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5 Easy Containers for Stunning Winter Colour

from The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner – intelligent garden design software

With leaden skies and the days getting shorter and colder, it was time to inject a splash of colour on our front door step!

Container for winter interest

Planting up a container for winter colour

  1. Skimmia, heuchera and winter pansies

A trip to the local garden centre is a great pick-me-up at any time of year, but on a chilly November day it was a heart-warming experience! Fairy lights twinkled and deliciously cute, fluffy rabbits waved from their glittery warrens as I passed through the Christmas grotto and out into the plant sales area. Of course, there wasn’t the huge array of colourful flowers you’d find at other times of the year. Still, there was plenty of choice for garden lovers hoping to cheer up their winter flower beds – or front door steps!

Pots of young trees and evergreen topiary are superb for creating structure at the time of year when many of the perennials are fast retreating underground. I also spotted a good selection of autumn/winter flowering and berrying shrubs. These included both white and red berried Gaultheria and Callicarpa bodinieri var. giraldii ‘Profusion’, which has colourful autumn leaves and violet berries.

Callicarpa berries for autumn colour

Callicarpa berries

Plants don’t grow much during the winter months, so to make an immediate impact, it’s important to choose enough plants to look good right from the start. The first step is to choose the focus plant. After that, it’s relatively easy to create an effective arrangement – just keep pottering around the shelves, picking out plants and trying out different groupings, until you find the perfect combination!

For structure, I chose a striking Skimmia japonica, dripping with red flower buds, together with a couple of ornamental grasses. I picked up a heuchera with dark purple evergreen foliage, which would look stunning in my slate grey pot. It wasn’t labelled so I’ll have to wait till summer to find out what the flower looks like! Finally, a collection of winter pansies found its way into my trolley. There was a huge choice of cheerful colours, both single and bi-coloured, but I liked the sultry deep red-purple ones, that complemented the other plants in my trolley.

Back in the warmth again, I got side-tracked on the way to the till by the spring bulb collections and ended up throwing in a packet of Narcissus ‘Tête-à-Tête’, which also included some free Iris reticulata bulbs. Narcissus ‘Tête-à-Tête’ only grows to about 15cm so is perfect for small pots. It has slightly reflexed, golden petals, with deeper golden cups. Twin flowers, sometimes triplets, are carried on each stem in early spring. The beautiful iris reticulata flowers in late winter to early spring, growing to 12cm high.

Planting idea for winter flower beds and containers

Getting ready to plant

Skimmia japonica 'Rubella' - for winter colour

Skimmia japonica ‘Rubella’ – the centrepiece plant

Planting Time
I found some small stones to sit over the pot’s drainage holes, to prevent them from getting clogged up with soil, and added a layer of compost. Then it was time to be creative. The Skimmia japonica went in at the back, flanked by the two grasses.

Adding bulbs to winter containers

Adding bulbs to winter pots

Before adding the smaller plants, I planted a handful of the bulbs as deeply as I could. Bulbs need to be planted at 2-3 times their depth and one bulb width apart. My container wasn’t as deep as I would have liked, but I’ll hope for the best!

Winter pansies for flower beds and containers

Squeezing in the winter pansies

To finish off my winter pot, I added the remaining plants. The heuchera went in front of the skimmia and the pansies squeezed in around the edge, where I hope they will flower their little socks off in milder spells throughout the winter.

Skimmia, heuchera and pansies for winter interest

Skimmia, heuchera and winter pansies

  1. A collection of winter interest shrubs with white Helleborus niger

Winter shrubs with Helleborus niger - winter container ideas

Winter shrubs with Helleborus niger

Gaultheria’s red berries, purple-red Skimmia flower buds and the fiery winter foliage of evergreen Nandina domestica line this weathered stone trough. Trailing variegated ivy softens the edges while the Christmas rose (Helleborus niger) adds a splash of winter white.

Source

  1. Cyclamen, Senecio cineraria ‘Silver Dust’ and Gaultheria mucronata ‘Pink Pearl’

Cyclamen, Senecio cineraria and Gaultheria mucronata - ideas for winter garden borders and containers

Cyclamen, Senecio cineraria and Gaultheria mucronata

Gaultheria is an acid-loving plant, so to do well will need ericaceous compost. It’s easy to give plants the conditions they need in containers, so if you love a plant that won’t survive in your garden soil, planting up a container is a good way to fit it in.
Senecio cineraria and cyclamen are happy in all soil types, so they make good companions for the Gaultheria. Not all cyclamens are hardy, so it’s best to choose hardy Cyclamen hederifolium or Cyclamen coum for your winter pots.

Source

  1. Ornamental cabbage, cyclamen and heathers

Ornamental cabbages in a winter display from Weatherstaff

Ornamental cabbages in a winter display

There were plenty of ornamental cabbages in the garden centre, which I passed by without too much hesitation. They just seemed a bit too clunky for my liking. However, in this collection of winter containers, the delicate spires of heather and the fine filigree of senecio balance the heavier purple cabbages. The cyclamens and ivy help to tie the display together.

Source

  1. Evergreen topiary

Topiary for year round interest

Topiary provides year round interest

Box topiary for winter interest in garden borders and containers

Box topiary

For the easiest of winter pots, try some box balls, cones or pyramids. Box (Buxus sempervirens) grows from mid-spring to early summer. It will need trimming in mid-summer to maintain its elegant shape but will provide year-round structure in the garden.

Looking for more ideas? The RHS has more advice here on suitable plants for winter containers.

Tips for Winter Containers

  • Plants don’t need feeding in the winter months, but they will need watering in dry, mild spells.
  • Standing pots on bricks or pot feet will improve drainage and may help protect pots from cracking in icy conditions.
  • Deadhead flowers when necessary.
  • Place the container where it will get the best of the winter sun. In severe weather, move pots to a sheltered spot or wrap in horticultural fleece or bubble wrap.

Autumn Colours

from The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner – intelligent garden design software

Need a Planting Plan for Autumn Colour? Click here

Autumn Leaves - Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner

Autumn Leaves

Sorbus commixta autumn gardens

Sorbus commixta – autumn foliage and berries

The trees are looking spectacular at the moment and it’s hard to resist taking yet another photograph of the glowing colours at canopy level. But down on the ground, there are some hardy perennials which are still flowering their socks off!

Here’s my choice for the best 5 perennials for autumn colour.

Helenium

These are stunning perennials with daisy-like flowers on an upright, clump-forming plant. They flower profusely from mid-summer into the autumn.

Helenium Moerheim Beauty for autumn garden borders

Helenium Moerheim Beauty

Helenium ‘Moerheim Beauty’ has glorious autumnal colours – fiery orange-red rays surrounding a velvety brown central disc. The rays reflex strongly as the flowers age. It has been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit (AGM).

Helenium Pipsqueak for autumn flower beds

Helenium Pipsqueak

‘Pipsqueak’ has yellow rays surrounding a velvety yellow and brown central disc. The rays are relatively short and reflex very strongly, giving extra prominence to the central cone.

Helenium Waldtraut for autumn flower beds

Helenium Waldtraut

Another award-winning Helenium is ‘Waldtraut’. The flowers have a velvety brown central disc, surrounded by coppery-orange rays, streaked yellow.

Helenium appreciates moist, well-drained soil in full sun. Cutting back the stems towards the end of May by about one-third should promote better flowering on more compact plants.

Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’

A superb, late-flowering perennial, spreading slowly by means of rhizomes.

