Plants for the Cottage Garden Look

In a cottage garden, self-seeding plants with bright, bold and vibrant flowers are best. Here are our top 10 plants for achieving an attractive cottage garden design.

Many gardeners crave the cottage garden look and the secret is in the plants. Grow a mix of these charming, old-fashioned favourites and the cottage garden effect can be yours.

Plant these 10 flowers to create the cottage garden of your dreams:

cottage garden
Hollyhock Photo: Shutterstock

10. Hollyhock

Biennial or perennial, hollyhocks are erect and unbranched, with a coating of star-shaped hairs. The leaves are usually lobed or toothless with solitary flowers arranged in fascicles or racemes. The notched petals can be pink, purple, white or yellow and are usually over 3 centimetres wide. These vibrant flowers are the perfect cottage garden, plant bringing beautiful colour and a soft, floral scent to your garden.

cottage garden
Foxglove Photo: Shutterstock

9. Foxglove

Foxgloves (Digitalis), have a tall, spiked and tubular flower which can be white, yellow, purple or pink and are loved by bees. Many of these species are biennial and all have vivid and attractive flowers, which is why they are so commonly used in cottage garden design.

cottage garden
Wisteria Photo: Shutterstock

8. Wisteria

These twining climbers are beautifully scented and ideal for growing over walls, trees and other garden structures. With their white, blue, pink or purple flowers in May and June, they are an attractive addition to a cottage garden.

cottage garden
Catmint (nepeta) Photo: Shutterstock

7. Catmint

Plant these long-lived plants in spring to see healthy spikes of lavender-blue flowers. The easy-to-grow perennials bear flowers in shades of purple-blue, pink and white, but have an attractive grey-green foliage that will bring year-round interest to the garden.

cottage garden
Rambling roses Photo: Shutterstock

6. Rambling Roses

Climbing roses have many uses, such as decorating pergolas and arches, as well as rambling through trees and bushes or covering unsightly objects. Rambling roses have small flowers that are displayed in bunches. Most flower once a year in early summer, although there are some that flower all summer such as ‘The Albrighton Rambler’.

cottage gardens
Delphinium Photo: Shutterstock

5. Delphinium

Delphinium cultivars can vary in height and bloom in midsummer to reveal impressive flower spikes. They can grow up to 2m depending on the cultivar and in borders blend in with irises and peonies beautifully.

cottage gardens
Phlox Photo: Shutterstock

4. Phlox

Ideal for attracting bees and butterflies to your garden, phlox produces fragrant flowers that will fill your cottage garden with wonderful scent. The flowers can vary from blue through to white and pink, with large domed heads which last for up to five weeks.

cottage garden
Hardy Geranium Photo: Shutterstock

3. Hardy Geraniums

These colourful perennials are tough and very easy to grow, making them a popular choice for English gardens. Try deep blue ‘Rozanne’, ‘Brookside’ or ‘Johnson’s Blue’, all of which can flower for months on end from early summer through to the first frosts.

cottage garden
Peonies Photo: Shutterstock

2. Peonies

Peonies can introduce vibrant colour to borders and cut flower material in spring and early summer. With large, voluptuous flowers in shades of white, pink, coral and red, these timeless plants bring a romantic feel to cottage gardens.

cottage gardens
Cosmos Photo: Shutterstock

1. Cosmos

Cosmos are annuals that grow abundantly, making them perfect for borders, cottage gardens and summer bedding displays with vibrant and appealing flowers. They come in a wide variety of colours and sizes and attract many beneficial pollinators.

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Church View, Appleby-in-Westmoreland (76)

The Garden Gate is Open

Often, I am able to find a garden open which fits into my travel plans and helps break a long  journey. Driving North on our way to the River Tay last Saturday, there was very conveniently a garden open, just off the A66 at Appleby-in-Westmoreland.

I love this time of year, so often blue skies and liquid clear light. Not a bit of it today, this was the view through the windscreen as we parked the car!

