With the new year upon us, I love to look back and review how my cottage gardens grew.
To see what worked and what didn’t.
Learn what’s missing.
And decide what I’m adding to the gardens in the next growing season.
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How I Honed My Cottage Garden in 2020
You can learn a lot by looking back because we learn what we want to change, do or grow during the next season.
So now is a great time to plan ahead.
Looking back, I made some fun changes to the gardens that brought a little more cottage charm to the beds.
And as much as I love the changes I made this year, I am already seeing things that I want to tweak for next.
So let’s recap and then chat about what I’m planning for 2021.
New Cottage Garden Flowers to Love in the Cutting Garden
For years, my garden flowers have been low maintenance and native plants.
I needed plants that were easy to grow and could take a little neglect if I was busy running around with my family.
With my kids getting older and not needing me as much, I started growing flowers this year that need a little more care and maintenance than some of my easy care favorites.
My good friend Kim, from Shiplap and Shells, totally inspired me to grow dahlias this year. They look SO gorgeous in her cottage gardens and although I’m in a different hardiness zone than her, I had to try them!
And you know what?
I fell in love!
Aren’t they amazing!
To make room for the new flowers I wanted to plant, I needed to start new or add to an existing bed in a sunny area of my yard.
So my husband and I started a new garden off the well garden and combined the two.
I tucked in some new perennials that included lupines, dianthus and delphiniums.
But I also added a few dahlia varieties and roses.
With the new addition, I now refer to this bed as the cutting garden because I’m growing all kinds of flowers that can be cut for arrangements.
And I love seeing this garden from my living room windows.
I love to see all the pretty flowers.
Makes my heart sing!
In addition to more adding perennials, dahlias and roses, I also tucked in some pretty summer annuals to keep the color going through the entire season.
Annuals are a great way to keep things in bloom while perennials grow, change and die back.
We had a bad, deep freeze just before Mother’s Day.
That deep freeze affected my flowering crabapple tree and some of my existing perennials.
The tree lost its leaves much earlier than normal after flowering.
I hope it does better in 2021.
As summer transitioned to fall, the cutting garden dahlias started profusely blooming.
Having no experience with them, I was amazed at how many blooms you get!
Plus, the more you cut the more blooms you get.
So I kept cutting!
And now that I’ve been bitten by the dahlia love bug, I TOTALLY need to grow more.
So we need to make a few new beds for the 2021 growing season because there is not enough space in the cutting garden to grow many more varieties.
Aside from my dahlias, both my tall phlox and limelight hydrangeas did really well this year!
They made quite a color combination didn’t they?
My tall phlox has never bloomed this late in the season so I was thrilled to see the flowers with my limelight hydrangeas.
I attribute their bloom length this year to the pest management I did fighting off scale in my gardens this summer.
And I love how they paired with the foliage of smoke tree and the juniper tree I planted last year.
When I planted the limelight last year, I thought it would look great here, but I didn’t realize how beautiful it would look in full bloom.
But one of my fall garden favorites is beautyberry.
Those gorgeous purple berries get me every time!
The birds love them too.
When I was pursuing my master gardener certification, we were strolling Freylinghuysen Arboretum.
And I fell in love instantly with beautyberry.
I’m not sure what I love more.
The graceful arching habit or those beautiful berries.
At the end of the growing season, I was really pleased how well the cutting garden did.
I feel very inspired to grow more flowers I have little to no experience within 2021.
Because it’s fun to try new things in the garden.
And because I’m so inspired to grow new to me flowers for fresh-cut arrangements, I plan to start seeds indoors this year in my basement.
So stay tuned for that because we will be talking about how to do this a lot during the winter.
And if you’d like to start seeds with me in your basement, we can do it together at the same time!
Painting the Cottage Garden Shed
One of the biggest changes that made a huge impact in my backyard garden was my garden shed makeover.
The shed houses two gardens: both vegetable and cottage garden flowers.
And the gardens were not aesthetically pleasing with the former look.
Having to stay home this year really opened a flood gate to doing all sorts of home improvement projects.
And the garden shed made the list!
That shed was such an eyesore.
I didn’t love my backyard gardens because of it.
To see what it looked like before, CLICK HERE.
I poured over Pinterest and found some inspiration photos.
I settled on a neutral color pallet so the shed would blend in with the landscape and not distract from the pretty cottage garden flowers.
And I’m really glad I decided to give it makeover in early spring when the plants weren’t as lush.
I still had to move the climbing hydrangea out of the way while painting, but the rest of it was fairly easy to access.
In addition to painting the shed, my husband built this AWESOME arbor.
It was one of those on the fly kind of projects where we woke up on a Saturday morning and he just decided to build one for me.
Add this to the many reasons why I love him so much.
Doesn’t it look so pretty in the shed garden?
I love that he built it from scratch.
And love the new focal focal point it created in the garden.
We placed it next to the shed where I recently planted a wisteria vine.
The goal is for the wisteria to climb the arbor, shed and back fence to soften the hard lines.
And yes, I know wisteria can be a monster.
We will be adding a structure to the shed to hold the vine in 2021.
As the summer wore on, I started waking up alot earlier and caught some beautiful sunrises in the shed garden.
It became a thing for me that I didn’t want to miss! Some mornings, the colors were just amazing!
My sedum autum joy started to shine in the backyard garden as the summer progressed and transitioned into fall.
