Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Casual yet structured English Cottage Garden

After three years I have finally conquered the garden in my side yard. Before I moved here I am sure it was a lovely cottage garden orchestrated so that something was always in bloom from March until September or October. Sadly, by the time it was in my charge it had become an overgrown mess.


My brother in law who has a great eye for landscape design told me it could be a great cottage garden but it need more of some plants and less of others. My husband asked, frequently, if we couldn’t just rent a tiller and plant grass.

I chose the former, but since my husband prefers more symmetry in gardens than a true cottage style, I decided I would go for a casual style with a little structure.

Decide what you like. I searched for inspiration everywhere. When I saw gardens I liked, I tried to indentify exactly what it was that caught my eye. Believe it or not, the final inspiration was the landscaping at a rest stop on the New Jersey turnpike. Crazy, huh?

Plan it on paper first. I took photos from several angles including from an upstairs window. This allowed me to plan my attack and try out a few different ideas on paper first.
After as seen from above

Taking pictures from above help me to plan

The power of threes. Now I was ready to start moving stuff. In my plan, I had grouped like plants together and then placed three groups of each plant in over-lapping triangles of various sizes. I made sure that I considered the time of year each variety bloomed as well as their color and texture. Doing so, made the finished design balanced but it doesn’t appear too symmetrical or planned.

Tying it together. I felt the bed needed more than just plants to make it a cohesive design so I added some stones in the suggestion of a dried creek running through it. All I did was cut some black lawn bags into strips and snake them between the plantings. Then, I covered them with rocks and stones. I repurposed the former border of the bed, but the stones can be purchased. Once I added a ton of mulch, voila!

The "Dried creek" gives the design a finishing touch

I won’t say the bed is “finished” because any gardener knows our work is never done. I am already thinking of a variety or two that I can add and let’s not forget about the weeding. But, I am glad to say that the struggles are behind me and I love the result.
This is what it looked like before

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