Creating your client’s dreamy, serene cottage garden

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Updated Jun 29, 2021

photo of a colorful garden with a stepping stone path through the center on a sunny dayWhen it comes to finding a serene place to sit for a spell, read a good book or even just enjoy nature around you, what could be better than a cottage garden?

Cottage gardens can be the perfect blend of elegance and simplicity, and the best part is, no cottages are required for the making of this garden type. Bringing together a plentiful mix of edibles, herbs, ornamental flowers, fruit trees and more, cottage gardens typically have an informal and distinctive layout that can be as unique as snowflake patterns.

Whatever kind of look your customers crave can come to life in these quaint masterpieces, and they allow designers the chance to let their creative juices flow.

Cottage gardens are said to have originated in England and date back over 700 years. The idea grew from families living in small plots of land having to cram as many different types of plants into the space as possible to have the means they needed to survive. While the idea stemmed from a more practical notion than those used for today’s cottage gardens, the result still remains as charming as ever.

For customers desiring a little something new this season, take a look at what it takes to layout and design a cottage garden and a few good suggestions on what to plant.

Designing and layout

As far as design elements are concerned, think back on some of the classic cottage garden scenes from movies and TV shows and find traits that stand out.

Brick walkways, curving pathways and brick walls are certainly focal points in this kind of environment, and they also offer functionality as a bonus. Arbors draped with roses and other climbing flowers evoke the feeling of sauntering toward a cottage, and looking down to see flower beds overflowing with rambling runners and ornamental grasses will instantly have clients yearning for a cup of tea.

Other popular items found in cottage gardens are picket fences, gravel pathways, pergolas, birdhouses and benches. Benches allow clients to merrily stroll through their garden and take a rest when needed, and picket fences add a certain quaint charm to the scene. And as your customer strolls under the pergolas disbursed throughout the garden while watching birds make homes in the houses, he/she can hear the familiar crunch of gravel that always seems to bring to mind a garden scene from Pride and Prejudice.

Plant suggestions

It’s really hard to go wrong when choosing plants for a cottage garden, as each garden can vary in design, size and theme.

A good starting place is to choose a variety of annuals, perennials, edibles and a few flowering shrubs. Take your customer’s suggestions into consideration when choosing, especially when it comes to edibles, and always keep in mind how these plants will cohabitate after they’ve grown out a bit.

Many experts agree that the best way to get the cottage garden design down is to make it look like it planted itself. One of the endearing attributes of these gardens is the organic and natural look they gain after the plants are in place and left to spread freely. Flowering shrubs mix and mingle with edibles and flowers alike, which helps give an aesthetically pleasing look and a good dose of variety.

This not only achieves the cottage look, but it also helps potentially cut down on pests and diseases that would attack one particular plant, which would take out a large chunk of the garden if only one plant type were present.

The key to getting a cottage garden that’s picturesque is to harness the power of controlled chaos. This can be achieved by planting flowers at the edge of the garden beds. Allow them to spill over the boundaries and onto the pathways, then consider adding in some shrubs and trees around for a bit of structure. Find a lot of different plant varieties and plant small bits of them together to create a glorious hodgepodge of plant life.

Don’t be afraid to incorporate pots, vases and raised beds as well. Like we said, nothing is off limits when it comes to creating the ideal cottage garden.

Adding in annuals will give customers that all-season color that can help cover bare spots before shrubs and perennials fill in, and they come in a wide variety of textures, colors and shapes.

Perennials will keep the color and lush look going long-term, and the possibilities can be endless when it comes to flowering edibles that taste and look great.

Finally, let’s talk about adding in a few flowering shrubs. Not only will they add to the garden’s overall cottage look and feel, they will also add some much-needed depth, height and volume. This will keep the garden from looking incredibly flat and one dimensional, and it can also add in some privacy.

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