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.
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...
Top marks to those easy-going plants which perform spectacularly and never ask for much in return. Here are some more of my favourite low maintenance plants.
1. Tiarella ‘Iron Butterfly’
A stunning, clump-forming perennial, with attractive foliage and sprays of delicate flowers. Tiny, starry, white flowers, opening from pink buds, are produced in late spring, sometimes followed by a second flush in summer. The gorgeous, deeply-lobed leaves are mid-green with maroon markings and provide useful ground cover in woodland conditions.
2. Rudbeckia fulgida var. sullivantii ‘Goldsturm’
A mass of golden, daisy-like flowerheads are carried on upright stems from late summer to mid-autumn. A superb, late-flowering perennial, the cheerful yellow rays surround prominent black-brown, cone-shaped discs.
Our garden has grown with us. Our youngest child was born within weeks of moving in and spent the first summer being pushed around an empty plot in her buggy. Heavy snowfall that winter meant that her brothers, bundled up in hats and scarves and huddled together on their toboggan, could be pulled up to the highest point of the garden before sailing back down again. Our newly-built house stood in its newly-laid-to-lawn garden, the blank walls bare and the fences freshly painted.
With time, both house and garden settled in, became more lived-in and weathered, more distinctly ours. We dug out our first flower beds and filled skips with all the builders’ rubble which lurked beneath the layer of...
Come spring, I race out into the garden and pit my weeding fork against the clock. I start off with the flower bed nearest the back door and work my way round to the top of the garden… and then start all over again.
I could make life easier for myself and pave it all over, but I want to look out of my window and see colour, not concrete. Once bitten by the gardening bug, it’s hard to resist the temptation to dig up one more flower bed or squeeze in one more plant. But when family and working life means that the time you have for gardening is limited, it’s time to look at ways to make managing...
One of life’s great pleasures is taking a morning stroll to admire the day-to-day changes in our patch of Eden. Soft, downy buds appearing on the Magnolia stellata – more numerous with each passing year, the bronzy, unfurling fronds of woodland-loving ferns, the exquisite scent of summer roses, evoking memories of crushing petals to make ‘perfume’ as a child in my grandfather’s garden.
But there is something even more special in observing others sharing our garden with us. Counting the different varieties of butterfly on the dancing clusters of lavender-pink Verbena bonariensis. The low buzz as you pass the lavender border. A thrush, driven by freezing temperatures, squeezing on to the bird table to enjoy its lunch.
Different garden styles evoke different feelings and emotions. While you may appreciate or even admire many gardens you visit or see photographs of, they will not necessarily be the blueprint you want to follow for your own garden borders. But if you’re planning to spend some time changing your garden either piecemeal or in one fell swoop, it’s useful to think about the atmosphere you would like to create in your own garden. It’s a personal thing – reflecting your own taste and individuality.
What’s your style?
Read through the style guides below. One or more of these will instinctively feel right for you – summing up how you feel about your garden (or the garden you are planning to create)....