Want to grow a beautiful, fuss-free flower garden with a little less work? Wait until you try these low-maintenance cottage garden ideas for busy gardeners.
When I started growing a flower garden, I dreamed of having one that was informal, beautiful, and easy to grow.
I couldn’t be bothered with plants that were finicky, needed additional support to avoid toppling over, or needed to be dug up and stored during the winter.
My garden needed to look beautiful, bloom like crazy from spring through fall, and be really low-maintenance.
Sound like a flower garden you want to grow too?
Read on and try these easy-care cottage garden ideas this year.
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Achieving Cottage Garden Style
Characterized by a charming, informal design with a mix of plants, cottage gardens evoke a sense of rustic, old-fashioned beauty that is often associated with the English countryside.
The cottage garden is not highly manicured or formal, but rather has a natural, relaxed look with plants growing in a seemingly haphazard manner.
A sense of abundance is created with an eclectic mix of colors and textures that are pleasing to the eye.
Sometimes these plant combinations are intentional, but others happen by accident in the manner that flowers weave among one another.
But the best part about growing a cottage garden?
It’s lower maintenance so gardeners of all skill levels can easily enjoy one.
Growing a cottage garden is a great way to bring a little bit of the countryside to your home while creating a beautiful, relaxing space that is perfect for spending time with friends and family.
Flower Gardening Tips for the Beginner
While we gather cottage style inspiration, it’s important to keep in mind that no two gardens will ever look the same.
In fact, not even the same garden will look the same from year to year as each home and garden has their own microclimate.
So as hard as we might try to replicate a look, it’s pretty likely it won’t look the same.
And that’s OK! Because your garden is uniquely you.
Plants that do well for me, may not grow as well for you. The varieties I grow may not be available in your area, but the ideas are there.
So take that bit of information and don’t feel discouraged if your garden grows differently.
Cause it will.
I grew my flower gardens for 23 years at my former home and let me tell you how different the gardening is here at my new house.
And I’m only 20 minutes away in the same hardiness zone!
My Cottage Garden Style
My style of growing a cottage garden is to work with plants that are easy-to-grow, easy-to-care for, and low maintenance for you as a gardener.
They are flowers that are more pest and disease resistant. They don’t need staking. And they bloom for a long time.
For many years, I had to garden with this perspective because I had three kids to run around with and care for, I just couldn’t give that much more to my garden.
But I still wanted that old English cottage garden charm. So I learned what perennial plants looked good with less work from me overall.
Now that’s not to say you won’t do anything in your cottage garden, cause you will. But it is more manageable to work with plants that grow with ease.
So if you are just starting out, I don’t recommend these types of plants for you and want you to work with flowers that require less time from you.
Keep things easy for yourself, start small, and learn as you grow to see how much work you really want to do in your flower gardens.
Easy Care Cottage Garden Ideas and Design Tips
Designing a dreamy cottage garden can be a fun and rewarding process, as it allows you to create a space that is uniquely your own.
Here are a few tips for designing an old country garden.
Choose a Mix of Cottage Garden Flowers in Your Hardiness Zone
As I mentioned earlier, one of the key characteristics of an old fashioned cottage garden is the mix of different plants, including annuals, perennials, bulbs, flowering shrubs, herbs, vegetables, and fruit trees.
This will give your garden a diverse and interesting look, with a range of colors and textures.
Speak with other gardeners. And find what types of flowers are easy to grow that you are drawn to that will thrive in your climate.
If you aren’t sure of what cottage garden flowers work well in your hardiness zone, you can check it here.
Consider a Carefree Cottage Garden Layout
Old fashioned cottage gardens often have a natural, informal layout, with plants growing in a seemingly haphazard manner.
However, you can still think about the overall design and consider how you want to arrange the different flowering annuals, perennials and shrubs.
Create groupings of plants with similar water and sunlight needs together. Most cottage garden flowers need full sun. However, you can add a cottage garden feel to a shade loving garden.
Plant in odd numbers so it’s more aesthetically pleasing to the eye. I typically plant in 3’s, 5’s, 7’s, and 9’s depending on the size of the garden and plants I’m using.
Create a focal point with a larger plant or structure and then design your flower garden around it.
Add Vertical Elements
To add depth and interest to your old country garden, consider including some vertical elements, like trellises, arbors, or obelisks.
These can provide support for climbing plants and create a sense of height and structure within the garden.
Plus, it gives the eye a place to rest when looking at the garden.
Use Natural Materials
To enhance the rustic, old-fashioned feel of an old English cottage garden, consider using natural materials such as wood, stone, and clay in your design.
Include a wood picket fence to define your garden, add layers of plants and flowers, and create defined boundaries.