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Never one for letting a drop of rain stop me from having a look at a garden, I quickly crossed the road where the garden gate was wide open. An impressive purple leaved prunus cerasifera pissardii, stands at the front. An unfortunate name for this popular tree, I always think, and we have to blame Monsieur Pissard, a gardener to the Shah of Iran who introduced the tree to France in the…

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Some Geraniums

Geranium sanguineum album

Geranium sanguineum album

Geranium x magnificum

Geranium x magnificum

Geranium clarkei 'Kashmir White'

Geranium clarkei ‘Kashmir White’

Geranium endressii

Geranium endressii

Geranium sanguineum var. striatum

Geranium sanguineum var. striatum

Geranium renardii

Geranium renardii

photos courtesy Barbara Allen.

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Church View Open Garden Days 2016

*            Open Garden  2016          *


As featured in: ‘Garden Answers’ October 2015

‘Cumbria Life’ magazine October 2013

‘Lancashire Life’ September 2013

and ‘Garden of the Week’ in ‘Garden News’ April 2013

Church View,

Bongate, Appleby -in- Westmorland. Cumbria CA16 6UN

(Next door to the Royal Oak)

On the third Wednesday of each month, June to October inclusive

12 Noon – 4.00 p.m.

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                      A modern cottage garden with coherent layers of colour, texture and interest. Centred around a fine 18th C. red sandstone building. A garden with interest all year round.  From Spring bulbs; through the lushness of Summer roses and herbaceous plants galore; to the inherent richness of late perennials and graceful grasses well into late Autumn. Plus a vegetable production area!  A little less than half an acre but packed with plants.

The garden is on a gently sloping site with gravel paths. Some plants for sale.

Designed, Built, Planted and Maintained by

English Country Gardens Cumbria

Open Days 2016

Wednesday 15th.    June

Wednesday 20th.     July

Wednesday 17th.  August

Wednesday 21st.   September

Wednesday   19th. October

Other days/times, most welcome, by appointment .



Admission: Adults £3.50 -Accompanied Children free.

All proceeds go to the National Gardens Scheme (NGS) charity.

Charity number 1112664


… as in a traditional cottage garden, there are no big gestures, such as formal hedges or ‘single colour’ borders. Instead there is an endless series of intricately designed ‘little episodes,’ of related colours and tones, or involving different interestingly varied foliage-forms, all of which knit together into a colourful and intriguing patchwork. The idea, as Ian himself puts it, was to create ‘coherent layers of colour, texture and interest.’  Tim Longville, ‘Cumbria Life’ magazine July 2012
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The appropriately bountiful Furze, ablaze and swarming along the beck banks, filled this warm, late May’s morning air with the aroma of sweetened coconut. But of course, more accurately I suppose, the gorgeous scent of the gloriously gaudy Gorse flower.

Alive with busy Bees and tiny flies, the latter a welcome treat (or staple foodstuff at this time for nestling youngsters, apt for this shrub, being the Celtic symbol for fertility… and love ) for the abundant Linnets present.

Such pleasing flittering Cinnamon birds, touched with warming Crimson highlights as if only in artistic afterthought. These melodious talented songsters, along with the similarly attracted, equally attractive, and compellingly active Meadows Pipits, provided an uplifting sound track completing this pleasant scene, the Gorse the star today, a fulsome experience of course!

Ian H.



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A Garden Door.

11263780_508791882602099_1783103105_nA Garden Door.

The pleasing shape of this doorway – dictated as it is by the elegant formal round arch, couples comfortably with the simplicity of the wooden door’s construction.These qualities are complemented so well by the plain clean-cut stonework surround within the substantial Cotswold stone wall.

Such an entrance must excite the inquisitiveness that resides in us all I’m sure! as well as satisfying our aesthetic hunger.
But is it the plants which make this scene complete and special? (to my eyes at least)
Ever questing beautiful Wistaria winds its way along the gutter doing its utmost to replicate the arching theme in short time. To eventually reach down and meet it’s equally sensually scented partner of mythical romantic rhyme – the Lavender. This shorter, fragrant stalwart of the English garden flanking the entrance, is in itself alone, so welcoming and inviting (unable to ramble via tendril as her collaborator does so well, she has  sown herself at the foot of the wall, picking her spot with perfect placement.)

So much to be appreciated in this view.

