Have you always wanted to have a garden but thought it would take a lot of work? What if you could create your own personal cottage garden in your own yard or a small lot with minimal to no effort? It doesn’t take a lot to put it together and you’ll still have time to sit back, relax, and enjoy your beautiful oasis.Where we once had to have a lot of property to have a beautiful, meticulous garden, this is no longer the case. From the smallest apartment to the tiniest of lots, we all can have a cottage garden to enjoy. Once we know how to grow one, we can plan where in our space it can go. 

What Are Cottage Gardens?

a sample of a cottage garden

Originally created by British laborers, the purpose of cottage gardens was to provide food and contain livestock, herbs, fruits, and vegetables. Flowers were optional but if they were planted, it was to protect the food from bugs or to be used as seasoning. Nowadays, a cottage garden is one you create to improve the aesthetics of your yard or lot. There is no wrong way to create—there are no rules. It is a garden that comprises flowers, vegetables, and foliage plants that are usually planted close together and intertwined. Those are merely suggestions for what to plant. Your garden can be a complete manifestation of your imagination.

Is There a Need for Cottage Gardens?

How to Design a Cottage Garden

While there aren’t any set design rules there are a few suggested guidelines that will help you create your own flowering oasis.

Keep It Small

The Soil Is Key

Positioning Your Plants

Selecting Your Plants

Traditional Flowers

  • Old-fashioned hollyhocks
  • Delphinium
  • Iris
  • Hydrangea
  • Catmint
  • Pinks
  • Roses
  • Coneflowers
  • Phlox
  • Rosette shaped succulents (if you live in Southwest)
  • Foxgloves (if you live in NY)
  • Melampodium
  • Nigella

Not everything in your cottage garden has to be flowers or plants.  It can include ground covering as well. This will not only help to reduce weeds but also reduce the maintenance. Some suggestions for ground covering include creeping Jenny, bellflowers, and Lady’s mantle.
 
Also, to keep your garden growing year-round, plant evergreens. They endure and will result in less replanting when spring comes. Some evergreens to consider include dwarf conifers and perennials (peonies, columbines, and tree geraniums).

Fencing, Walls, and Hedges

Fencing, Walls, and Hedges

You can create a more permanent contained area for your garden by adding a fence. Originally the cottage garden had an old-time white picket fence which is still considered appealing. Picket fences are shorter than other types, but they keep your cottage garden neat and condensed.

Another way to contain your garden is by using the outside walls of your home. The outside walls provided the backdrop and the surface for vine plants to climb upon. Should you have a front gate, this would also work well.

A less expensive alternative to fences is to plant hedges. These will define the space better, especially if you have sprawling plants. If you choose this option, plant boxwoods, wax myrtle, or yew for hedging. You can also plant small trees and other shrubs, but they’ll need time to grow.

Paths, Stones and Other Fun Touches

garden pavers

You want to create a homey feeling with your cottage garden—not only for your own enjoyment but also for others that come upon it. One way to do so is by adding a soft curving pathway through it. This provides an enticing feeling of wanting to walk through and see where it leads. Your path can be made of different materials like blue stone, old bricks, or a combination of both.

Also, you can use wood chips or gravel, but this would require a clear definition of the path edges so the material doesn't scatter about. Mostly, you want to keep these paths informal to create a feeling of an unassuming everyday stroll. If you have trouble deciding what type of path to make, the best way to decide is by closing your eyes and picturing yourself walking on it without shoes. This visualization technique should help you clarify the features you are looking for in your garden path.

Arbors are another way to bring attention to your pathway. An arbor can also provide shelter for a bench or an outside dining table. It would be a great way to show off certain spots of your garden, depending on where you place it. You could plant wisteria or a fruiting grapevine on an arbor to accentuate its charm.

There are other fun touches you can add to your garden. Instead of just planting in the ground you can mix it up. Use an old wagon, fertilizer spreaders, bins, and baskets as less-than-traditional planting options. Just don’t overdo it on these. The key is to create a beautiful cottage garden, not a dumping ground for old junk.

The Proper Soil Cover

soil

Once you’ve planted all your flowers and foliage, you will need to make sure you have protected your garden from the weeds and other elements. A good soil cover helps maintain soil moisture levels.  It is best to use a good organic mulch as it will improve your soil as it decomposes. In addition, it will give your garden a tidy look.

Easy Care and Maintenance

Beautiful patio or balcony garden

You will enjoy your cottage garden more if you spend less time maintaining it and more time just being in it. The most time-consuming of all the tasks is watering. Use a hands-free approach and get a drip hose. This will cut down on the amount of time you are spending on garden maintenance and it will allow you to direct the water to exactly where you want it. Plus, a drip hose is an eco-friendly watering solution, as it conserves water.

Conclusion

In today's world, with the hustle and bustle characteristic of our modern lives, we long for a place where we can just relax and enjoy the feeling of being encapsulated in natural beauty. Making your own cottage garden will allow you to have that place right in your own backyard or on your patio. Many people disregard this idea because they believe it is not an option for them, but it is an option for anyone. No amount of land is too small, and actually, the land isn't even required. Creative and efficient use of planters can aid in the creation of a beautiful cottage garden—even when actual land is lacking. It is important to remember that a cottage garden is meant to bring peace and beauty to your life. Beginning a garden that requires too much planning, stress, organization, or maintenance will negate the desired effect. Start small and simple to avoid your quest for a peaceful oasis transforming into a massive and overwhelming project. 

Once you have finished your garden, find ways to minimize maintenance (like using a drip hose) so you are spending more time relaxing in your garden than you are working in it. Finding that balance is the key to bliss and serenity in your own backyard.

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