Aren’t cottage gardens romantic? With lovely, billowy flowers; wild, pollinator-attracting plants; and a wholly untamed and untouched feel to the design, You could say that cottage gardens are the eptiome of what nature intended for our backyards.
However, what with this garden style being so associated with rural living, it might seem like it’s unachievable in an urban garden – especially since two million British homes do not have a garden at all, with balconies, window boxes or houseplants serving as their only link with nature. In this blog post, I’ll show you how you can bring the cottage garden style to any size garden, in any location!
A quick way to achieve the cottage garden style
There are many plants to choose from when designing a cottage garden, two popular varieties being Busy Lizzies and Cosmos – scroll down to find the perfect starter package for your cottage garden from QVC.
What’s the key to the cottage garden style?
The cottage garden style became popular in the late Victoria era, as a rebellion against formal estate gardens that reigned supreme prior to this time. There are several key characteristics to the cottage garden, including:
- Informal planting style – can be planned, but should be non-structured. Many cottage gardens feature wildflower patches, which can be created by simply throwing wildlflower seeds into borders, which will eventually grow wherever they land.
- Dense planting – the cottage garden is far from minimalist. From borders to containers, plants should take up as much space as possible, spilling over onto pathways, even.
- A mix of dimensions – plants in a cottage garden do not reside on just one plane. Climbing plants and hedges bring height to the garden, contributing to the feeling of abundance.
- Ornamentals and edibles – although edibles are not completely necessary, you’ll more often than not find edible produce growing in a cottage garden. This comes from the early cottage gardens of the working class, who grew their own food as a financial benefit to their household.
- Wildlife friendly – these gardens are full of pollinator attracting plants, which does wonders for the local wildlife. This is also encouraged through the use of bird feeders, bee hotels and fruit trees or shrubs.
How to use the cottage style in a city garden
All of these characteristics may sound lovely, but how do you fit them into a cottage garden? Many urban garden just don’t have the space for dense planting, and you’re very lucky if you have space for a beehive!
The best way to emulate the cottage garden style is to pick just a few key features and use them on a smaller scale in your garden. Let’s go through them point by point:
- Informal planting style – don’t overthink your plant choices. Mix it up as much as possible when it comes to colour and size, and this will give the illusion of an informal style.
- Dense planting – try getting creative with containers, and filling them to the brim with a mix of plants that will spill over the sides and create a dense look.
- A mix of dimensions – if you have a balcony or very small garden area, climbers and tiered planters are your best friends!
- Ornamentals and edibles – if you have the space, dedicated a small portion of your beds to edibles. You can even use a Vegepod if you don’t have beds. Alternatively, if you have no outdoor space at all, keep some herbs on your windowsills and take from them as you need.
- Wildlife friendly – urban spaces need to encourage wildlife more than any other area of the country, so introducing pollinator-friendly plants into your city or urban garden is a great step forward. Window boxes, patio pots and hanging baskets are a great way to display pollinator-friendly plants in a small space.
Inspiration for city gardens
Many houses in towns and cities will have long but thin gardens. You can easily bring a cottage garden style to these types of spaces with a central path, and abundant shrubs and flowers either side.
If you already have a trellis or pergola in place, you can easily train climbing plants against it to bring height to your garden. It looks especially great if there’s a cosy seating area underneath!
Balcony? No problem. Plants with mounded and trailing habits are perfect for spilling over the sides of containers and creating a full, untamed look. Add in a few fun accessories to complement the style.
Which plants should you use in a cottage garden?
Cottage gardens can feature a jumble of bulbs, climbing plants, shrubs, annuals and perennials, which gives you a whole host of plants to choose from! Can’t make your mind up? There’s a great package on QVC that will give you a starting point for your cottage garden.
Featuring garden ready (that means they’re ready to plant!) Busy Lizzies and Cosmos, as well as Richard Jackson’s Flower Power to give them a boost when growing, this package is perfect for creating abundance. You’ll receive 24 new generation, grow-anywhere Busy Lizzie plants and mass-flowering Bouquet Cosmos plants in a range of gorgeous colours including Violet, Pink, Salmon and White. It’ll be a feast for the eyes in summer, with the colour lasting all season long!
What does ‘new generation’ mean? Well, this is a newly developed disease-resistant variety of the world’s most popular bedding plant. And best of all, it can grow anywhere. Whether your garden is sunny or shaded, you are blessed with border space, or you only have room for containers or hanging baskets, these flowers will be happy wherever they’re planted!
· Flowering period:
· Plant position: full sun/partial shade
· Type of soil: well-drained
· Mature size (h x w): 35cm – 30cm (14″ x 12″)
This award-winning variety of Bouquet Cosmos produces hundreds of the prettiest, large daisy-like flowers on lovely bushy foliage. The effect is like mass bouquets of flowers, hence the name. They are great for cutting and butterflies love them too, which ticks the pollinator-friendly box!
· Flowering period: June – September
· Plant position: full sun/partial shade
· Type of soil: well-drained
· Mature size (h x w): 60cm – 20cm (24″ x 7.8″)
A must-have for any garden, the top-rated, super-concentrated Flower Power plant food contains all the key nutrients plants need, as well as seaweed extracts for bio-stimulant growth, extra-high levels of potash and a wetting agent to help all those nutrients reach the roots. It also includes chelated trace elements for even faster nutrient uptake. Enjoy growing an abundance of blooms or tasty treats in your garden with the help of Flower Power.
Thinking about creating your cottage garden? This package is a great way to get started – available here at QVC! QVC also have a great range of garden accessories and tools to help you design your perfect outdoor space. Browse their range here.
Michael has been involved with gardening and plants since he was just five years old. He is a self-professed Plant Geek, and was listed in the Sunday Times top 20 most influential people in the gardening world, thanks to his plant hunter role at Thompson & Morgan.
Michael was responsible for new plant introductions such as the Egg and Chips plant and the FuchsiaBerry and keeps busy travelling the world in search of new plants as well as lecturing worldwide, including stints in Japan. He is very active on social media – so why not give him a follow at @mr_plantgeek or Facebook. You can also listen to The Plant Based Podcast with Michael and co-host Ellen-Mary on iTunes, Spotify and Google.