These plants were all divisions from the front yard.
Sedum autum joy is one of my favorite perennials because they are low maintenance, easy to propagate and add so much color and texture throughout the growing season.
As we entered fall, the colors in the shed garden became more prominent with brighter.
Doesn’t it look so pretty?
We used to have so many more trees back there.
But Superstorm Sandy took out several when she struck New Jersey.
But I digress.
Look at how much those sedum autumn joy blooms deepened in color since the summer!
Aren’t they beautiful?
Because they do so much in the garden, sedum autumn joy has become one of my favorite garden flowers.
Even as the 2020 garden season came to a close, the shed garden still looked beautiful with all that amazing fall foliage.
New Jersey is so gorgeous during fall!
When I planted these beds, I kept fall foliage in mind so that when the blooms faded, there was still a lot of color in the backyard gardens.
My Front Yard Cottage Garden
The front walkway cottage garden has been a labor of love since we renovated our home 15 years ago.
This was the first garden I replanted after we completed construction.
And I spent several years adding plants that would help keep it continually blooming with color from spring through fall.
This year, we were hit with a really bad deep freeze in spring after my tulips and daffodils bloomed.
It cut the bloom time back on the tulips, so luckily I got to see them for at least a little while before Mother Nature totally took them out.
But it was so sad when it hit.
I had too many plants to protect, so I just let the chips fall where they may.
I really love how this garden changes daily in spring.
When the bulbs finish blooming, my catmint, salvia, and irises start to take over and you don’t even notice them dying back.
Plus I tucked in a bunch of annuals that really brought a lot of color to this bed.
In early spring, the colors are soft and cool.
And because I have so much catmint, the garden looks like it billows.
Those bearded irises are really striking too, aren’t they?
Summer in the cottage garden brings lots of pollinating friends.
In the last few years, the echinacea has really taken over this bed and it is a butterfly haven!
They are so fun to watch.
As much as I love echinacea and the amount of butterflies that visit, I’m going to scale some of this back so I can tuck in some different flowers.
I am likely adding a few dahlias and gladiolas to this border in 2021.
So I can’t wait to see how it all comes together.
In addition to my pollinating friends, I also found some not so fun friends in the cottage garden this year.
Scale – and lots of it!
For a while I was using neem oil, but it wasn’t getting rid of the scale.
So I tried releasing a bunch of ladybugs in the garden to see if they would help curttail the problem.
They did help but not as much as I would have liked.
My front cottage garden enjoyed a few new plant friends this year.
I planted a summer-blooming allium from Walters Gardens and Proven Winners called Serendipity, as well as a few varieties of Summerific hibiscus flowers.
And let me tell you those hibiscus flowers were the star of the show in late summer and early fall, so they are must-haves.
Those blooms were about 8-10″ in size and make a huge impact in the garden.
Aren’t those hibiscus flowers amazing?
They were the star of the show in late summer.
I love how they looked in this garden!
Fall in the cottage garden looked so gorgeous this year too!
I decorated my front porch with lots of garden mums, pumpkins, gourds, and pretty fall containers.
It was so fun decorating it this year.
I was drawn to several different plants and flowers when I was shopping around for container plants.
And I really love the combination of texture and color, don’t you?
You can get the full container recipe HERE.
In the fall, I added over 200 bulbs, mostly daffodils, but also some more alliums and tulips. I cannot wait to see these come up this spring!
In anticipation of growing more dahlias in this bed, we expanded the bed by a few feet and added a small garden path.
I’m looking for a pretty birdbath to add in this garden as well.
Every Gardener Needs a Cool Potting Bench
I’ve been gardening for more than 25 years and I FINALLY got a potting bench.
Because I love to use container gardens both in my gardens and on my deck, I really needed a good place to work!
For years, my husband said he wanted to build one, so we never bought one.
While we were knocking things off our stay home project list, he cleaned out behind the shed and found a lot of scrap wood that was perfect for building a potting bench.
Feeling inspired, he built a potting bench for me as a Mother’s Day gift.
And it turned out amazing!
We keep it behind the shed so I could contain the garden mess back there.
I love that I can pot things up and not worry about the dirt mess it left behind.
There are so many benefits to having a potting bench, so if you are a gardener and don’t already have one…
You totally need one!
What I’m Planning in 2021 For My Cottage Garden
We have some plans for the gardens this year.
- Repave our driveway and add a beautiful stepping stone path leading from the front to the back yard. I know the driveway isn’t really part of the garden, but it sorely needs a makeover!
- Add two more arbors – one for the garden fence leading to the backyard and the other in the rose garden that leads out to the backyard.
- Add a drip irrigation system to the vegetable garden. I am still handwatering this one because its so far from a water source. But this year, we are digging it in when we create the pathway to the backyard. Whoop whoop!
- Add a stepping stone path from the berry garden to the garden shed.
- Add seating in the front yard. We used to have adirondack chairs here, but we use them now around the fire pit.
- Starting flowers from seed during the winter and adding them to both new and existing gardens. I can’t wait!
For More Cottage Garden Inspiration
I mentioned Kim from Shiplap and Shells earlier, but she is also sharing her cottage garden recap from 2020 and it is nothing short of amazing.
She lives in the PNW and is blessed with the best weather for growing a garden!
I adore her beautiful cottage garden flowers and I know you will too!
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