Rudbeckia sullivantii Goldsturm autumn garden borders

Rudbeckia sullivantii Goldsturm

A mass of golden, daisy-like flowerheads are carried on upright stems from late summer to mid-autumn. The flowers have prominent black-brown, cone-shaped discs. These become an interesting feature in their own right when the glorious, yellow ray-florets have fallen.

Rudbeckia likes moist, well-drained soil in sun or part-shade. Divide every 4-5 years to maintain vigour. Like Helenium, these too can be cut back at the end of May to encourage flowering.

Anemone x hybrida

Japanese anemones are vigorous, upright, perennials, bearing numerous flowers in late-summer to mid-autumn.

Japanese Anemone for autumn borders

Japanese Anemone

Anemone x hybrida ‘Königin Charlotte’ has soft pink flowers, while ‘Honorine Jobert’ has pure white, single flowers, with rich yellow stamens.

Honorine Jobert - autumn flower beds

Anemone x hybrida Honorine Jobert

Happy in moist soil in sun or part shade, japanese anemones will spread to cover bare soil. Pull up rooted suckers to curtail its spread.

Michaelmas daisies

29th September is Michaelmas Day, the feast of Saint Michael the Archangel. The Michaelmas daisies flower around this time, with sprays of daisy-like flowerheads from late-summer to mid-autumn.

Michaelmas Daisies for autumn garden beds

Michaelmas Daisies

Many suffer from powdery mildew, so look out for Aster novae-angliae varieties, which have relatively good mildew resistance.

Aster pyrenaeus Lutetia autumn flower beds

Aster pyrenaeus Lutetia

My favourites are the starry, pale lilac flowers of Aster pyrenaeus ‘Lutetia’, and, as an added bonus, they are completely resistant to powdery mildew. A great late flowering garden plant.

Sedum telephium

The sedums also bring interest to autumn flower beds, with the colours often getting better and better as the season passes.

Sedum telephium Munstead Red for autumn border designs

Sedum telephium Munstead Red

From late summer to mid-autumn, Sedum telephium ‘Munstead Red’ has clusters of starry, deep pink flowers, with purple-red centres, darkening with age. The upright plant has green leaves, flushed purple, on bright red stems. Seedheads persist over winter, prolonging the season of interest.

Sedum Purple Emperor - autumn perennial

Sedum Purple Emperor

‘Purple Emperor’ has pale pink flowers, with deeper pink centres, while the dark red-purple leaves on ruby-red stems bring a royal richness to garden borders.

Sedum telephium Matrona autumn perennial

Sedum telephium Matrona

‘Matrona’ has pale pink flowers, with rose-pink centres. Green leaves, flushed purple, are carried on bright red stems.

Sedum telephium subsp. maximum ‘Atropurpureum’ has pink-white flowers, contrasting with dark purple leaves on purple stems. It has been awarded the Royal Horticultural Society’s Award of Garden Merit.

Sedums like well-drained, neutral to slightly alkaline soil in full sun. They perform well in poor or moderately fertile soil, as richer soil conditions encourage foliage growth rather than flowering.

Need a Planting Plan for Autumn Colour?

When planting up a garden border, it’s easy to end up with a one-season wonder. The flower beds are a delight in spring or early summer, but tail off at the end of the main flowering season. It can be hard to juggle all the factors which contribute to make a cohesive, all year round planting plan – finding plants which provide structure and interest in all seasons, complement each other, as well as thrive in the particular conditions you have in your own patch of earth.

The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner does all this for you, making it easy for you to create garden borders with all year round interest. Enter details of your garden’s soil and light conditions, choose your favourite planting style (for example: cottage or contemporary) and pick your colour scheme. The intelligent garden design software will create a planting plan which is tailor-made for you.

You can regenerate a plan or tweak it to add personal favourites. Let it bring out the designer in you, as you experiment with different colour combinations or scroll through the list of suggested plants to further personalise your design.

Autumn gardens @ uk.pinterest.com/plantingplanner

For more inspiration for your autumn borders, click here to follow the Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner on Pinterest.

The PlantingPlanner can also be added to your ‘gardening gifts’ list. Read: Four compelling reasons why the Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner is the ideal Garden Gift.

Street Flowers in France

from The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner – intelligent garden design software

Displays of flowers - border ideas

Displays of flowers in a French town

Mediterranean flowerpots - garden ideas

Mediterranean flowerpots

There are some things the French seem to do effortlessly. Crème de cassis and white wine. Raspberry tarts. Shabby chic. The careless and uncontrived juxtaposition of faded elegance and modern buildings.

And what is it about the French and flowers? Their streets are a blaze of carefully designed colour and a visit to a public park feels like an outing to the botanical gardens.

Contrasting textures in a planting plan

Contrasting textures

Grasses and sedges add movement and airiness to the designs. In a park near the railway station, fluffy lagurus ovatus contrasts with statuesque canna leaves. The pretty, delicate Gaura lindheimeri adds a light touch to many of the flowerbeds. I want to whip out my camera and analyse the plant combinations.

Gaura lindheimerifor summer borders

Waving Gaura lindheimeri features in many of the planting plans

Roundabout Planting Plans

Roundabout Planting Plans

At every roundabout, there’s a new combination of flowers to admire. It’s hard to resist pulling up and leaping out of the car to admire the planting plans close up.

Street planting - border ideas

Street planting

Outside the Hôtel de Ville, vertical height lends structure to the schemes, while the vibrantly contrasting rich purples and yellows are a source of inspiration for flower beds anywhere.

Vibrant colour choices for flower bed ideas

Vibrant colour choices

Perhaps it’s the French sense of style? Certainly, their street containers are so much more than an attempt to add a splash of colour. The designs are vibrant and contemporary, but there’s a restrained colour palette which avoids the often garish effect of summer bedding in some of our British parks. There’s no hint of municipal planting here – just a careful mix of perennials and shrubs that would look at home in someone’s back yard.

Style Guide – Cottage Gardens Part 4

from The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner – intelligent garden design software

Choosing a Garden Style

What’s your style?

Different garden styles evoke different moods and emotions. If you’re not sure which garden personality suits you best, check out this article: Choosing a Garden Style

If you love charm over elegance, profusion over minimalism, natural haphazardness over control and order, the chances are that you love the cottage garden style.

Read: Style Guide – Cottage Gardens Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Annuals and Self-Seeders

Cottage gardens are all about abundance of planting and random drifts of colour. Ground covering plants weave through the planting, spilling over border edges and stitching everything together. In the same way, scattering the seeds of annuals amongst the permanent planting will plug any gaps and contribute to the random charm of the design.

Annuals are plants which germinate, flower and set seed all in one year. They die after flowering, but many will helpfully self-seed leaving a new generation of flowers to appear the following spring.

Self-seeding poppies for your garden borders

Poppies self-seed delightfully and add a splash of scattered vibrancy to borders.

Annuals are perfect for a high-impact quick burst of colour. They are fast-growers and, because packets of seeds are inexpensive, can cover a big area at a low cost. Ones that will grow directly where they are scattered are the easiest option.

Hardy annuals can be sown in the autumn to get off to a flying start the following spring. Half-hardy ones can’t take the cold. They can be sown indoors in spring, but you will need to wait until the frosts are past before planting them out in the garden. Or you can sow them directly in the garden when there is no more risk of frost, but they will take a little longer before they start to flower.

