Cottage garden borders are easy to grow, beautiful to look at, useful, and often edible – so it’s no wonder they’re a popular look. Garden designer Tracy Foster MSGD claims that “the resulting symphony of shape, texture, color and fragrance can add idyllic charm to any property, even in the heart of a city.”
We agree – so keep reading to find out how to create your perfect cottage garden border no matter where you are or how big your space is. Our experts have covered plant selections, material considerations, as well as other additions to achieve this coveted look.
See: Ideas for the cottage garden – pretty ways to embrace rustic style outdoors
Choose authentic Victorian plants
There will be a multitude of different shapes and forms for a truly authentic cottage garden border. The landscape and garden designer Ana Mari Bull MSGD recommends orienting oneself to the past.
“If possible, look at modern variety equivalents of the plants that would have grown in a Victorian cottage garden,” she says. “Roses are the obvious choice, but they have to be fragrant.”
Tracy Foster creates more height with hollyhocks, foxgloves and delphiniums. For other flower shapes, try the flat panicles of the Achillea, the spherical inflorescences of the spherical thistle, or the cheerful daisy flowers of Leucanthemum or Rudbeckia.
Ana says, “The Victorians were also very fond of pelargoniums and kept pots of brightly colored flowers and pots with fragrant leaves. Probably not for modern tastes, but they also liked the colorful begonias very much. ‘
Plant at the right time of year
Garden landscape architect Fi Boyle MSGD explains that there are two important seasons for planting. The first is early autumn, when the soil is still warm and not wet. For Fi, planting in autumn has the advantage that the plants settle in the warm soil and begin to develop roots before the winter months. That means they’ll be ready to go in the spring.
However, if you missed the autumn window, you can also plant in spring. Keep in mind that you may need to keep an eye on your plants a little more at this time of year as we have had some very dry springs in recent years.
Think: right plant, right place
“Always think of the right plant in the right place,” says garden designer Rosemary Coldstream. Your plants will have the best possible start in their ideal soil and sun conditions, so keep this in mind when choosing your plants.
From then on, Rosemary recommends staying dead regularly to prolong flowering. If your border is either heavy or very dry, mulch it with a good quality compost. When perennials get too big, lift and divide them to add to your plant collection and avoid overcrowding.
Plan your border for the size of your room
Ana Mari Bull told us, ‘Country style planting can be achieved in both a small and large garden, although personally I think it works best on a smaller scale as it is a very’ busy ‘garden visually Garden on a larger lot I would try to divide up the space by adding structural elements or creating a garden within a garden or an outdoor space. I would split a boundary by adding either a hedge or structure that climbers could be attached to to create a visual barrier. ‘
See: Cottage patio ideas – create a nice place to relax and chat
Prepare the soil for optimal growth
Garden designer Tracy Foster suggests preparing the bed well before planting is the key to success. I recommend that you remove everything you can, weeds and plants alike, and dig the edge while adding well-composted organic material. You can then replant the things you want to keep after the preparation.
“Once stocked with densely packed plants, the lack of bare soil helps keep weeds at bay, but you may need to thin out overgrown clumps from time to time and remove any self-sown seedlings that show up in places they weren’t supposed to be . ‘
Choose plants for height
Libby Russel of Mazzullo + Russell Landscape Design gave this Somerset space a quintessentially English look with large borders full of herbaceous plants.
Ana Mari Bull shares her plant selection that gives you the tall spiers depicted in so many romantic Victorian paintings of cottage gardens.
‘X Alcalthaea suffrutescens’ Parkfrieden ‘and X Alcalthaea suffrutescens’ Parkallee ‘are a cross of mallow and mallow which are more rust-resistant than traditional hollyhocks and also bloom longer.’
For delphinium, she suggests’ Delphinium Blue Lace which makes a great shade and if you cut off the flower stalks after the flowers have overflowed you may get another blush. The white delphinium Galahad can be treated in the same way and gives the night garden a beautiful shine. If you don’t have space for delphiniums, the smaller annual delphinium or consolida will give you a colorful summer display. ‘
Break up cottage garden boundaries with landscaping elements
For Tracy Foster, cottage garden borders fit an informal garden layout. “Examples that come to mind are brick edges to simple gravel paths, crazy paving with home-sown herbs and flowers that grow in the cracks, herringbone brick paths and simple stepping stones that run through the vegetation.
See: Ideas for decorating cottages – charming possibilities for a characterful look
‘The look also works well on narrow paths and flowing curves, which is great if you want a change from the prevailing harsh lines of the latest design trends, and anything that looks handmade or homemade goes well, especially if it’s made by local material in regional style. Woven willow obelisks, split chestnut fences, woven willow or hazel curbs, and dry stone or soft brick walls are suitable choices. ‘