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Connecticut Garden Journal: Cottage gardens feature a riot of color and texture

Foxgloves Digitalis purpurea, Oxeye daisies Leucanthemum vulgarae, Nepeta, Ferns and Salvia growing in a Cottage Garden.
James Osmond/Getty Images
Foxgloves Digitalis purpurea, Oxeye daisies Leucanthemum vulgarae, Nepeta, Ferns and Salvia grow in this cottage garden.

On one of my Garden Tours to England, I became entranced by their cottage gardens. Cottage gardens are known for their abundance of flowers, shrubs, trees, vines and edibles all grown together in what I call “organized chaos”. But there's a plan to this chaos.

Here's a few design ideas when planting a traditional English cottage garden. First, start with the structure of the garden. Cottage gardens often have “rooms” separated by hedges or fences where different colored flowers and themes can be created. Winding pathways also are used to give even a small garden a larger sense of size. Structures and sitting areas are incorporated so you can have places to work, rest and enjoy.

Traditional English Cottage gardens feature pastel colored flowers such as salvias, delphiniums, dianthus and foxgloves. Plant your flowers in groups of 3, 5, or 7 for splashes of color. Mix annuals, biennials and perennials for color from spring to fall. Add fragrance plants such as lavenders, lilies and roses. In shady cottage garden, focus more on leaf texture and color to create a dramatic effect. Add shrubs and small trees for structure in your garden, emphasizing natives such as viburnums, dogwoods and elderberry.

Most importantly allow plants to grow into each other as they overlap flowering times. Prune and thin in spring so plants aren't overwhelmed. The summer effect should be a riot of color and texture mimicking a wild garden.

To learn more about cottage gardening join me at the Stonington Garden Tour on June 10th and 11th. I'll be giving a talk on cottage gardens on that Saturday at 1pm.

Charlie Nardozzi is a regional Emmy® Award winning garden writer, speaker, radio, and television personality. He has worked for more than 30 years bringing expert information to home gardeners.
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