Monday, December 30, 2013

What makes a Cottage Garden?

As I ponder my gardens, during these cold, indoor, winter days, I wonder...what really makes a 'cottage garden'?

Wikipedia says it's a garden that is English in origin. A garden that has an informal design, with mixture of ornamental and edible plants that have grace and charm.


What plants provide grace and charm? Do these always need to be blooming plants? Should they be Heirloom only or are others allowed to play?


Do you need to have a thatched roof on your 'cottage home' in order to qualify?


What are the feelings and colors associated with a cottage garden? Are certain textures and shapes more desirable than others?


Are cottage gardens passe?


Must you keep roses in order to have a 'cottage garden'?

And, in light of our changing climate conditions...are cottage gardens even a sensible choice for further sustainable gardening design? I'm thinking about water resources here.


I pose these questions as I consider future changes for my own garden. My mind turns with ideas, but I'm always questioning the practicality of some of them. What do you think about cottage gardens? I'd love to know.

Wishing All a Happy New Year!
Cheers, Jenni

P.S. I had to pull out some old photos because I am truly sick of looking at the winter dull of my current landscape. Yes, that is on my list to change up next year!

27 comments:

  1. Hi Jennifer, I think this is a very good question. Perhaps finding the answer can come by not defining it as "cottage" which I think can pigeonhole or limit your possibilities. Rather than define a certain type of garden, decide what plants you like and how much room you have to grow them. Once you've got your plants then design a layout that pleases you. It might be cottage or something else but it will be uniquely yours. And defining it simply as the plants you love, you're free to amend it as you please. I don't know if I answered your question but these are my thoughts, such as they are. Happy New Year. I'm sooo ready for spring!

    ReplyDelete
  2. That's a very good question, Jenni...I love cottage gardens! I think you can pretty much use any plant palette you want...you can make a cottage garden out of tough, dependable plants, so they can be as sustainable as you want them to be. I think the best cottage gardens sit graciously in their setting, they feel "logical", and harmonious with their locale. I generally think of them as being welcoming, honest and unpretentious...and while a love of plants is evident, the overall "atmosphere" of the garden is the most important thing. That being said, I don't think they are hip or fashionable right now, not that I've ever cared about being trendy ;-)

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. 'welcoming, honest and unpretentious' that paints a wonderful picture in my mind as to how a cottage garden should look!

      Delete
  3. I love cottage gardens. The cottagers, not having large parcels of land like those to the manor born, used what space they had to grow food and ornamentals together. Gertrude Jekyll wrote fondly of the artless nature of this kind of garden overflowing with blowsy reseeding annuals, pass along perennials and vegetables. Jekyll, who popularized the perennial border, tried to incorporate the joy of cottage gardens in her borders. Our inclusion of shrubs small trees, vines, etc. among the perennials led to what Ann Lovejoy calls "The American Mixed Border." When I think of a cottage garden, I see every possible space used for growing plants, no space for an aristocratic lawn that shows that we're so well off that we can actually let our property be wasted in this non productive way. Thatched roof optional. In a way, the new hipsters who are growing herbs and vegetables in their parking strips along with nasturtiums, calendulas, etc. are creating a cottage movement of sorts. I'm thinking that the original cottage gardens didn't look very good in the winter when the herbaceous plants would be dormant, vegetables harvested.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Peter, I really enjoyed reading your comment. I've been a bit stuck with just what to do with my gardens, as I have a tendency to be a bit all over the place. My house is truly a cottage, sans thatched roof. I'm going to look up a few of the authors you mentioned and see if I can't better educate myself about their thoughts and ideas regarding cottage gardening. Gardening has been a political statement to me and I love what you wrote about how cottage gardens are in such stark contrast to those gardens of the gentry. Thank you.

      Delete
  4. I think Scott nailed it with "welcoming, honest and unpretentious". I agree with both Grace and Scott in that the plant palette can be what you want it to be - it is what you do with it that will create that feeling, not so much the individual plants themselves. Just like it's not the plant material that makes a japanese garden - it is the compositions and how it's put together. I wish you lots of fun in this new endeavor! Happy New Year, Jenni!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! I love this idea that it's not the individual plants but the grouping of plants that creates a palette, with it's own individual ebb and flow. Happy New Year!