Eschscholzia californica is the state flower of California, flowering prolifically in shades of gold, orange and red, with finely dissected blue-green foliage.
They seem to have far too many letters in their name, but are one of the easiest annuals to grow. (They are grown as annuals in temperate climates, but considered a perennial in hot areas.) Tolerant of heat, drought and poor soil, these sunny little flowers bloom all summer long and are a magnet for bees and butterflies. Removing the flowers as they go over, encourages the plant to continue flowering. Leave the last flowerheads on the plant at the end of the flowering season, to allow it to self-seed.

Eschschlozia mexicana - for a cottage garden landscaping design

Eschschlozia mexicana Sun Shades

The flowers in my garden are E. californica subsp. Mexicana, the Mexican Gold Poppy. They have masses of silky flowers, which are often two-tone, with the golden centre slightly darker than the outer edge of the petal.

Poached egg plant (Limnanthes douglasii)  - flower bed ideas

Poached egg plant (Limnanthes douglasii)

Limnanthes douglasii, poached egg plant, has pretty yellow and white flowers. It self-seeds freely and is also attractive to pollinators, so is a good choice for cottage gardens. It will naturalise around the garden, providing useful ground cover. It has been granted the Award of Garden Merit (AGM) by The Royal Horticultural Society.

 Love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena) for flower borders

Hardy annual – Love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena)

Nigella damascena is the prettiest of annuals. The flowers float in a delicate mist of ferny foliage, giving it the common name of Love-in-a-Mist. Though most usual in its blue variety, seed mixes often include pink and white flowers. Nigella will self-seed readily and is attractive to wildlife.

Annual cornflower (Centaurea cyanus) - cottage garden border ideas

Annual cornflower (Centaurea cyanus)

The annual cornflower, Centaurea cyanus, carries ruffled flowers in shades of blue red, pink, and white. Deadhead flowers as they go over to prolong flowering, leaving those at the end of the season to develop seedheads to provide food for birds. Check out Centaurea cyanus ‘Blue Boy’, which is a large-flowered cornflower in traditional bright blue. Taller varieties may need staking in exposed areas.

Look out for packets of bee flower mix, which are perfect for a cottage garden. These are seeds of nectar and pollen rich wildflowers, which not only fill in any gaps in your borders but also encourage native bees and other pollinators.

Self-sufficiency

Well, maybe not total self-sufficiency unless you have space for chickens and a pig or two – but you can make a stab at it by mingling fruit and vegetables in with your ornamental flowers. Grow runner beans up willow obelisks, strawberries in pots, tomatoes in growbags. Potatoes, carrots, courgettes, colourful peppers and lettuces can all be grown in containers, so can be squeezed in to any free spaces in the garden.

A pear tree trained to form an espalier - garden design idea for a kitchen garden

A pear tree trained as an espalier

Fruit trees can be grown on dwarf rootstocks, which will stunt their growth, or prune trees to form single cordons, fans, and espaliers. I have a step-over apple in my garden and a small number of columnar fruit trees, which grow to only 1.8-2.4m (6-8ft) tall.

Rosemary - herbs in pots for a cottage garden

Rosmarinus officinalis ‘Sissinghurst Blue’

Don’t forget a ready-to-grab clutch of herbs near the kitchen door. Grow a collection of your favourites in pots – rosemary, mint, chives, thyme, sweet basil and coriander – for adding flavour to your winter casseroles or summer salads.

Sweet basil complement tomatoes beautifully. Scatter torn basil leaves over the top of a tomato and mozzarella salad, with a splash of balsamic vinegar and oil. Or rub cut garlic over a slice of grilled baguette, add a dash of olive oil, freshly chopped tomatoes and basil for a fantastic tomato bruschetta lunch.

Rosemary is the most useful herb I grow, as it is evergreen and can be harvested all year round. One of our favourite family meal is lamb chump chops with tomatoes, courgettes and a handful of aromatic rosemary.

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare Purpureum) - garden design ideas for a herb garden

Fennel (Foeniculum vulgare Purpureum)

I also love fennel – Foeniculum vulgare – an aniseed-scented herb with umbels of yellow flowers. This tall Mediterranean plant has finely dissected leaves which can be sprinkled over pork, fish or used in salads. It also looks pretty fantastic!

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum) - design idea for a herb garden

Chives (Allium schoenoprasum)

Chives (allium schoenoprasum) are easy to grow and make a great addition to salads, soups and omelettes. They have a slight onion flavour, so are perfect for sprinkling over potato salad. The honey-scented flowers are also edible and can be added to salads.

And the most important thing to remember when planning what herbs, fruit and vegetables to fit into your cottage garden? Only grow what you most like to eat!

Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner Landscape Design Software

Need a Cottage Garden Planting Plan?

The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner makes it easy for you to create a cottage garden style border.

The interactive gardening software designs all-season planting plans, tailored to your garden’s soil and light conditions.

Select ‘Cottage Garden’ for your choice of style and pick your preferred colour scheme. Enter your garden’s climate, soil and light conditions. The PlantingPlanner will draw up a planting plan with flowers, herbs and shrubs, which are perfect for creating your very own cottage garden.

You can tweak and modify your generated plan, by excluding any plants you don’t like and substituting them with your favourites. The PlantingPlanner will tell you if your choices are suitable for your location.

If you want to grow vegetables as well as ornamental plants, you could use a collection of pots and containers to cram into gaps around your garden. Try
here for inspiration.

Style Guide – Cottage Gardens Part 3

from The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner – intelligent garden design software

Choosing a Garden Style What’s your style?
Different garden styles evoke different moods and emotions. If you’re not sure which garden personality suits you best, check out this article: Choosing a Garden Style.

If you love charm over elegance, profusion over minimalism, natural haphazardness over control and order, the chances are that you love the cottage garden style.

Read: Style Guide – Cottage Gardens Part 1 | Part 2

Vertical Accents

By their very nature, cottage gardens are charmingly informal and unstructured. A sea of colourful flowers all swaying at the same height could end up lacking interest and a focal point, but, fortunately, several of the classic cottage garden plants naturally provide striking architectural structure, in the form of tall spires of flowers.

Hollyhocks, delphiniums and foxgloves all create vertical accents amongst low-growing flowers.

Delphiniums cottage garden planting plan

Delphiniums

Delphiniums are stately perennials in ravishing shades of blues, pinks and mauves, as well as white. They are a bit demanding, as they like sun, a rich soil and a sheltered spot. They also need staking as their flower spikes are top heavy and will topple without support. But they are beautiful, seductively enchanting plants so well worth the extra effort. Flowers can be single, semi-double or double, with inner sepals forming an eye (or bee) in the centre of each.

Hollyhocks (Alcea rosea) also need fertile soil, a sunny spot and supporting with strong stakes. If you like dark and sultry, look out for Alcea rosea ‘Nigra’, which has stunning near-black single flowers. They are biennials or short-lived perennials, but will usually self-seed obligingly to give you more plants in their place.

Digitalis Apricot Beauty for cottage garden planting plan

Digitalis Apricot Beauty

The foxglove is a stunning architectural plant, with flower spikes up to 5 or 6 feet tall. Foxgloves are biennials or short-lived perennials, but will self-seed readily to maintain and multiply your collection each year.

Digitalis x mertonensis is a semi-evergreen perennial, with dusky strawberry flowers from late spring to mid-summer. ‘Apricot Beauty’ has spikes of apricot flowers from early to mid-summer. Digitalis is a magnet for bees and other insects, the markings on the inside of the flower guiding them towards the nectar.

