Thursday, May 21, 2009

In the Style of an English Cottage Garden

As every gardener knows, a garden is never finished. Something always needs planted, transplanted, or replanted. My dream garden would be an herb garden in the center and the beds surrounding the herbs chock-full of perennial and annual flowers along with herbs. The profusion of flowers and herbs spilling into paths, scenting the garden, and pulling visitors into an enchanted of world of foral romance. My beds along the edge of the garden would be in the style of the English cottage garden.

After measuring and marking the complete garden, finally, my picket fence was installed, albeit little by little. Once we had one side and the two ends of the fence completed, we built the beds, added top soil, and began planting. The plan was to have two garden gates, one facing the direction of the house, the second facing the yard to the north. Acorn finials would top each post to add a finish to the picket fence.

I started planting at the west garden gate. I can’t remember exactly what I planted first, but one of the first things was a pink climbing David Austin rose. I wanted the rose to twine about the fence with pink roses peeking through the pickets. To the immediate side of the rose I planted fountain delphiniums in sky blue. I love the combination of clear pink and sky blue. Coming forward were hardy geraniums or crane’s bill, Johnson’s blue being one of my favorites. Lavender edged the path creating a fragrant walk each time an ankle brushed against the foliage. Russian sage, lamb’s ear, monarda in pink, yarrow, lady’s mantle, globe thistle, and baby’s breath were all in the long bed.

The bed starting on the other side of the garden entrance held day lilies in pale yellow and pink. Victorian salvia, annuals and more herbs.

The end facing south would eventually become home to an arbor with a seat, at least that was my hope. Space enough for the arbor was created in the center of the end by laying down black plastic and covering it with pea gravel. Either side of the future arbor became home to true lilies or lilium. Stargazers emitted so much fragrance that it became overpowering at times.

I fell in love with a luscious pink peony and a foxglove I read about in the book, Tasha Tudor’s Garden, but I didn’t find the name of the peony until I picked up the book, English Cottage Gardening for American Gardeners by Margaret Hensel. Once I found the name of the peony, ‘Sarah Bernhardt’ I had to find someone who sold it. I called nurseries and asked around. Finally, I found it at a nursery in Hillsdale, Michigan, called Gleis. The strawberry foxglove I found at Greenfield Herbs in Shipshewana, Indiana, one of the best herb & flower shops ever. Unfortunately, the owner sold Greenfield Herbs and although I’ve not been there, from the online description, I gather it’s changed a great deal.

Fall plantings of tulips and daffodils presented color in early spring. I was always on the look out for pink tulips with my favorite being ‘angelique.’ I transplanted from other flowerbeds into the new one. Snowdrops, from a large cluster in an old flowerbed near the pasture, were transplanted to the new garden. Digging and separating iris, daffodils, and other perennials cut down the cost of the garden.

Keep in mind that I usually purchased three of any one variety of plant in the same color to create a splash. Whether it’s a tall spire like a delphinium or a tiny violet, planting only one per color seldom creates much of a statement. Each variety of plant should not get lost in the riot of color, texture and pattern that is a cottage garden, but harmonize with each other displaying your personal gardening flair.

My dream garden was finally taking shape and I loved it. Next, came a fairy garden and that is a tale for another day.

Now get out there and make your garden dreams come true!

Cottage Garden Plants: Perennials
Hemerocallis (Day lilies)
Lilium (True lilies - Asiatic, trumpet, Oriental, or species)
Hardy geraniums (crane’s bill)
Lady’s Mantle
Lamb’s Ear
Balloon flower
Dianthus (Cottage pinks)
Globe thistle

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