Or make a beautiful stone pathway to create a charming and inviting look that adds lots of cottage garden style.
Personalize Your Cottage Garden Design
While we can try to make gardens look like others we are inspired by, add your own personality into the cottage garden design.
Choose flowers that resonate with you or have a personal or special meaning. Or incorporate decorative elements that reflect your personal style and interests.
At the end of the day, the most important part about creating, designing and growing your own cottage style garden is to have fun and enjoy the process of creating a space that is uniquely yours.
How to Grow an Easy-Care Cottage Garden
As with any garden, keep the basics in mind when you design, plant, and grow your garden.
Here are a few tips for growing a cottage garden with success.
Choose the Right Location
Before you start planting, consider the location of your English style garden.
Most cottage garden flowers thrive in areas with full sun or partial shade, and in soil that is well-draining and rich in organic matter.
It needs to be located in an area that’s easy for you to access that’s close to a water source.
But be mindful of planting flowers that will thrive in the soil you have. For example, if you have soil that doesn’t drain well and retains moisture, lavender won’t do as well there.
So I recommend getting a soil test as the results will tell you what nutrients are present and lacking, as well as how to improve it.
Plant a Mix of Annuals, Perennials, Bulbs, and Flowering Shrubs
To create a garden that is full of color and interest throughout the growing season, plant a mix of annuals, perennials, spring flowering bulbs and shrubs.
Annuals will provide a burst of color in the first year, while perennials will come back year after year.
Planting spring flowering bulbs will kick the garden off in early spring with little to no work from you after planting.
It’s also a good idea to plant flowering shrubs with foliage that provides seasonal interest and small evergreen trees and shrubs for additional structure and year-round color.
Just make sure you keep the overall size at maturity in mind before planting. It might look small at the nursery, but that shrub will grow!
Consider Your Climate
Different plants are suited to different climates, so it’s important to consider your local conditions when selecting plants for your cottage garden.
Embracing native plants that have a cottage garden style is a great way to grow an old English garden without the fuss.
Because plants that are native to your locality have been growing there for a very long time. They are used to the weather conditions making them very low-maintenance options.
If you aren’t sure what’s native, reach out to your local cooperative extension and check plant tags at the garden nursery as some are labeled.
Keep Up on the Weeds
All gardens grow weeds. There’s just no way around them.
While there are things we can do to prevent them from popping up, we still need to pull them as we see them so they don’t get out of control and take over your garden flowers.
Cause trust me, that has happened to me before and I don’t recommend waiting to weed.
Here are a few ideas to help suppress weeds in your cottage garden without the need to pull them.
- Mulching your garden early in the growing season can help to retain moisture, suppress weeds, and regulate soil temperature.
- Plant flowers a little closer together to help choke out the weeds.
- Apply corn gluten around the beds when crabgrass germinates in spring. This is typically when the forsythia start to bloom for about two weeks after. You can learn more about how to apply corn gluten here.
- Spread layers of newspaper or cardboard beneath mulch to smother weeds and keep them at bay. This usually lasts about a season. But the benefit is, both will break down and enrich the soil.
Avoid using weed fabric as they don’t work well in flower gardens. They make it more difficult for flowers to spread, grow, and mature over time.
Because it never breaks down, it will always be there and if you want to plant more in the garden, you’ll need to cut through it so it’s more laborious.
I also find weeds grow on top of the fabric so it’s not really worth it in the long run.
Water Your Cottage Garden Regularly
Water your plants regularly, taking care not to overwater, as this can lead to pest and disease problems.
I tend to let the elements take care of my flower gardens. However, when we experience hot, dry summers with little to no rain, I supplement with long, deep watering a few times a week.
Fertilize Annuals and Container Gardens
To keep your annual flowers and outdoor planters healthy with abundant blooms, it’s necessary to fertilize them on a regular basis.
You can opt for a liquid fertilizer which usually lasts about a week or you can apply a slow-release fertilizer that lasts a few months.
I recommend using the latter and setting a reminder on your phone to reapply when the package directions say it will expire.
Perennials, shrubs and trees do not need to be fertilized. Instead, focus on providing them with good soil that is rich in organic matter. Add compost and leaf mold to your gardens to improve the overall soil quality.
Deadhead and Prune When Needed
You can also prune your plants to encourage new growth and remove any dead or diseased branches.
This will neaten up your garden’s appearance while keeping your plants healthy and looking beautiful.
Keep in mind that not all plants need to be deadheaded or pruned. So read the plant tags and know before you grow.
If you want to grow a cottage garden that’s a little less work, opt for plants that bloom long like nepeta, salvia, sedum autumn joy and hydrangeas, and don’t require as much maintenance in terms of deadheading flowers and pruning.