But most of all I admire the self-sown (slightly rebellious) Centranthus ruber snuggled tight against the pure white (quite staid) door. They look as though they enjoy each others company very much. A match made by chance, but a mutually beneficial association of sheer unexpected delight, so charming a story that they found one another. The door’s favoured companion plant ‘roots’ it into its allotted space – eases its practical, utilitarian personality perfectly into an engaging, mellow composition. Lovely.

Ian H.

Photo (and doorway) courtesy of Barbara Allen.

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Waldsteinia ternata:

018 021 Waldsteinia ternata: A quite well-known, useful ground cover plant. Will grow very well in shade, tolerating drought when established and evergreen as well. An easy reliable sort, almost always grown in shade or partial shade in ‘out of the way’ spots. But here we have it cascading down a dry stonewall in a well-lit, prominent, sunny spot – maybe more adaptable than most folk think. A very pretty, serviceable addition to any garden; a real spring / early summer joy!

Ian H.

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Chimonanthus praecox (Yellow Wintersweet)


Chimonanthus praecox (Yellow Wintersweet)

Family: Calycanthaceae

Chimonanthus praecox is a vigorous deciduous, bushy medium-sized shrub. Its glossy dark green leaves are lanceolate, up to 20cm long and 10cm broad. Its waxy, hermaphrodite, yellow flowers have purple stained centres, are cup-shaped, pendant, up to 3cm across, with spirally arranged petals, are strongly scented and appear on bare branches. Its brown fruit is an elliptic capsule and up to 2.5cm in length.

Chimonanthus praecox, commonly known as Wintersweet or Japanese Allspice, is native to China.In its native habitat it grows in mountain forests. Chimonanthus praecox is synonymous with Chimonanthus fragrans. It was introduced into European gardens from Japan and was noted in England 1766 when it was grown under glass for the Sixth Earl of Coventry in the conservatory at Croome Court, Worcestershire.

The etymological root of the binomial name Chimonanthus is derived from the Greek xeimwn ‘winter’ and anqos ’flower’. Praecox is derived from the Latin prae meaning ‘before’ and coxi meaning ‘ripening’, i.e. early ripening.

Ecologically, Chimonanthus praecox is attractive to pollinating insects and beetles.

chimonanthus-praecox-flowerChimonanthus praecox prefers moist, fertile, well-drained soils. It tolerates most pH of soil. It will not tolerate winter water logging.




Pruning Advice

As a general rule we tend not to prune Chimonanthus.

It is so often detrimental to their:   flowering reliability, general health and perhaps

most importantly; it prevents them attaining their pleasing, generally

naturally occurring,  shape. (I refer to shape as being most important as it

is that attribute which is evident/ noticeable to some degree, every day

of the year. That should be its main contribution to the overall

aesthetical worth / appearance in the landscape. In comparison the leaves

(pleasing in themselves) and flowers are ephemeral and passing, but

nonetheless pretty, very fragrant and immensely worthwhile of course!

Under most circumstances Chimonanthus develop an attractive, fairly open

framework of branches and laterals without training. Then, dead, diseased

or crossing branches would be taken out late Winter/ early Spring

immediately after flowering, this would be indeed the appropriate time to carry

out all or any necessary pruning on Chimonanthus. This could be coupled

with lightly ‘nipping back’ the tips of last years growth if considered

absolutely essential to keep it in check, but…. I personally prefer to

take out entire laterals or branches if ‘thinning’ is required.

Chimonanthus praecox under very favourable conditions will achieve at most

something like 4 metres in height and maybe 3 metres across, but at a slow

to moderate rather than a fast rate of growth. This expected ultimate size

should be borne in mind at planting time when the most appropriate

position is being chosen. Bear in mind not only size, but aspect; they

enjoy fertile reasonably well-drained soil, in some sun and light shade.

Placing them where the fragrance and beauty of the flowers can be

appreciated during the short days of Winter is also important, i.e. next

to a frequently used pathway or door.

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Marigolds and Sunflower Seeds

Painting by:  ged mitchell

Painting by: ged mitchell



Snakes Head Fritillary aesthetically

Rendered in tangerine.

Tadpoles, frogspawn, bottle – green flies,

Rainbows that spanned the blue sky – and this time – didn’t lie.

                Sweet Pea tendrils.


Young green leaves,

A slew of colourful bracket fungi (Trametes versicolor!)

