Your English cottage garden should have a relaxed feel and let the plants slightly cascade over the paths and intertwine with one another. Photo supplied

Spring In The Garden: Natural disarray adds to the charm of the English cottage garden

Ellen Presley

Special to The Record

The cottage garden has had an amazing history over the last few hundred years, mostly based on the need for survival by the lower classes, which had to grow enough food to survive each winter.

The gardens consisted mostly of vegetables and medicinal herbs and a few flowers, all of which were jam-packed into a small plot of land about the size of our urban lots today.

It is this informal design and density of plantings that give the cottage garden its distinctive look. By using a variety of colours, textures and heights, you create a kaleidoscope that gives the garden a carefree look filled with charm. Whether you choose to plant more vegetables, or more flowers or herbs, is entirely up to your individual needs and preference.

As in all gardens, invest in good rich soil before you plant and choose the right plant for the right conditions. The healthiest plants need the least care because they are grown in their ideal conditions.

Select hardy, easy-care plants that have stood the test of time, and mix a variety of shapes and sizes to add interest. Traditional plants include perennials such as peonies, foxglove, hollyhocks, buddleia, globe thistle, verbena, nepeta, poppies, carnations, delphiniums, iris, phlox, and roses.

Favourite annuals include cosmos, snapdragons, alyssum, salpiglossis, nasturtium, dianthus, atocks, zinnias and salvia.

Herbs: borage, thyme, chives, rosemary, lavender and sage.

Once you have selected a variety of your favourite flowers, herbs and vegetables, don’t plant in rows. Instead, plant in random groupings along meandering paths wide enough for a wheelbarrow. The paths create a visual relief in the planting, and make the garden more welcoming and easier to maintain, especially if you use pea gravel, wood chips or grass, depending on the traffic.

It should have a relaxed feel, and let the plants slightly cascade over the paths and intertwine with one another. There should be a sense that you just discovered this secret garden and no one else has been there to control it. A sense of disarray adds to the charm.

Once you have planted, cover the soil with a mulch to keep the beds from drying out and to help prevent the weeds from growing. As the garden starts growing, you should have enough plants to use as a cutting garden for bouquets or vegetables to harvest during the summer.

Then start having fun with accessories: clay pots or lined woven baskets to fill with unusual flowers; pieces of a picket fence, a recycled birdbath or old wooden bench. Try to stick to natural material or vintage pieces that have that well-worn look. It should look like you just discovered them along the paths. Don’t get too carried away. By showing moderation, you avoid the junkyard effect.

The cottage garden is all about having fun, playing with colour and discovering nature. Plant what you like and don’t get hung up in the rules. In fact, let go of the rules and have fun. Happy gardening.

Ellen Presley is the owner of Anderton Nursery.

garden life

Get local stories you won't find anywhere else right to your inbox.
Sign up here

Comments are closed

Just Posted

Cumberland keeps pushing for groundwater protection

Council will raise issue with Province again through Union of BC Municipalities

Annual music event in Comox Valley celebrates online instead

Vancouver Island MusicFest holds virtual celebration set for July 10

Cumberland wants more done to stop drug deaths

Motions include writing Dr. Bonnie Henry, holding naloxone workshop

Courtenay theatre gets support for livestream ‘hybrid’ shows this year

Island Coastal Economic Trust funds help Sid Williams Theatre with infrastructure, training

Military police training in Comox Valley

Latest quarterly session for training is July 6-8

B.C. accommodators need phone lines to light up as in-province travel given green light

Travel restrictions during the COVID-19 pandemic have decimated the tourism and hospitality industries

300 Cache Creek residents on evacuation alert due to flood risk as river rises

Heavy rainfall on Canada Day has river rising steadily, threatening 175 properties

PHOTOS: GP Vanier Grad

Some submitted photos from the 2020 grad celebrations at GP Vanier in Courtenay

First glimpse of Canada’s true COVID-19 infection rate expected mid-July

At least 105,000 Canadians have tested positive for COVID-19 since the coronavirus was identified

Police ramp up efforts to get impaired drivers off B.C. roads this summer

July is dedicated to the Summer CounterAttack Impaired Driving Campaign

Migrant workers stage multi-city action for full status amid COVID-19 risks

‘COVID-19 has exacerbated an existing crisis’

Okanagan school drops ‘Rebels’ sports team name, citing links with U.S. Civil War

Name and formerly-used images “fly in the face” of the district’s human rights policy, says board chair

PHOTOS: B.C.’s top doc picks up personalized Fluevog shoes, tours mural exhibition

Murals of Gratitude exhibit includes at least one portrait of Henry alongside paintings of health-care workers

In troubled times: Independence Day in a land of confusion

Buffeted by invisible forces and just plain worn out, the United States of America celebrates its 244th birthday

Most Read