Forget the Rules! Try a cottage garden front and center

Cottage-style gardens are no longer reserved for the backyard…

Cottage gardens are relaxed, playful and full of color. They also tend to be hidden behind fences, but the rules are changing. Gardeners are adapting this easy-going style to create welcoming entryway gardens and charming street-side borders. This design blends the flower-power and informal approach of cottage-style design with a few foundation planting essentials for a fuss-free garden that shines year-round.

Vibrant Color

Abundant blossoms and rich texture are the foundation of cottage-style gardens. This design uses flowering shrubs and perennials that bloom over a long season to create a continuous supply of color. ‘Orange Rocket’ Barberry and Delta Jazz® Crapemyrtle add colorful foliage to the eclectic palette, which shifts across the length of the planting, but always reflects hues in the house’s brickwork. Miss Lemon™ Abelia provides a colorful thread, weaving its yellow-rimmed foliage throughout the planting.

Energy without Chaos

Cottage gardens tend toward the chaotic, with free-seeding plants “moving” throughout the garden from year to year. This design embraces the vitality of the cottage style, but replaces “wanderers” with perennial flowers that stay in place, reducing the need to weed or replant. ‘Sunset Flash’ Gaillardia adds fiery color all season, while Sassy Grass™ Sisyrinchium provides early-season color and a textural contrast. The bright blooms of White Blush EnduraScape™ Verbena also weave throughout the bed, guiding the eye through the planting.

Updated Backdrop

A fence or wall traditionally served as a backdrop to the cottage garden. In fact, the name itself reflects the original location of these gardens against the home or cottage. In this way, foundation plantings and cottage gardens are not so different. Here, a living wall of ‘Orange Rocket’ Barberry serves as a colorful backdrop to the garden and connects the planting visually to the porch and brickwork.

Year-long Structure

Structural plants are essential to a well-designed foundation planting. While old-fashioned cottage gardens are rich in annuals and perennials, this design enlists the stability and substance of shrubs. Miss Lemon™ Abelia provides vibrant color and structure year-round. Though deciduous, the upright form and branching of Delta Jazz® Crapemyrtle adds interest to the winter garden. Likewise, the distinctive growth habits of ‘Orange Rocket’ Barberry and Little Bonnie™ Dwarf Spiraea provide a contrast in form throughout the seasons.

Many of the design elements in this garden are borrowed from cottage plantings including an informal layout, a kaleidoscope of color, and emphasis on flowering plants. Other features draw heavily on basic design principles to create harmony and balance. Repetition of plant materials, a focus on structure, and creating contrast through form, texture and color are tools for successful design, no matter your personal style. 

Download the Cottage Style Garden Plan PDF