A Place to Dream - Ten Steps to a Cottage Garden

A cottage garden has a charm unmatched by few other garden styles. It is a place to enjoy the bounty of nature, indulge your love of flowers, and most of all, to reflect and dream and get away from the cares of everyday life.

In just ten steps you can bring the charm of a cottage garden into your life.

Step One: Make a plan. Draw out your garden on graph paper, so you know exactly what you are working with. Will you have a welcoming front door garden, with a winding path leading to the entrance? Or a secret garden tucked at the back of the house, with a rosy arbor leading to the walled, fenced or hedge rowed delights within? The shape of your garden space, and the necessity of working around fixtures, will be clearer on a graph. You will be able to place trees, shrubs and flower beds where you want them, before you actually start work.

Step two: Prepare the soil. The great thing about most cottage garden plants is that they survive almost anywhere, but to give you garden a good start, dig it over and add plenty of compost if the soil needs it, for example, if you have sandy or clay soil. If your soil holds a lot of water, you'll need to provide drainage.

Step Three: Plan your trees. Fruit trees are traditional for a cottage garden and will give shade as well as the extra bonus of fruit. Apple and plum trees grow well in most areas where cottage gardens flourish, but there are some nice old fashioned varieties like greengage as well that you can consider.

Step four: Plan your shrubs. Perhaps you would like a row of low hedge like shrubs to give your cottage garden a cozy, walled off feel, or to separate some areas of the garden from others. You can't go past rosemary and lavender for the perfect cottage atmosphere. These shrubs grow quickly, and smell wonderful. They will also provide you with aromatic herbs for the kitchen and bathroom, one of the many wonderful benefits of a cottage garden. But there are others like Buddleia davidii, and the many wonderful varieties of geranium, which are just as attractive and bring butterflies into the garden, so shop around and choose the ones you like.

Step five: Choose your flowers. The abundance of flowers in a cottage garden is what makes this style of garden so appealing. You will, of course, want to have the classic cottage garden varieties like lupins, hollyhocks, stock, delphiniums and daisies among your tall varieties. Marigolds, nasturtiums, daisies, dianthus and zinnia are medium sized flowers, and low growers include primroses, violets, smaller daisy varieties, forget me nots and ageratum

Step six: Plant herbs. Cottage gardens were traditionally grown to provide culinary and medicinal herbs, so include herbs in your general planting. Among the varieties you can choose are sage, thyme, lemon verbena, borage and marjoram. Keep mint contained in a pot, though, or it will take over.

Step Seven: Roses! You must have at least two varieties of roses, including one deep red variety such as Apothecary's Rose, and a climbing rose to have a true cottage garden.

Step Eight: Provide a centerpiece. This is usually a sundial or a piece of statuary, but you can use a bird bath or a water feature to provide a focal point to your garden.

Step Nine: have an arbor or archway. This is will provide a spot for your climbing rose, as well and add grace and charm to your garden. Place the arbor or archway at the start of a path through the garden so it provides a welcome.

Step Ten: Place an outdoor bench or table setting. So you can enjoy your cottage garden to the full!

author: Gail Kavanagh

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