Two other plants I couldn’t bear to be without are Thalictrum (Meadow Rue) and Verbena bonariensis. Both are tall, but light and airy. Despite their height, they can be used towards the front of a border as they will not screen the planting behind.

Thalictrum delavayi - Meadow Rue - for cottage garden planting plan

Thalictrum delavayi Hewitt’s Double

Thalictrum delavayi ‘Hewitt’s Double’ has mounds of delicate blue-green, aquilegia-like foliage. Tall stems carry sprays of tiny, pompom-like, deep mauve flowers from mid-summer to autumn, creating a wonderful hazy display for weeks.

Verbena-bonariensis - Weatherstaff landscaping ideas

Verbena bonariensis

The wiry stems of Verbena bonariensis are topped with dancing clusters of tiny lavender-pink flowers. The flowers appear from mid-summer to early autumn, while the seedheads can be left through the winter.

Structure

Cottage gardens are a delight in the summer months, but you will be living with it all year round. It is worth considering how you can create structure and interest in the garden when the spring and summer flowers have died back.

The most obvious way is to think about incorporating features such as obelisks, pergolas, picket fences and arches. Trees and shrubs also extend the season of interest in your garden, providing a ‘backbone’ and winter interest to the garden.

Escallonia Red Elf - flowering shrub in cottage style border

Escallonia Red Elf

Escallonias are attractive, compact shrubs, grown for their summer blossoms and evergreen foliage. Escallonia ‘Red Elf’ has a profusion of crimson flowers. ‘Apple Blossom’ flowers are delicate white-centred pink.

Fuchsia magellanica var. gracilis Weatherstaff Planting Plan

Fuchsia magellanica var. gracilis

Fuchsia magellanica var. gracilis is an upright, deciduous shrub. Throughout the summer and into autumn, little drooping, dancing flowers are produced in abundance. Red-purple berries appear in autumn.

Roses are a must, of course, with their exquisite charm and delicate, often fragrant, flowers.

Rosa Generous Gardener perfect for cottage garden planting plan

Rosa Generous Gardener

Rosa ‘The Generous Gardener ‘ is from David Austin’s collection of English Roses, which combine Old Rose flower shape and fragrance, with the Modern Rose’s repeat-flowering and wide colour range.

Stunningly beautiful and exquisitely scented, double flowers of very pale pink are carried throughout the summer and autumn, amongst glossy, dark green foliage. ‘The Generous Gardener’ can be grown as a climber or rounded shrub, with arching stems. It is highly disease-resistant.

Other old-fashioned flowering shrubs include lilacs, for their gorgeous scent, and hydrangeas – the delicately pretty flowerheads can be left on the plant over winter to extend the season of interest in the garden.

Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner Landscape Design Software

Need a Cottage Garden Planting Plan?

The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner makes it easy for you to create a cottage garden style border.

The interactive gardening software designs all-season planting plans, tailored to your garden’s soil and light conditions.

Select ‘Cottage Garden’ for your choice of style and pick your preferred colour scheme. Enter your garden’s climate, soil and light conditions. The PlantingPlanner will draw up a planting plan with flowers, herbs and shrubs, which are perfect for creating your very own cottage garden.

You can tweak and modify your generated plan, by excluding any plants you don’t like and substituting them with your favourites. The PlantingPlanner will tell you if your choices are suitable for your location.

If you want to grow vegetables as well as ornamental plants, you could use a collection of pots and containers to cram into gaps around your garden. Try
here for inspiration.

Read more about Cottage Gardens in Part 4

A Guide to Plant Types for Beginner Gardeners

from The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner – intelligent garden design software

If you’re just a new green shoot in the world of gardening, you’ll find there’s a whole new language to learn!

Seasoned gardeners will casually mention their tender perennials, talk of lifting their corms and dividing their tubers, or bemoan the chlorosis of their blueberries. If you’re nodding sagely, thinking yes, that reminds me – must go and do a bit of rhizome splitting and add sequestered iron to the shopping list, then this blog post is clearly not for you.

On the other hand, if you’re not sure whether they are discussing their ailments or brass bands, then you may find this post helpful!

Dahlia 'Nuit d'Ete' - herbaceous perennial for your flower bed

Dahlia ‘Nuit d’Ete’ – dahlias are tender perennials. They will last for several years, but only if they are overwintered in a frost -free place

When I potted up my first large container, I chose some flowers from the garden centre which looked good together. Some reappeared the following year, some didn’t – I had no idea why. When we had a whole garden to play with, I thought it was time to find out a bit more.

I decided it would be useful to have a fair idea which plants would survive the winter and which wouldn’t. And which ones, no matter how snuggly they were in their fluffy horticultural fleeces, were never going to see another spring, because sadly, their genetic make-up meant they were destined to keel over after flowering, leaving behind only their progeny to carry on the family name.

Annuals

These are the annuals – plants which germinate, flower and set seed all in one year. They die after flowering, but many will helpfully self-seed leaving a new generation of flowers to appear the following spring.

Hardy annual - Love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena) for flower borders

Hardy annual – Love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena)

Many of those plants I bought for my first garden pot were annuals. I didn’t kill them. It was their destiny. I didn’t have to worry that my lack of care was responsible for their untimely deaths. In fact, for some of them, I hadn’t realised that they had died because their offspring appeared the following spring, looking just like their mums.

Not all annuals come true from seed though, which means they will reseed, but won’t be exactly the same as the parent plant. You can decide if you like the variety or whether you want to pull up the ones which clash with your colour scheme.

Annuals are perfect for a high-impact quick burst of colour in flower beds. Packets of seeds are inexpensive, so it’s a good way to fill up a garden border cheaply or to have colour and interest for a year or two while you make decisions about more permanent planting.

Some gardeners like ringing the changes, trying out new colour schemes and flower combinations each year by experimenting with different annuals.

There are two types of annuals – the tough hardy ones and the more tender, half-hardy plants.

Hardy Annuals
Hardy annuals can cope with the cold. They can be sown in the autumn or early spring, because they can shake off the winter frosts. They are all ready to take off when the growing season arrives and can cope with a bit of late spring chill. And when they set seed, the seeds can survive the winter too, so will reappear the following year.

Hardy annuals include the classic sunflower (Helianthus annuus), love-in-a-mist (Nigella damascena) and cornflower (Centaurea cyanus).

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) - a hardy annual

Sunflower (Helianthus annuus) – a hardy annual

Half-hardy Annuals
Half-hardy ones can’t take the cold. You will have to wait until there is no more danger of frost in your region before taking the risk of sowing them directly in the garden. A late sowing means that they will take longer before they are ready to start flowering. You can give them a head start by sowing them indoors in early spring, on a window sill, in a coldframe or green house, but you will need to wait until the frosts are past before planting them out in the garden.

Morning Glory (Ipomoea) - a half-hardy annual for summer flower beds

Morning Glory (Ipomoea) – a half-hardy annual

Don’t just rush them out there, though. These pampered little things need time to get used to the big world outside, so you have to get them acclimatised by spending 10 days or so putting them outside during the day and bringing them back into shelter at night. This is called ‘hardening off’.

Half-hardy annuals are definitely more time-consuming than the hardy ones, but if you have a nurturing nature and some time to cosset your little ones, it can be a therapeutic and rewarding experience.

Cosmos Sonata Pink - garden design idea

Cosmos Sonata Pink

Half-hardy annuals are also a bit more alluring and even flamboyant than the hardy ones, betraying their exotic origins.

The annual climber, Morning glory (Ipomoea) and Cosmos Sonata series are half-hardy annuals.

