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Cottage Garden Plants

Plants for your Cottage Garden

Choosing the right cottage garden plants can make all the difference in the appearance of your garden. Traditional cottage gardens are full of old-fashioned classics that add romance and nostalgia to your yard.

Remember that cottage gardens originated to grow food and medicinal herbs for the family, so don't forget to add some tasty fruits, veggies and herbs to your plan.


Shrubs are the backbone of your garden. From azaleas to Oregon grape, they can come in all shapes and sizes. Look for shrubs that offer good branch structure so they are attractive even in winter landscape.

You may find some small dogwoods, or witch hazel that will add interest. Japanese maple trees make good additions as well. Blueberry shrubs also add seasonal interest with flowers in the spring, fruit in the summer and colorful leaves in the fall. Shrubby herbs like rosemary and bay can add a lot of visual interest to your garden as well as add tasty seasonings to your cooking.


What plant gives a garden that cottage garden feel more than old roses?

Look for heirloom varieties like Apothecary roses, dog roses, cabbage roses, damask roses, gallicas, bourbons, moss roses and albas. Some of these roses will happily climb over arbors, trellises and fences, while others will form large sprawling mounds of fragrant goodness.

Some of these old-fashioned roses have been in cultivation for over a thousand years. You'll find everything from simple five-petaled varieties to fully layered cabbage roses. There are heirloom roses in just about any color you can imagine. The hardest part will be choosing the one you want!


Vines add vertical interest and are commonly used as cottage garden plants. Plant them and they'll climb trellises, old windows, benches, fences, tomato cages or anything else you set near them.

Flowering vines may be showy like clematis, trumpet flower and wisteria, or have small flowers like honeysuckle and jasmine, that delight the nose. Annual vines like sweet peas add fragrance and color. Alternatively, you can choose a vine that is more foliage than flower like ivy or Virginia creeper.

If you want a dual purpose cottage garden (as they were throughout history), plant grape vines or kiwi. Food-bearing annual vines like peas and beans can be easily added to the cottage garden. For food and color, try scarlet runner beans, with their bright red flowers and tasty bean pods.


Perennials offer many cottage garden plants that we traditionally associate with this old-fashioned style. These old-fashioned flowers have been cultivated for hundreds of years and will add a lot of color to the garden.

Delphiniums, foxgloves and hollyhocks all grow in tall spires topped with colorful blooms. Iris and gladiolas also add some height and interest to the garden with their grand flowers and spear-like leaves. Columbines are airy and colorful with interesting foliage. And peonies add a touch of luxury to the garden. A bushy perennial that is nice for a shady nook is bleeding heart. Its graceful sprays of heart-shaped flowers are cheery in the spring.

Medium-sized perennials like forget-me-nots add texture and tiny dots of color. Honesty gives you beautiful purple flowers that turn into silver seed pods in the fall. They look great in a mass planting. Smaller perennials like calendula and California poppies add a bit of sunshine with their bright orange and yellow flowers. Tiny perennials like violets can be planted on edges or beneath larger specimens.

Some perennial fruits and vegetables you may want to keep in mind are strawberries, artichokes and asparagus. Perennial herbs like mint, lemon balm, sage, lavender, Echinacea, valerian, lady's mantle and thyme make interesting additions to the garden with their different textures and colors of foliage.


Don't forget the annuals! They are necessary cottage garden plants. Annual flowers like bachelor's buttons, Canterbury bells, nasturtiums, pansies and wallflowers can be tucked among the other plants, adding seasonal color and interest.

Add typical annual vegetables to this list like tomatoes, lettuce and potatoes to this list. Have you really looked at a potato plant? The flowers are really pretty. Annual herbs like basil, hyssop and borage with its beautiful blue star-shaped flowers make great choices as well for your cottage garden.

A few tips to remember once you've made your choices: Plant taller plants toward the back of planting beds. Tuck small plants in little nooks and crannies that will become apparent as the larger specimens grow. Your garden will develop as the season progresses. You might want to take a few picture to document its progress!

Recommended Books for Cottage Gardening

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