The poisonous dewdrop of exquisite trumpet – like Datura blooms.

(We need to know the difference between these!)

                Bee pollen grains.


I see all this; back through the year, a review so far.

Acknowledged via my unashamed touchstones – the natural world,

My gardens, the trees, the earth, and the birds.

My universe…My dreams.

                Bonfire flames.    


The ribbon-like foliage of Phormium tenax,

The identifying spore prints of varying mushrooms.

Waxwing crests echoing stacks of colourful 

(Rowan) Mountain Ash berries.

                Centipedes segmented backs.


Prunella (self-heal,) who never tires of her tender art,

Mending bleeding hearts.

Cinnamon worms of peeling Acer griseum bark, catch on

Iris foetidissima seeds in their dry cracked manilla cases.

                Adders Tongue Fern.


And oh! those so rich sunsets, I would gladly have died to stay

In their sweet glow for eternity (or another hour?)

Whether they fell into sea the mountains or estuary.

Would you have happily fallen in along with me?

                Wide-brimmed straw hats.


Looking through smudged October/Rudbeckia tinted spectacles!

From here I see so much. A lone silvern star,

Amidst such wonderful glowing, wind blown – imagination sowing,

Exaggerated Autumnal tones.

                Red squirrel ear tufts.


Across the honest months of beautiful rebirth.

Promised full growth that brought forth

The (hinted at weeks ago) glut of fruit

And seed – so bountiful a harvest in truth, indeed.

                Bare legs in summer skirts (not mine!)


Winged sycamore seeds, as light as the ears of golden Stipa oats,

Flyaway Campanula petals,

The same bells that tolled for the coming gales.

Tales told of peas as green as my waterproof coat.

                Aments (Catkins-lambs-tails.)


Hills, a mountain, these are mine!

Definitely my rounded Howgill fells (benign, sleepy, elephantine,)          

But alive in a Beltane sunrise! The Orchid purple dusk when we found

Blackbird’s fine bluey-green, speckled eggshells.

                A fairy ring.


The elegant eye stripe of visiting Redwings

And scores of Fieldfares (their fellow cousin thrushes)

Now rushing in, arriving just in time to feast on abundant

Ripe – orange/yellow – crab apple windfalls.

                A rainbow trout.


Juvenile figs! (’twas such a good year.) Something sexy speaks too…

Rivulets of storm water trickling down

Parched banks seeking the stripling beck, close the weir.

Questing, like blanched pale Couch grass roots.

                Branched Birch twigs.


So much to be seen, even varietal flagella.

Love-in-a mist (Nigella damascena – if you insist!)

The spiralling bore holes of the Dutch Elm Beetle.

Such a classically insane moth! (Copper Underwing) Drawn of course to…

                A candles flame.


It’s an almanac, a diary. A ledger full of all that’s good.

No need to turn back time, even if we could. It’s history stored

Forged in the folds of artistic imagination. And now as secure

As an oft-told folklore story forever in mine, forever in mind as…

                Ged’s Marigolds and Sunflower seed heads.



Ian H. © milscapuldor 2014

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Some Autumn Colour and Interest

Some photos of the Autumn colour in the gardens at Eaveslea, Kirkby Lonsdale.
Eaveslea is a purpose-built estate of quality retirement homes. We have been responsible for the gardens for nearly 20 years. During that time we have tried to create,develop and maintain a pleasing, relaxing, diverse and environmentally sound gardenscape for the residents, visitors and passing general public, while also providing some privacy, shelter and shade. with some success I believe.
Trying at all costs to avoid horticultural clichés, suburban banality and the ‘slash and burn’ maintenance techniques so ubiquitous nowadays in public and communal spaces.
I am indebted to Paul Jones who has kindly allowed me to use his photos to illustrate some of the current plants of interest in the grounds.

The rough cast walls need as much disguising as possible!


Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple'

Cotinus coggygria ‘Royal Purple’

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Our attempts to 'soften' and de-urbanise the space is sometimes thwarted!

Our attempts to ‘soften’ and de-urbanise the space is sometimes thwarted!

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 Height and colour to create interest,privacy and shelter in the centre of the estate.

Height and colour to create interest,privacy and shelter in the centre of the estate.

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