Watch for Pests and Disease
And finally, walk your cottage gardens every single day.
It’s not only joyful to do as you want the plants grow and change, but you’ll notice pest and diseases problems much sooner that may affect your plants before it gets out of control.
Look for nibbles on plants, insects, and diseased foliage.
Never blindly apply pesticides from the nursery without knowing what the problem is on a plant because not all pesticides, both organic and synthetic control or cure the same things.
When problems arise that you are unsure off, reach out to your local cooperative extension and speak with a master gardener to help you best identify garden problems and how to solve them.
Best Easy-Care Cottage Garden Flowers to Grow
After growing flowers for more than 25 years, I’ve gained experience with both easy-care and high maintenance flowers.
So, here’s a quick list of my favorite easy-care cottage garden flowers to grow.
- Creeping Phlox
- Siberian and Bearded Irises
- Sedum Autumn Joy
There are so many more to choose from, but these are some easy-care flowers that I regularly plant and grow in my cottage gardens because they are low maintenance and easy to grow.
Before you plant, check the bloom times so you can overlap them and plant small groupings to create more visual impact.
As you practice and learn as you grow things, you’ll gain experience and become a better gardener with a bed of blooms that flower all season long.
Thanks so much for dropping by the blog today.
I hope you are inspired to grow your own cottage garden!
Happy Gardening! xo
More About Easy Care Cottage Garden Ideas
Are you growing a cottage garden too? What are your favorite plants to include? I would love to know more in the comments below.
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Looking for More Flower Garden Ideas?
If you love flowers and want to grow more in your garden, here are some posts that will get you on your way.
From tucking in flowering plants that are deer-resistant or ones that attract more butterflies and hummingbirds, to shade-loving flowers like the lenten rose, these posts will get you on your way to growing a garden that will bring joy for years to come.
Here are more cut flower and cottage garden growing tips, tricks, and design inspiration.
- Flower Garden Ideas for the Front Porch
- Why and How to Divide Perennials
- Perennials vs Annuals
- Flowers that Bloom in Midsummer
- How My Cottage Garden Grew in 2021
- Cut Flower Gardening for Beginners
- The Complete Guide to Roses Care
- The Basics of Hydrangea Care
- Everblooming Cottage Garden Design Ideas
Garden Supplies I Use
I’m often asked about the garden supplies and tools that I use most. From pruners to deer repellents, here are some of my favorites in no particular order.
- I like to use a good-quality, potting soil, garden soil, compost, and perlite when planting.
- I have used this deer repellent with great success. But now, I’m all about this deer repellent that is systemic instead of topical. This means the plant takes it in as opposed to it just smelling bad.
- Hands down this is my favorite hand-weeding tool. You can use it to get underneath roots, and loosen soil, and it cuts down on the weeding time because you work much faster.
- But I also love this long, stand-up weeding tool to really get around roses from afar.
- I like to use THIS ORGANIC FERTILIZER for roses because the blooms are more prolific and it’s organic.
- You’ll need a sharp set of pruners when working with plants and flowers. I buy a few so I can stash them around.
- I use these garden snips to deadhead and cut flowers from my gardens.
- Where pest and disease problems are concerned, if I need to, I generally use this insecticidal soap or neem oil to help control infestations depending on the issue. When using, only apply when pollinators are less active.
- This is my favorite set-and-forget slow-release fertilizer for houseplants, annuals, and container gardens.
- Whenever I stake my peonies or other plants, I generally use these grow through garden supports because they work really well and keep the blooms upright.
Want to Learn How to Grow Flowers With Ease?
If you’ve always wanted to grow flowers with ease, I got you. I wrote a book that shares all the things you need to know to grow a beautiful and easy-care flower garden.
What’s In the Bricks ‘n Blooms Guide?
- Gardening basics to set you up for success
- Great garden design ideas with ready-made plans for you to follow
- Easy-care instructions for a wide variety of flowering annuals, perennials, and shrubs
- Helpful how-tos for container and cut flower gardening
- Graphs, charts, and lists to help you stay organized
My book publishes on February 6, 2024, but you can preorder now and get a special pre-order bonus chapter you can’t get when the preorder period closes.
Preorder your copy here and get a free, downloadable guide that shares bonus information with tips and unique garden designs to get year-round color in your landscape. Offer ends 2/5/24.
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Thank you so much for following along.
Enjoy a beautiful day! xo
Want to learn more about me?
I’m a master gardener who’s been gardening and growing things for over 25 years. With a deep passion for gardening, I enjoy helping others find their inner green thumb with all things plants and flowers, as well as find ways to bring the outdoors inside their homes too.
Get the inside scoop about my background as a master gardener, education, and experience, as well as why I started blogging.