Cottage Garden Revival
Cottage gardens as we know them today are a direct product of late Edwardian writers, although the style itself is much older.
Old Fashioned In The Nineteenth Century
During the time of Queen Victoria there was an explosion of exotic plants introduced into English gardens. The Victorians, being addicted to collecting and displaying almost everything, extended their love of this into the gardens they created. Bedding circles and geometric islands overflowed with garden flowers that were chosen for height or color, spilled out of numerous urns dotted around the yard, and climbed up trellises covering all available surfaces.
There were a few garden tastemakers who did not approve, and among them was the very influential William Robinson.
Famous Example At Sissinghurst
Overthrowing An Empire Of Gardening Styles
The Old Fashioned Garden
William Robinson, along with the venerable Gertrude Jekyll, wrote persuasive articles and books extolling the “old fashioned” flowers and the gardens of their grandmothers, the Cottage gardens. They advocated a newer, more natural style that appealed to English gardeners with their love of abundant planting, and their need for getting in touch with nature after the introduction of the Industrial age.
Cottage gardening harked back to simpler times, to enjoyment of the plants themselves, even though they were not simple gardening feats to create.
Cottage gardens, like those of Gertrude Jekyll’s making, employed a small army of garden laborers, and exact planning to fill every nook and cranny with plants and flowers. In their own way they were as demanding as the Victorian hothouse plantings. Anyone today who wishes to make such gardens should keep in mind that they aren’t low maintenance, easy care plantings.
Still, they continue to entrance us with their full bowers of blooms, using plants at every level, from ground covering low perennials, to inclusion of blooming shrubs, and vining climbers woven throughout, with every manner of mid-height drift of favorite flowers.
Should You Create A Cottage Garden?
- Is A Quaint Cottage Garden For You?
A cottage style garden is not for everyone. Find out whether this charming style is for you, whether to modify it, or forego it altogether.
Designer History :: Famous For This Style
added interest in naturalistic planting
developed examples of color and practical plans
developed garden room ideas
decried Victorian bedding
worked with Lutyens to create well known gardens
with her husband, made a lasting garden example
emphasized ‘old fashioned’ flowers
championed planting in ‘drifts’
contributed the best example of one color note theme for gardens.
Influential arbiters of English Garden style, who created in the cottage style.
Old Fashioned Flowers
Taking the old cottage garden roses as a prototype, David Austin has created a whole new breed of English roses for modern gardeners. These are the perfect rose varieties for a cottage style look.
Offered by many nurseries, here is the book on those roses.
English garden borders
Features of a Cottage Look
- Gardens of the lower classes who depended on growing their own medicine and food.
- Smaller spaces and less leisure time available to create the gardens.
- Using every square inch of space to best advantage
Your Garden Choices
Tasks For This Garden
- Looks terrible if it gets weedy.
- Needs care to divide plants when they crowd.
- Mature Gardeners can feel overwhelmed by the amount of work.
Reasons to love it
REASONS FOR THIS LABOR OF LOVE
- This is the most romantic style possible
- Provides lots of garden in a very small space
- Little room for weeds once established
Well Known Facts About This Romantic Style
Most articles about this type of garden will tell you about the lowly beginnings of the Cottage garden. There are many types of this garden in places other than England. The French potager is very similar, but it takes a decided emphasis on the importance of the food crops over the flowering ones.
We, in our modern renditions, like to exclude the vegetables and concentrate wholly on the blooms, but I think that is a great mistake. Perhaps the revival of interest on edible crops for our front yards will lead to a more intensive use of landscaping space for food plants such as fruits, vegetables and herbs, just like the original Cottagers had done.
Under Robinson, and then Jekyll’s, tutelage the borders became primarily flower filled extravaganzas. Extraordinary planning was required, and much knowledge of plant habit and cultivation practices was needed. This is partly what makes this so attractive to gardeners- they love the challenge of pairing plants to give the best effects, and keep the show going through all seasons.
SHOULD WE RETURN TO FRONT YARD FOOD PRODUCTION?
