to a cottage garden is a fence.

A picket fence is the most well-known style for a cottage garden design, but any type of wooden fence may work. Besides adding to the cottage look, a fence and gate will create a more defined space. Keep it in a scale that will fit the size of your garden.

Other structural elements may include trellises, arbors and arches. Don't forget to use vertical space to add visual interest to your garden.


Cottage Garden Pathways

cottage garden path Next you need to plan some pathways. Most cottage gardens don't have much in the way of grass, so paths are essential. Keep your paths in proportion to the size of the garden.

Narrow paths are intimate and cozy¬Ö if you want two people to be able to walk together, widen the paths accordingly. Choose your path materials so they will fit your design. As long as it works with the rest of the garden, anything will fit the bill. The paths should be installed first.

Once you have your pathways installed, it is time to define the garden beds. Keep your beds less than 8 to 10 feet wide for easier maintenance. Beds in the middle can be wider if you can access it from all sides. Fill the beds with good soil before planting.

Should you put in grass? Possibly. While not usually an element in cottage garden design, grass may be needed if you have children or pets that need a place to play, or your yard is large enough to encompass it. Adding turf can add some negative space to the garden that may be welcome.

Cottage Garden Plants

Group similar plants together for a bigger impact. It is traditional to use odd numbers in groupings to create visual balance. While this holds true for small groupings, when planting large numbers of small plants, don't worry about it.

cottage garden plants


Single plants should be limited to large specimen plants that are unique enough to grab attention by themselves. Think about the color of your plants. Repeat colors or multiples of colors to create a harmony in the chaos of your cottage garden.

Texture is also important. Look at the shape, color and texture of the foliage of your chosen plants. Mix the texture to create depth. In choosing your plants, choose a few small trees like fruit trees, mimosa, crape myrtle, pussy willow or lilac.


Choose vines to grow on trellises or other structures. Shrubs provide the backbone of the garden. Old-fashioned roses, azaleas and other small shrubs add a lot of form.



Perennials give your garden stability and seasonality. Choose from delphiniums, bleeding heart, violets and more.

Annuals provide changing color and seasonality to your garden.

Choosing the right cottage garden plants can make all the difference in the appearance of your garden.

By making careful choices, your garden will look good no matter the season.


Recommended Books for Cottage Gardening










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