      Delete
  5. To me a cottage garden is a garden where lots of plants intermingle with one another, The plants aren't planted in blocks but allowed to reseed and grow where they will. There would be annuals, perennials and shrubs especially shrub roses and also walls and fences clothed with plants. Lots of scent and insects buzzing about too.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes! Gardens with lot's of buzzing activity are delightful to me :)

      Delete
  6. I love cottage gardens. In mind it's any scheme that has a lot of flowering plants crammed together quite closely. Preferably you have to think, "How do I get to the front door?"

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I do love to 'cram' plants and I adore cozy homes with plants lining the way to the front door. Happy New Year Heather!

      Delete
  7. Cottage gardens are my true love. Historically they began when cottagers saw the value of planting useful plants close to their houses instead of foraging for them. These included medicinal plants, food for themselves and for the family pig. Flowers were used for medicines, perfumes and pest control. Perhaps the resulting beauty was at first unintentional but must have been welcome in a harsh environment. So very soon they were valued for the pleasure they gave. Doing what gives you pleasure sounds right to me. There are a ton of resources out there. Christopher Lloyd is a big name. I like Stephen Westcott-Gratton for a practical introduction. Wishing you much joy in the year ahead.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thank you for the recommends Susan, I'll enjoy looking them up and reading more! Happy New Year!

      Delete
  8. Personally, "all over the place" seems like not a bad place to be, but it will be interesting to see how your garden evolves as you go about defining it a bit more narrowly (did I read you right there?). I do admire gardens with a strong focus.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ricki, you read it right :) My uncertainty is that I'd like to push the boundaries a bit, but not too far and in which way to do that is the question. Happy New Year!

      Delete
  9. I've been reading Margery Fish's ' Carefree Garden' ( xmas present) Just the thing for anyone starting a new garden . ' We made a garden' is one you would love if you've not read it. Reading her book has inspired me to bundle up and get out in this grey weather and make an early start on a just a few things.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Oooh! This 'We made a garden' sounds like something I *do* need to read! Thanks for the recommend! Happy New Year!

      Delete
  10. I'm totally with you on the winter dullness - everything is drab, dark and damp up here in Seattle! I just found your blog and am so happy I did - I've bookmarked it on my blogroll and will be back. I love reading other PNW gardeners.
    :-)

    ReplyDelete
  11. Thanks for stopping by Lindsey! Going to check out your blog :)

    ReplyDelete
  12. For me, the real essence of a cottage garden is expressed in the Hollyhock! I also associate with it Sweet Peas, Sweet Williams, Stocks, Nasturtiums and Calendulas. Round the back of the cottage there will be rows of Runner Beans, potatoes, peas, beetroot and leeks... Now I'm dreaming.
    Happy New Year, by the way!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Mark, I am missing Hollyhock, nasturtiums and calendulas in my cottage gardens, I've got all of the veggies covered ;) Happy New Year!

      Delete
  13. I certainly hope that cottage gardens aren't passe because that's the kind I have and the kind I love. It's the only way I know how to garden. Broad sweeps don't do it for me.
    What a gorgeous Hellebore.
    Chloris

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I love to 'cottage' garden. I don't care if they are passe, but I think that Peter (Outlaw Gardener) made some interesting points worth pondering, that being the origins of Cottage Gardens and the political meaning behind them. I think it still applies today :)

      Delete
  14. Great read Jenni, both your post and the comments that have followed.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks and I agree! Just great material to ponder and possibly expand upon :)

      Delete
  15. I love cottage gardens and it is what I am attempting to aim for for my own. Maybe they are considered old hat these days, when everyone wants clean lines and linear images, but to me the tumbling together of plants and the informality is what creates a beautiful, relaxing space.

    ReplyDelete

Thank you for taking the time to comment on my post. I appreciate your thoughts. Due to an increase in spam, all comments will be moderated by yours truly. I do, so very much, enjoy hearing from you.