It is only recently that food crops are being re-introduced into a garden other than the vegetable patch. This doesn’t need to look shabby. There are well dressed front yards that double as food, fruit, and herb sources.
One thing that helps dress up a front yard edible garden is inclusion of a bench. a place to sit after tending the plants, or renew the former habit of saying hello to our neighbors.
As in Lutyens and Jekyll designs, the inclusion of just the right English garden bench or ornament complement in your landscape could create the right feeling for a Colonial or Tudor revival home in American neighborhoods.
Or just something like the wooden or metal obelisks, which can be used in a perennial bed or inside a large container to support a tomato or melon plant, will impart a welcome sense of decorum.
Revive A Cottage Style Flower Garden
Abundant cottage flowers are irresistible.
Should we revive this style?
Yes, no, and maybe are the answers to that question. It depends on the space you have, the impact you wish to make, the style of your home exterior, and finally, how much effort you are able and willing to contribute to your garden.
- Yes, if you love to garden and have a house in an architectural design that is harmonious with it.
- No, if you can’t reasonably take time to tend this sort of garden. Probably no if your house is very modern in design.
- Maybe, if you want to devote a section of your yard to creating this type of garden around a small shed or as a combination of food, herb, and flowers for your needs.
Include Design Elements
Plow & Hearth Sir Edwin Lutyens English Garden Bench – Weather-Resistant Hardwood with Exterior Grade Outdoor Paint – 48″W x 24″D x 36½”H, in Natural
Historical bench design that graced the cottage landscape designs of Jekyll-Lutyens. No garden is complete without a bench to view it all.
Violas for just the right touch. “Weaver” flowers.
Use These Flowers To Create Your Cottage Style
Star of Bethlehem
Love In A Mist
Russel Lupines are ideal flowers to include
Lupines come in assorted, eye-catching colors. They create vertical spires of interest.
More Reasons To Enjoy A Cottage Garden
If you think simple living is a good idea, if you are interested in growing your own food, and learning some of the homesteading skills of our ancestors you might want to recreate a historical garden of this type in your own yard.
- The slower pace of growing your own food in your garden, as well as preserving it might inspire you to create something of a Cottage garden that uses organic means such as companion plantings, insect control that also produces eggs: chickens! And adds composting and herbal insect controls, as well. An obelisk, or tuteur, supported the vining of tomatoes or melons in many a kitchen garden of those old fashioned cottages.
- The fragrance of many of the old fashioned flowers is one argument for growing some of the simpler varieties. The fact that the perfume was bred out of the more modern hybrids in exchange for bigger and brighter petals is not always a great bargain. Discover the joys of aromatic and sweet smells blowing on the breezes.
- Cottage flowers were seeds that could be saved and passed from generations and locations without much fuss. The new/old interest in reviving the heirloom vegetables, fruits, and flowers means that you can save money by saving seed each year (if you wish).
- If your home is a traditional style or an “Old House”, this type of garden might be the best complementary landscape to use
Dura-Trel 11178 Providence Arbor, White
Live The History? This Woman Has!
Me and My Garden
Always enthusiastic about the topic of gardening, this type is one of my favorites.
Learn More Garden History
- Edible Cottage Gardens
Edible Cottage Gardens
- Roots, a Potted History of Cottage Gardening
A gardener’s practical guide to natural cottage gardening: Short (potted) overview of the roots and history of English cottage gardening and the relevance of cottage gardens to the environment today.
One of The Best Garden Writers On The Topic
Designing and Creating a Cottage Garden: How to cultivate a garden full of flowers, herbs, trees, fruit, vegetables and livestock, with 300 inspirational photographs
Lots of creative ideas with all the many features of a real cottage style flowergarden.
- 10 Best Perennial Plants For Anyone’s Garden
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I would call my garden cottage-ish. It is crammed with all manners of flowers, but I still try to keep some order, at least in the front. And my goal is two fold, to have many blooming things at all times, and to attract butterflies, hummingbirds, and pollinators. I’m a believer in doing whatever makes you happy, so I don’t like to follow rules.
Ilona Erwin says
I’ve seen your photos and it is a beautiful place. The garden is forgiving when it comes to breaking rules…most of the time.