Cosmos Sonata Carmine for summer flower beds

Cosmos Sonata Carmine

Biennials

A plant with a life cycle of 2 years is called a biennial. These tend not to be widely grown, which is understandable – why bother waiting 2 years for something to flower if it’s going to die straight afterwards?

Traditional foxgloves are biennials – but they helpfully self-seed, so once established, they will continue to reappear every year. You can also buy perennial varieties of foxgloves.

Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea)

Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea)

Honesty (Lunaria annua) has translucent seedpods

Honesty (Lunaria annua) has translucent seedpods

Despite its name, honesty (Lunaria annua), with its purple or white spring flowers, followed by flat silvery seedpods, is also technically a biennial.

Perennials

These are the mainstay of most garden borders. They are plants with a life cycle of more than 2 years. Perennials are also called herbaceous perennials, which means that the plant is not woody (like a shrub or a tree).

Many perennials die right back to the root, but grow back again the following spring. Others, like bergenia and heuchera, are evergreen and keep their leaves in winter. They don’t die back to the root, but neither do they have a woody structure, so they are still classed as perennials.

Heuchera Pewter Moon - an evergreen perennial for winter flower beds

Heuchera Pewter Moon – an evergreen perennial, which is great for winter interest in your flower beds

Heucheras are superb, clump-forming perennials, as they have delicate sprays of flowers in late spring and summer, as well as attractive, evergreen foliage. Heuchera Pewter Moon has silver leaves, with dark silver-green veining, which are red-purple on the undersides.

Carex elata - an evergreen ornamental grass for winter garden design idea

Carex elata – an evergreen ornamental grass

Ornamental grasses are perennials too and are beautiful as well as useful. Some, like Carex elata, are evergreen. These provide good winter colour in flower borders and need just a quick tidy-up in spring.

Miscanthus sinensis Nippon - a deciduous ornamental grass for garden borders

Miscanthus sinensis Nippon – a deciduous ornamental grass

The deciduous grasses are good for winter interest too, as they don’t need to be cut back until the spring, leaving the seedheads on for the birds to enjoy during the colder months. Miscanthus sinensis ‘Nippon’ is very elegant, with upright linear leaves, which turn to russet in autumn before fading to buff in winter. In late summer, feathery, reddish flowerheads appear, becoming silvery-beige as they fade to plumy seedheads. These persist through the winter, creating an attractive winter feature.

Bulbs

Planting bulbs is one of the easiest ways to start gardening. Find yourself a suitable container, plant the bulbs and wait for them to grow. They may need a bit of care – watering, checking they’re not being munched by slugs, feeding them when necessary – but on the whole they’re a perfect choice for beginner gardeners. Some bulbs are good for naturalising in the lawn too although you may have to wait for the foliage to die back before mowing. Snowdrops and crocuses look amazing, planted in drifts. Read advice on how to do it here.

Crocuses - spring bulls perfect for naturalising in grass

Crocuses – spring bulls perfect for naturalising in grass

When we think of bulbs, we tend to think first of spring bulbs, like crocuses, tulips and daffodils, but you can add a splash of colour to flower beds and pots throughout the year by choosing bulbs which flower in different seasons.

Iris Apricot Topping - garden design ideas for spring

Iris Apricot Topping

Elegant bearded irises grow in spring, summer-flowering bulbs include lilies and dahlias, while hardy cyclamen and Nerine bowdenii flower in the autumn.

Nerine (Nerine bowdenii) - autumn garden design idea

Nerine bowdenii – stunning autumn flowering bulb

You can prolong a container’s season of interest by making a bulb lasagne, layering up the bulbs with the largest and latest bulbs to flower going in the bottom of the pot and moving upwards to the smallest and earliest flowering ones at the top. Sarah Raven explains how to do it here.

Bulbs are defined as a plant’s storage organ, sending shoots upwards and roots downwards in order for a new plant to grow. Strictly speaking, not all of the flowers mentioned above come from true bulbs, which are modified shoots. Bearded irises grow from rhizomes, dahlias from tubers and crocuses from corms – I’ve included definitions of these in the glossary below – but they all perform in a similar way to bulbs.

Shrubs

Shrubs are very useful for creating structure in the garden. Without a backbone of shrubs (and/or trees), garden borders can look desolate in winter. In other seasons too, shrubs provide the backdrop for the perennials and annuals to perform against.

A shrub is a woody plant with several stems, usually branching from near ground level. Because it doesn’t die back to ground level each winter, like herbaceous perennials, it will provide some winter interest. Evergreen shrubs, which keep their leaves in the winter, or winter-flowering shrubs are particularly useful in the garden during the grey months of the year.

Shrubs come in all shapes and sizes. Larger ones can offer privacy or height at the back of a flower bed. They can also be planted to form hedging along the garden boundary. Our garden borders a country lane and has a mixed hedgerow of holly, hazel and beech.

Mexican Orange Blossom (Choisya ternata) - shrubs for flower borders

Mexican Orange Blossom (Choisya ternata)

A perfect shrub for a middle sized border is Mexican Orange Blossom (Choisya ternata), an attractive, bushy, evergreen shrub, with white, starry, fragrant flowers. It doesn’t need regular pruning so is a fantastic low maintenance shrub.

Aromatic lavender hedge - garden design idea

Aromatic lavender hedge

Small shrubs, especially evergreen ones, can be planted close together to make a low hedge. Lavender, for example, makes a great low hedge or border edging.

Ceanothus thyrsiflorus var repens - useful shrub for ground cover

Ceanothus thyrsiflorus var repens

Ceanothus thyrsiflorus var. repens, which has been awarded the RHS Award of Garden Merit, is a vigorous, low, spreading evergreen shrub, which makes it perfect for forming ground cover.

Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles) - landscaping design idea

Flowering Quince (Chaenomeles)

Some shrubs, such as Chaenomeles (Flowering Quince) are useful for growing as wall shrubs but will need regular pruning and tying in to a support system.

Trees

A tree is a woody plant, with usually a single trunk. There are trees to suit every garden and some small trees – or trees with a narrow growing habit – are particularly suitable for small gardens.

Betula pendula 'Fastigiata' -tree for small gardens

Betula pendula ‘Fastigiata’

Silver Birch ‘Fastigiata’ (Betula pendula ‘Fastigiata’) is a narrowly columnar, deciduous tree, with upright branches and white peeling bark.

Prunus subhirtella 'Autumnalis Rosea' - winter interest tree

Prunus subhirtella ‘Autumnalis Rosea’

Ornamental cherries are great garden trees too. Prunus x subhirtella ‘Autumnalis Rosea’ is a small, deciduous tree, with an elegant spreading habit. Delicate, semi-double, pink flowers appear in mild spells between autumn and spring.

Even if you haven’t got space for an orchard, don’t let that put you off growing your own fruit! You can buy fruit trees, which have been grafted onto dwarf rootstocks, which will stunt their growth. They can also be pruned and trained in different ways in order to keep their size manageable.

A pear tree trained to form an espalier - garden design idea for a kitchen garden

A pear tree trained as an espalier

Fruit trees can be trained flat against a wall or fence, tying in the branches to a frame or trellis. Any branches jutting away from the wall or fence are pruned back. This is called an espalier and looks very attractive as well as being a practical space-saving solution.

You can also train fruit trees as cordons or in the shape of a fan. These are all just different ways of producing a decent crop of fruit in a small space. They are quite fun to try though you will need to be prepared to put some effort into their maintenance.

