Zinnia, cosmos, balsam and coreopsis bloom in this August photo of Carol Lang’s cottage garden. – Carol Lang
Zinnia, cosmos, balsam and coreopsis bloom in this August photo of Carol Lang’s cottage garden. – Carol Lang

Archived Story

Consider bringing some cottage charm to your garden this spring

Published 9:00am Sunday, April 13, 2014

Serendipity Gardens by Carol Hegel Lang

This quote by Kate Carter Frederick just seems to sum up what a cottage garden is really all about, “The timeless appeal of a cottage garden comes from the idyllic tradition of planting an eclectic mix of favorite flowers. Where the rules of design are relaxed, humble beauty emerges. The effect is simply delightful and inspiring.”

Carol Hegel Lang
Carol Hegel Lang

For those of you who have visited my serendipity gardens, you already know that I love cottage gardens and that is the style that reflects my love of a wide variety of flowers and also whimsy. You see, there are no set rules for a cottage garden and you don’t even have to abide by the rule of odd numbers of flowers. Sometimes I have taller plants to the front of the garden, like verbena

bonariensis, a light and airy plant that gets about four feet tall. Joe-pye weed will tower at five to six feet will not be at the back of the garden because they are more wispy and airy plants that do not block views of other plants.

Even my shade gardens are very closely planted with a hodge podge of flowers, but it seems to work out beautifully. Lots of daylilies seem to tie the garden together in uniformity, although the colors are different in each garden. The cutting garden along the driveway is planted so tightly that weeds cannot grow there, and I am sure some people that view the garden really wonder if I have lost my mind with so many plants in such a small place.

Hydrangeas seem to add old fashioned charm to the gardens and this year I will be adding some of the newer smaller varieties. The large pergola has three clematis that climb to the top and then spill over with lots of color, and morning glories have self-seeded themselves to climb up the pergola sides to add even more color. Now don’t these just scream cottage charm to you?

For annuals, the cosmos double click variety in colors, ranging from white, pink and crimson to yellow, orange and red, and just seem to harmonize by adding lots of color and height to this

garden. A cottage garden wouldn’t be complete without zinnias in every color of the rainbow, rudbeckia in their bright yellow to variegated colors of yellow, russet and orange, salvias in red white and blue, marigolds in all shades of orange or yellow, hollyhocks, especially the pastels, larkspur, annual poppies and bachelor buttons. It is just like a color wheel of blues, purple, yellow, orange and red everywhere you look.

Some of my favorite gardeners are Celia Thaxter, Beatrix Potter and Tasha Tudor who have greatly inspired the theme of my gardens over the years. All of them gardened in the wild abandon of cottage garden charm. Trees, shrubs, vegetables and fruit trees are all part of this style of gardening and none of them look out of place, but rather add to the harmony of the gardens. Oh how I wish I could have known these women personally so that I could have learned all of their gardening secrets.

For any type of garden, having good rich soil is important. It’s especially important though in a cottage garden where everything is planted so closely together. Yearly I add amendments in spring or fall of compost and peat moss and manure. Shredding the leaves from your yard in the fall are an excellent choice of amendments as it will break down over the winter months adding nutrients to the gardens. Just spread them over the gardens and leave them in the spring to use as a mulch to help conserve water.

Lilies are one of the most colorful and fragrant plants you can add to the cottage garden and what a show stopper they are come July. Last year I planted a real beauty, an Asiatic named eyeliner that is white speckled with brown and lined with dark brown to almost a black.

I am excited to let my readers know that my column will now be appearing weekly; thanks for following me. Happy gardening!