May In The Garden – The Cottage Style Garden

A profusion of colourful florals and sweet alluring scents find their home within the classic cottage-style garden, allowing it to enjoy something of a renaissance in recent years. The wild and random concoction of roses, stocks and hollyhocks have made this style so enticing for gardeners up and down the country. But how do you begin to create such a flower-filled haven?

When you begin to picture a cottage garden in your mind you may be conjuring up images of delphinium, dianthus, calendula. Even rambling roses along a quaint white picket fence and ascending rugged and beautiful brickwork. But a modern cottage garden has become far more experimental and liberating. Embracing all spontaneity, encouraging self-seeding, and allowing a more relaxed approach to landscaping. Adopting the ethos that every plant has its place, and every spare inch of the garden should have a plant.

What is a cottage-style garden?

In 1713 Alexander Pope was one of the first proponents of the cottage garden, calling for the “amiable simplicity of unadorned nature” that gives this style its characteristic flair. Later in 1870 William Robinson, who was part of the Arts and Crafts Movement popularised by William Morris, published The English Flower Garden. It was here that he famously stated, “one lesson of these little gardens, that are so pretty, is that one can get good effects from simple materials”. Helping to further encourage gardeners to adopt the less formal cottage garden style.

These garden designs inevitably became synonymous with the Arts and Crafts Movement as they were based largely on the principles of adopting a simpler approach to gardening; Only surrounding yourself with plants that you believe to be beautiful and using their natural forms as your source for inspiration. Rather than following any strict rules on planting companions and colour schemes that can create more formal beds and borders. 

Naturally, this experimental approach to landscape design led to a more casual mix of flowers, vegetables and even herbs. As Roger Turner, Garden Designer and author, wisely wrote a cottage garden is often “a vegetable garden that has been taken over by flowers”.

Simply put, a cottage-style garden is beautiful in its quiet simplicity and effortlessness.

How to create a cottage-style garden

No right or wrong

In a cottage garden, there are no rules. Planting freedom and fluidity should most definitely be embraced. Mixing colours, shapes and textures. Creating playful displays that encourage the informal and capricious feel that comes with a traditional cottage garden.

Planting in abundance

One of the key characteristics of any cottage garden is naturalistic planting. Boarders jam-packed with a wild mix of perennials and annual flowers all planted in close proximity for a dense floral display. Twining and weaving around one another, competing to be the star of the show.

Soft Curves

Winding pathways and curved beds and boarders all create fluidity around the garden. Inviting you to explore further and move around the space admiring each and every bloom along the way.

Embrace the romantic

Cottage gardens can often have a romantic tone. Whether it is the pastel shades of roses and lilacs or the fragrant scents of peonies and lavender. A cottage garden is sure to deliver a touch of sumptuous sensuality. Enclosed in a world of their own, perhaps hidden behind a rose-bowered archway or surrounded by the structural planting of fruit trees and climbing vines like clematis, wisteria and honeysuckle marking the perimeter.

Add elements of Whimsy

Old wheelbarrows as planters, tractors, chimneys or moss-covered statues make perfect accompaniments to any cottage garden. Injecting bounds of personality and intrigue to the space. Creating an almost ‘secret garden’ feel and allowing nature to dominate in colourful waves and cascades.