Inside the home, decorating trends suggest mixing antiques with contemporary furniture, blending fabrics and patterns, and combining styles for an eclectic atmosphere. The same trend is also growing in popularity for outside of the home.
The American cottage garden creates this charming alternative. The term and style originated in Great Britain after the small gardens local villagers planted in front of their cottages. In a subtle way, it was their way of rebelling against the planned, formal gardens of the aristocracy. They planted without consideration to overall design and mixed many varieties.
Today’s cottage gardens achieve the same result – a profusion of color and texture. Plants of all sizes including perennials, annuals, biennials, flowering shrubs, herbs, and evergreens can all be planted without a formal plan in mind.
You may want to begin with an area at the rear or side of your yard where some background like tall shrubs or evergreens already exists. As the list of plants you want to include expands, you can extend the cottage garden to other sections of the yard. The patio area is an excellent spot. Once you have mastered the technique, a popular place for a bit more formalized cottage garden is the area enclosed by the house, front walkway, and driveway.
Begin by cultivating the soil till it is loose and lumpy to six inches deep. You should add to this a dry fertilizer with a 5-10-10 ratio of nitrogen, phosphorous and potassium. This will provide the proper nutrients for most of the plants in a cottage garden.
Once the soil is properly prepared, very few mistakes are possible. If you happen to get a tall plant in front of a short one, you simply walk a few steps to see the beauty you have created from a different vantage point.
The goal is haphazard, so you can’t go wrong. You should consider plants that bloom in different seasons, so you have color year-round. This includes planting evergreens for winter color.
If you have questions about what would work well in a cottage garden, you should ask your local nursery or garden center professional. Relax, have fun, enjoy!
Article by Fred Hower, “The Ohio Nurseryman.”
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