Colorful Garden at the Garden Shed

5 Quick Ways to Grow a Cottage Garden

When I started gardening over 25 years ago, I wanted a cottage garden that would continually bloom. I started with a few annuals, then progressed to perennials, then tucked in a few bulbs, and eventually added some flowering shrubs and trees.

So my love for cottage style gardening has been an evolution.

And it’s been a different experience every year because every season teaches me something new.

Last year, I closed out the season with a serious love for dahlias and gorgeous hibiscus flowers.

So I decided I want to add more flowers with cottage charm to the gardens this year.

Which got me thinking about gardening and ways to add cottage style to the beds.

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Lupines in the Cottage Garden
This year, I added lupines back in the garden,. I used to grow them, but they petered out many years ago.

Gardening is an Experiment

When we are talking about gardening, no two cottage gardens are the same.

Every hardiness zone, every town, every neighborhood, every home…has it’s own micro-climate.

So what grows well in one garden, may or may not grow well in another.

We don’t know what will work in our gardens until we try it.

Because gardening is one big experiment, I subscribe to the motel theory of gardening.

Have you heard of that theory before?

Dahlias and Roses in the Cottage Garden

Gardening is very similar to a motel.

Plants check in. If they love the environment, they’ll stay.

Other plants will check in and not love the micro-climate, so they’ll check out and leave.

And that’s OK.

That doesn’t make us bad plant parents.

Not all plants do well in our micro-climates.

That doesn’t make you a bad gardener.

So in order to learn, it’s important to try new things and stretch your knowledge.

This is what I’m doing this year.

Colorful Cottage Garden at the Garden Shed

So What is a Cottage Garden and How Do You Grow One?

Cottage gardens are really unique.

And the prettiest cottage gardens blend lots of colors, textures, flowers and fragrance really well.

They tend to lack formality because there is less focus on spacing or height graduations.

Cottage gardens typically start with a formal structure like an arbor, birdhouse, fencing or some other type of hardscaping feature.

But then that structure is softened and accented with amazingly beautiful blooms.

And that’s where the fun begins.

Dahlias are the best fall garden flowers in the Cottage Garden

The Advantages of a Cottage Garden

One of the things that I love about a cottage garden is the ability to express your personal garden style through flowers and foliage.

Grow what you love.

Combine colors and textures that are pleasing to you.

Some of my best plant combinations happened just by playing around with different colors, textures and blooms.

It brings me a lot of joy and gives me something to look forward to during the doldrums of winter when I pour of plant catalagues and gardening magazines.

Sedum Autumn Joy are great late blooming summer flowers in the Cottage Garden

No two gardens will ever be the same.

And in fact, even the same garden will look different from year to year.

To me, the biggest advantage is that it does not need to be meticulously maintained.

So it’s totally OK if plants aren’t pristinely manicured or a few weeds pop up.

The cottage garden disguises those imperfections, so it is imperfectly perfect.

And for me, that’s the way I love to garden.

Cafe Au Lait Dahlias in the Cottage Garden
Cafe Au Lait Dahlias in my garden.
Front Yard Colorful Cottage Garden on a Walkway
My cottage garden in late summer. Look at those amazing hibiscus blooms!

5 Quick Ways to Grow a Cottage Garden

  • Choose to start in one small area. Then expand your gardens as you gain experience.
  • Start with some structural plants like small evergreen and flowering shrubs and trees. I tend to buy these as young plants so they are easier to manage and plant. Plus if it doesn’t survive, I didn’t spend 10x the price. Yes it takes longer, but it has worked for me.

How to Build a Birdhouse

  • Add focal point, such as a birdbath, birdhouse, arbor, bench, chair, fence, paths or some sort of hardscaping element to plant around.
  • Plant flowers in clumps with lots of color, texture, dimension and different bloom times. Read the tags so you know what to expect and how to care for it.
  • Repeat plants and colors so the garden flows and your eye is drawn fluidly throughout the bed.

How to Release Ladybugs in the Garden

Cottage Garden Flowers to Try

I have many of these, but not all. Some don’t grow easily in my hardiness zone, so I’m going to try growing them from seed this year.

  • lavender
  • echinacea
  • black-eyed susans
  • dahlias
  • hollyhocks
  • sweet peas
  • delphiniums
  • roses
  • daylillies
  • daisies
  • larkspur
  • pansies
  • scabiosa
  • columbines
  • phlox
  • foxglove
  • butterfly bush
  • iris
  • peonies
  • sedum autumn joy
  • hydrangeas
  • snapdragons
  • strawflowers
  • cosmos
  • forget-me-nots
  • wisteria
Gardening for Hummingbirds
Gardening for Hummingbirds – June Garden Tour

About My Cottage Garden

My cottage garden is grown in New Jersey, Zone 6a. We have very cold winters here and have a last frost date in mid-May. What grows well for me here are:

Flowers that Bloom in Midsummer

Dog in the cottage garden

I typically plant my cottage garden with plants found at the nursery.

But my garden has grown from 1 garden to 10 just by dividing my plants and starting new gardens.

This year, I am going to start different types of flowers from seed like my good friend Kim from Shiplap and Shells does in the PNW. If you want to see a really pretty cottage garden, check out hers. It’s truly magical!

Cottage Garden by Shiplap and Shells

Don’t Have a Garden That’s Read to Plant?

Learn how to start a new garden HERE.

Flowers that Butterflies Love

Looking for More Garden Inspiration?

Colorful Cottage Garden

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5 Quick Ways to Grow a Cottage Garden

5 Quick Ways to Grow a Cottage Garden

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  1. Great minds think alike. I love a cottage garden!I really enjoyed your thoughts on starting a cottage garden. And thank you for the shout out Stacy! It’s very much appreciated. Aren’t you excited to start gardening again? Can’t wait.

    1. I cannot wait for the 2021 season! I am planning out where I’m going to put the new blooms – I may add some raised beds in the backyard but my resident groundhog may be an issue. I am so excited to get started on this project! We will have fun with it. xoxo

  2. I love gardening and miss the ability to maintain one. In our old home I had beautiful gardens with many wildflowers.

    MS doesn’t give me the ability to have a garden in our new home. However, this fall I was able to visit our backyard physically since we’ve lived here.

    I’m blessed with a new drug. Why am I sharing this? I planted 175 Daffodil bulbs in front of our shed.

    It gave me hope and the ability to plant my favorite spring bulbs.


    1. That’s amazing! I can’t wait to see them come up this year! I planted a bunch too. I hope it keeps helping you feel well Cindy! xoxo

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