Step-over apple trees in a cottage garden border design

Step-over apple trees make fantastic border edging

I have some minarettes in my garden, which are fruit trees with a single stem. There’s quite a lot of pruning to do to keep the sideshoots short, but they take up little space in the garden. I also have a step-over apple tree, which bears a great crop of delicious apples, and is pruned to grow horizontally on wires between two posts. It makes a fantastic edging to a productive border.

Beginner Gardeners can have stunning borders too!

Choosing a Garden Style Designer Gardens
If you’ve ever thought designer gardens are only for the experienced horticulturist, it’s time to think again. The secret is getting the planting right – and now there is some new garden software which will help you do just that!

Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner Landscape Design Software

The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner is a garden design program, ideally suited to new gardeners. You won’t need to acquire a vast knowledge of horticulture before beginning to create beautiful flower beds in your own garden.

Simply input information about your garden’s climate and soil conditions (don’t worry, there are help panels to hold your hand through the entire process), choose your favourite colour scheme and sit back while the PlantingPlanner selects the plants which will thrive in your garden and shows you where to plant them. Each planting plan is specially created for you – and you can make as many as you want, changing your colour scheme and choice of style to try out different ideas.

A planting plan generated by the Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner

A planting plan generated by the Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner

The plans comes with colour photographs, descriptions and full maintenance advice, so you can keep your flower beds looking amazing year after year.

Watch the introductory video now to find out how to use the PlantingPlanner to easily create exciting garden borders with all year round interest.

Glossary

Annual – a plant which completes its life cycle in one year

Biennial – a plant which completes its life cycle in two years, flowering the year after it was sown

Bulb – a plant’s storage organ, sending shoots upwards and roots downwards in order for a new plant to grow. A true bulb is a modified shoot, but corms, tubers and rhizomes perform similar functions

Climber – Climbing plant useful for covering walls or fences or for growing into trees or large shrubs. They can also be used for ground cover. Self-clinging climbers attach themselves to surfaces using aerial roots or adhesive pads. Others twine their stems around a support or use tendrils to coil around wire or trellis. A third type of climber scrambles over shrubs or trees but will need tying in against a wall or fence

Corm – an enlarged underground stem, performing the same function as a bulb

Espalier – a fruit tree which is trained to grow flat against a wall, using a trellis or framework for support.

Herbaceous perennial – a plant with a life cycle of more than 2 years. Plants may die back to ground level in autumn and then start again into growth in spring or may be non-woody evergreen plants like bergenia and heuchera

Rhizome – a creeping stem growing underground or occasionally along the ground, rooting as it travels and sending up new shoots

Shrub – a woody perennial with several stems, usually branching from near ground level

Tree – a woody perennial with usually a single trunk

Tuber – a thick underground part of a stem or rhizome, performing the same function as a bulb

Wall-trained shrub – free standing shrub which is useful for training flat against a vertical surface

Woody plant – one with a permanent structure of stems and branches e.g. trees, shrubs and some climbers

Style Guide – Cottage Gardens Part 2

from The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner – intelligent garden design software

Choosing a Garden Style What’s your style?
Different garden styles evoke different moods and emotions. If you’re not sure which garden personality suits you best, check out this article: Choosing a Garden Style.

If you love charm over elegance, profusion over minimalism, natural haphazardness over control and order, the chances are that you love the cottage garden style.

Read: Style Guide – Cottage Gardens Part 1

The Daisies

Traditional cottage garden favourites are daisy-style flowers, such as asters, fleabane daisies, coreopsis and echinacea.

Coreopsis verticillata Grandiflora

Coreopsis verticillata Grandiflora

Coreopsis verticillata ‘Grandiflora’ has cheery yellow, starry flowerheads, carried in abundance on wiry stems in summer.

Aster pyrenaeus Lutetia cottage garden late summer flower

Aster pyrenaeus Lutetia

Asters come in shades of white, pink, purple and blue. I love Aster pyrenaeus ‘Lutetia’, for its starry flowerheads in palest lilac, with yellow centres. It has a long flowering season from mid-summer to mid-autumn and is completely resistant to powdery mildew – a disease which plagues many asters.

Erigeron karvinskianus for Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner blog

Erigeron karvinskianus

Erigeron karvinskianus (Mexican Fleabane) is a delightful long-flowering perennial, spreading by rhizomes to form a carpet of daisy-like flowers. Little white flowers with yellow centres appear throughout the summer and into autumn, becoming deep pink as they age.

Echinacea purpurea Weatherstaff PlantingPlan cottage garden plant

Echinacea purpurea

A beautiful, late summer-flowering perennial, Echinacea purpurea has slightly reflexed, light purple rays, carried on upright stems from mid-summer to early autumn. The flowers have prominent coppery-brown, cone-shaped discs.

Down at Ground Level

Cottage gardens are recognised by the abundance of their planting. Filling the borders to overflowing has the added advantage of leaving no bare soil for weeds to germinate.

That’s where the little ground covering plants come in. They do a brilliant job of plugging the gaps in borders and knitting everything together. Allowing them to spill gently over border edges, wind around paths or cascade over low walls creates a natural, informal effect.

Campanula poscharskyana for ground cover Weatherstaff Planting Plan

Campanula poscharskyana

Campanula poscharskyana, the trailing bellflower, is a fantastic perennial for softening the edges of paths and borders. Its purple-blue, star-shaped flowers, keep appearing from spring right through to early autumn. Read more about it here

Ajuga reptans Burgundy Glow ground cover for border design in shade

Ajuga reptans Burgundy Glow

Ajuga (Bugle) is another useful, creeping perennial, spreading by means of rhizomes to form a mat of attractive, evergreen foliage. Short spikes of deep blue flowers appear in late spring and early summer. Ajuga reptans ‘Burgundy Glow’ has variegated leaves – silvery-green, with shades of pink, red and cream. The leaves of ‘Variegata’ are grey-green, with cream borders. For white flowers, try Ajuga reptans f. albiflora ‘Alba’.

Myosotis-sylvatica, the little forget-me-not

Myosotis sylvatica

The woodland forget-me-not (Myosotis sylvatica) has clusters of blue flowers, with tiny yellow eyes. The flowers are carried above tufts of grey-green leaves in spring and early summer, and mingle happily with spring flowering bulbs. Though short-lived, the plants will self-seed freely, to spread through borders and cover patches of bare soil.

Viola odorata Queen Charlotte spring planting idea

Viola odorata Queen Charlotte

You will have to crouch down low to catch the scent of the Viola odorata. Pretty, very fragrant violet-blue or white flowers are produced in late winter and early spring. It spreads gently to form a clump of glossy, heart-shaped, bright green foliage. Perfect ground cover for a shady spot.

Lysimachia nummularia Aurea - landscaping design idea for cottage garden ground cover

Lysimachia nummularia Aurea

Lysimachia nummularia ‘Aurea’, known as Golden Creeping Jenny, provides useful groundcover, especially between paving stones or on gravel. An evergreen carpeting perennial, it forms a low mat of attractive golden-yellow foliage, with bright yellow, cup-shaped flowers in summer.

Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner Landscape Design Software

Need a Cottage Garden Planting Plan?

The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner makes it easy for you to create a cottage garden style border.

The interactive gardening software designs all-season planting plans, tailored to your garden’s soil and light conditions.

Select ‘Cottage Garden’ for your choice of style and pick your preferred colour scheme. Enter your garden’s climate, soil and light conditions. The PlantingPlanner will draw up a planting plan with flowers, herbs and shrubs, which are perfect for creating your very own cottage garden.

You can tweak and modify your generated plan, by excluding any plants you don’t like and substituting them with your favourites. The PlantingPlanner will tell you if your choices are suitable for your location.

If you want to grow vegetables as well as ornamental plants, you could use a collection of pots and containers to cram into gaps around your garden. Try here for inspiration.

Read more about Cottage Gardens in Part 3

Style Guide – Cottage Gardens Part 1

from The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner – intelligent garden design software

Choosing a Garden Style What’s your style?
Different garden styles evoke different moods and emotions. If you’re not sure which garden personality suits you best, check out this article: Choosing a Garden Style.

If you love charm over elegance, profusion over minimalism, natural haphazardness over control and order, the chances are that you love the cottage garden style.

Exuberant planting in a cottage style landscape design

Flowers packed in and spilling over… exuberant planting in a cottage style border

Planting will be exuberant, with self-seeding annuals and low-maintenance perennials packed in together and spilling over border edges. Climbers scramble over fences, garden gates and trees.

Historically, gardens for pleasure were the preserve of the wealthy. Cottage gardens were for the poorer levels of society and were purely functional. The first cottage gardens met the needs of early tenant farmers, by providing the vegetables, herbs and fruit which formed the mainstay of their diet.

Vegetables included garlic, onions, cabbages and beans. A fruit tree here and there offered shade, as well as its crops of apples, pears, cherries and plums.

If you dream of a cottage garden in your own backyard, but haven’t got the space for full size tress, don’t worry! There are some great alternatives. You can grow fruit trees on dwarf rootstocks, which will stunt their growth, or prune trees to form single cordons, fans, and espaliers.

I have a small collection of minarettes – columnar fruit trees, growing to 1.8-2.4m (6-8ft) tall – in a narrow garden border. These need pruning regularly so that the fruit is carried on short spurs along its length. They can be planted as close as 60-90cm (2-3ft) apart or even in large pots, which make them suitable for patios or balconies. I bought mine from Ken Muir, which carries a large selection of apples, pears, plums, gages, damsons and cherries, suitable for growing as minarettes.

Pride of place though goes to my stepover apple, which looks wonderful along the edge of my fruit bed and carries a prolific crop of crunchy Falstaff apples. The stepover apple is grown on a very dwarfing rootstock (M27) and trained horizontally to make a low border edging.

Step-over apple trees in a cottage garden border design

Stepover apple trees make fantastic border edging

Dwarf fruit trees

Fruit trees can be grown on dwarfing rootstocks to fit into the smallest spaces.

In a traditional cottage garden, flowers served the important purpose of attracting bees, butterflies and other pollinating insects into the garden, in order to ensure fruitful crops. However, traditionally, they were chosen for a specific purpose, rather than for their beauty.

Primula vulgaris spring planting idea

Primula vulgaris

Sweet-smelling flowers were useful to mask odours. Edible violet petals could be added to salads. Wine was made from the native English primrose. Lavender was hidden among clothes and household linens to repel moths. Cough medicine was made from Verbascum.

Lavandula from the Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner

Lavender

Verbascum from the Weatherstaff Planting Planner design software

Verbascum

Hyssop - cottage garden landscaping design

Hyssop

The ancient herb, hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis) was chopped and added to salads and soups, while its orange scent made it a useful addition to pot-pourri.

As well as being used traditionally to treat bronchial infections and melancholy, the leaves and flowers of the pretty borage plant (Borage officinalis) were also edible. The young leaves taste like cucumber and both leaves and the starry blue flowers can be added to salads and drinks. A fun party trick is to half-fill a tray of ice-cubes with water and freeze. Add a borage flower to each, top up with water and freeze again to make borage flower ice cubes.

Borage - traditional cottage landscaping design

Borage

Comfrey - Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner

Comfrey

The young leaves of Comfrey (Symphytum officinalis) were used in salads or cooked like spinach. Wine could be made from its roots. The plant itself was widely used to staunch bleeding and reduce inflammation.

Comfrey is also a rich source of food for plants. Rot down a bucketful of chopped comfrey leaves and, in about a month’s time, you will have a free fertiliser for your plants. Dilute it in the ratio of one part comfrey liquid to 20 parts water. It’s smelly, though, so use a bucket with a lid to make it!

Cottage garden @ uk.pinterest.com/plantingplanner

To create your own cottage garden, you need flowers and herbs, grown for their culinary and fragrant properties, as well as for their beauty.

Plant flowering shrubs for structure and ground cover plants to fill up every bare patch of soil.

For more gardening ideas, click here to follow the Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner on Pinterest.

To complete the effect, use traditional and natural-looking materials.

  • Smother weathered wooden fences with climbers.
  • Complement garden furniture with checked tablecloths or flowery cushions.
  • Gather together an eclectic collection of containers and pots and arrange some of the smaller ones on a bench or the rungs of an old wooden ladder.
  • Create routes between borders with winding paths or stepping stones.
  • Rustic arches and pergolas emphasise the old fashioned charm of a cottage garden.

Need a Cottage Garden Planting Plan?

Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner Landscape Design Software

The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner makes it easy for you to create a cottage garden style border.

The interactive gardening software designs all-season planting plans, tailored to your garden’s soil and light conditions.

Select ‘Cottage Garden’ for your choice of style and pick your preferred colour scheme. Enter your garden’s climate, soil and light conditions. The PlantingPlanner will draw up a planting plan with flowers, herbs and shrubs, which are perfect for creating your very own cottage garden.

You can tweak and modify your generated plan, by excluding any plants you don’t like and substituting them with your favourites. The PlantingPlanner will tell you if your choices are suitable for your location.

If you want to grow vegetables as well as ornamental plants, you could use a collection of pots and containers to cram into gaps around your garden. Try here for inspiration.

Read more about Cottage Gardens in Part 2

How much did you spend the last time you went to the garden centre?

from The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner – intelligent garden design software

Did you just cast your eyes down and look a little bit sheepish then?

Plants are enticing, beguiling little things. They whisper: “Buy me! Put me in your trolley! See that gorgeous little flowery thing over there which matches my colours so beautifully. Buy us both! And you too will have an award-winning show garden border in your back yard.”

In May 2014, the Independent wrote that Britons will spend an average of £30,000 on their gardens over a lifetime, with a third of that amount going on plants, “often fuelled by impulse buys on garden centre visits”. That figures…

Planting plan for a show garden

Who wants a show garden in their back yard?

I remember a friend of mine proudly showing off her flower bed to me. She’d just moved in to her new house by the sea and was keen to plant up the long border in the narrow back garden. It was looking fantastic. She’d gone to the garden centre, she told me, and spent a small fortune – but it was all worth it, because here was her garden transformed into something that wouldn’t look out of place at Chelsea.

Except that, just like the spring-time show gardens, her garden border wasn’t designed to last very long either.

The following year, it looked dull and despondent. Most of the plants had died. Some were
annuals in the first place, so couldn’t have been expected to put in an appearance the following spring. Some just couldn’t cope with the salt-laden air or exposed position. (The fact that she didn’t actually know how to look after them didn’t help either!)

My friend admitted that she couldn’t possibly afford to spend the huge amount of money she’d spent the previous year on an annual basis. She was planning on getting some utilitarian ground cover plants in to fill the space.

Garden from Weatherstaff Planting Planner

How do you get a planting plan that lasts?

This was a useful lesson for us when we set about transforming our own garden borders a year or two later. Determined to make sure that every living thing I planted had the best possible chance of survival, I did my research, reading every gardening book I could lay my hands on and poring over my enormous Plant Encyclopaedia – weighty enough to hold down a small potting shed in a hurricane. I made lists of possible flower bed beauties, then scratched them all out and made new lists in my efforts to create a successful planting plan. Read about it here.

Now I felt I knew a bit more about plants – the difference between perennials and biennials, how some loved acidic and others needed alkaline soil, that some were more demanding than others, some were great for attracting wildlife, lots were poisonous.

But I was no garden designer… And that was why a trolley load of plants did not a show garden make!

Winter scene

What’s your garden like in winter?

I realised I hadn’t really considered structural planting – important in the summer months and essential in the winter. My garden was missing a focal point – a specimen small tree or shrub to draw the eye. Buying a collection of plants in the spring meant that they all flowered beautifully in the spring, but there was no tapestry of colours and textures, changing and performing in succession throughout the seasons. There was a bit more to this than I first thought!

The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner - garden design software

The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner – a virtual garden designer

That’s when the idea for the Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner was born. We decided we needed to create garden design software that would select the right plants for your garden’s conditions and arrange them with the eye of a virtual designer.

The program chooses plants for all-year-round interest, so that your borders are not a one-season wonder. It also gives you the opportunity to select your favourite garden style and colour palette, as well as providing family-friendly, wildlife-friendly and low maintenance options.

If you are going to spend your hard-earned money on transforming your garden, you need to make sure the money is spent on those plants which will not only thrive in your location but will also look stunning all year round. The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner will show you how. The program is available both as a download or as a CD.

Don’t forget – the Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner also makes a great gardening gift! Buy it for the gardeners in your life and they can enjoy designing their own garden borders with the help of its built-in intelligence and interactive features.

Get Amazon to gift-wrap the CDs if you want to send them as gardening gifts!

Move On Up!

from The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner – intelligent garden design software

Akebia quinata planting design

Delicious deep claret flowers of Akebia quinata

Sultry, seductive, with a slight hint of chocolate – my first climbing plant was Akebia quinata. I fell in love with its photograph and set off to track one down for my very own!We had just invested in a beautiful pergola. It was delivered – a collection of posts and panels and a hefty stash of 3in nails – and assembled by a local builder. It was all looking rather good. Until the moment when we realised that we still had a rather large collection of nails and, on closer inspection, discovered that the builder had gone home before securing the rafters. And, right on cue, came the first gust of wind and rumble of thunder. The pergola’s first night in the garden was accompanied by a howling gale and a pair of novice builders, raincoats flapping, torchlight wavering, wet hands dropping nails into the sodden ground, as we fought to batten down the rafters before the thing took off into the darkness.

But the next morning, there it was, all fresh and new, standing proudly in the garden, which was then almost entirely lawn, with flower borders and snaking woodland paths still just a dream nestling in the pages of a magazine, where they came attached to Cotswold stone manor houses or country vicarages. So, first step towards our dream garden – draping the pristine new wood with swathes of blossoming ramblers and scramblers.

Enter the chocolate vine, Akebia quinata. Not only a good-looker; it turned out to be a keeper. Bright green leaves in spring, with exquisite wine-red flowers. Not particularly large and showy, but just big enough to give a thrill of discovery when the first flowers of the season appear amongst the foliage. It’s hardy and vigorous, quickly twining and clambering its way over the wooden posts. It can start to scamper off on adventures of its own, when my back is turned – threading its way over neighbouring shrubs and clambering up in to a nearby tree, but responds very well to being cut back to keep it in check.

Other climbers have inveigled their way into my garden centre trolley and my heart since then, enticing me with their scents and colours. Clematis, of course – from the large, lavender-blue of Mrs Cholmondeley,
Clematis Mrs Cholmondeley

Clematis Mrs Cholmondeley

to the enchantingly ruffled Clematis viticella ‘Purpurea Plena Elegans, twining its elegant way around a wrought iron obelisk,
Clematis viticella Purpurea Plena Elegans

Clematis viticella Purpurea Plena Elegans

via the bright yellow lanterns of Clematis tangutica ‘Aureolin’, paired giddily with the appropriately named Romantika, with its bewitchingly dark good looks.
Clematis tangutica Aureolin

Clematis tangutica Aureolin

Clematis Romantika

Clematis Romantika

I have a Wisteria for those gorgeous lilac waterfalls of flowers in mid-spring, a Jasmine for its heady scent and Actinidia kolomikta for its amazing colours – the foliage looks like it has been dipped in pots of white and pink paint.

Wisteria in herbaceous border design

Wisteria floribunda macrobotrys has particularly long, scented trusses

Actinidia kolomikta in landscape plan

Actinidia kolomikta has heart shaped leaves with splashes of pink and white

Climbing plants are useful for covering walls or fences or for growing into trees or large shrubs. They can also be used as ground cover in garden borders. Smaller ones can be grown in pots, winding themselves round a spiral plant support and providing background height for more lowly companions.

Though self-clinging climbers attach themselves to surfaces using aerial roots or adhesive pads, most climbing plants need something to cling on to. Some twine their stems around a support or use tendrils to coil around wire or trellis. A third type of climber scrambles over shrubs or trees but will need tying in against a wall or fence.

Parthenocissus henryana for border plan with climbers

Self-clinging Parthenocissus henryana

Rosa Paul's Himalayan Musk rambler for landscape design

The rambling rose, Rosa Paul’s Himalayan Musk

Clematis macropetala Lagoon Weatherstaff Planting Plans

Coiling tendrils of Clematis macropetala Lagoon

Need a Planting Plan for your garden, which incorporates climbing plants?

The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner makes it easy for you to add climbers to your border designs.

1. Design Layout

Draw out your border using the on-screen Drawing Tools.

2. Styles and Conditions

Enter information about the soil and light conditions in your flower beds. Select your preferred planting style and colour scheme.

3. Boundaries

Use the Drawing Tools to mark out the different sections of the border’s boundary, indicating where the border is backed by a fence, wall or hedge. Select the option to clothe walls or fences with climbers.

4. The Plan

Your tailor-made planting plan is generated. Each plan comes with colour photographs, descriptions and full maintenance advice for individual plants.

For climbers and wall shrubs, check the plant descriptions for information about climbing habits and any support structures needed.

Climbers in garden design software

Akebia quinata

Tips for planting climbers

Plant as for container-grown plants, taking into consideration the following specific requirements for climbers:

  • If your climber needs a support structure such as wire or trellis, it is useful to fix this in place before you plant.
  • Make the planting hole about 45cm (18in) away from the wall or fence to avoid the rain-shadow effect.
  • When placing in its hole, angle the plant towards the boundary.
  • Fan out the stems and tie them to the wire or trellis. You may need to use a bamboo cane to help the stems reach the bottom of their support structure. Help the plant by tying in the stems initially, though self-clinging climbers will manage on their own once they have settled in.

Special Cases
Roses: Many roses are grafted. Plant so that the graft union – the bulge in the stem – is 6cm (2½ in) below the level of the soil.
Clematis: Plant clematis deeper than other plants. If the plant is attacked by clematis wilt, new shoots may grow back from the base. These climbers like their roots to be in shade. Place low plants in front to provide shade at the base or add a mulch of pebbles to help keep the roots cool.

The Weatherstaff PlantingPlanner garden design software for creating tailor-made planting plans