The carefully manicured sod in suburban yards doesn't hold a candle to the bright and bold cottage gardens from yesteryear. A Victorian tradition that focused on outdoor community engagement, these idyllic gardens can add charm to your home's curb appeal. While they do take commitment to maintain, they're well worth the effort. In fact, cottage gardens are where nature meets the sublime.
Fill Your Garden With Lots of Color
Color and cottage gardens go hand-in-hand. Instead of the carefully manicured greenery of modern lawns, cottage gardens are designed to be bright and bold. Taking the best that the native environment had to offer, Victorians translated their love of whacky and weird into their gardens. Gravitate towards plants that produce big, bright flowers. And don't stick to just one color scheme. You've got to have the whole rainbow represented.
Plant Flowers That Attract Beneficial Insects
Cottage gardens have an unkempt appearance to them, but what they hide is an intentionally curated messiness. This means that you shouldn't haphazardly add plants into your beds and planters. Instead, be particular about the ones you pick. If you want to encourage beneficial insects like bees, butterflies, and ladybugs to flock to your garden, consider adding plants like these to your displays:
Line the Front of Your House With Beautiful Bushes
Most people focus on their backyards when they start a landscaping project. But cottage garden designs aren't limited to just the backyard. Extend your floral fantasy into your the front by lining the edge of your yard with bountiful flowering bushes. Rose bushes are a favorite because of their many varieties and bright colors, but you can pick others that speak to you.
Guide Your Garden by Planning Pathways
With any massive garden, you want to guide yourself and others around the different flower beds. You can set up gravel, brick, or wood chip paths. You can even put in stepping stones if you don't want to cover too much of the green.
You want to plan this path first because it'll give you a blueprint for where you should plant your flowers. After all, what's the point of having an abundance of flowers if you can't get through to them? These pathways will also help you water and prune.
Add Some Drama With a Wrought Iron Fence
A major element of cottage gardens is the way they're blocked off and contained. They might be intentionally overgrown, but they're not supposed to grow haphazardly. To keep your efforts maintained, put in a wrought-iron fence around your garden. A cottage garden needs to feel like another world, and there's no better way to get that feeling than physically stepping through a doorway.
Decorate the Fenceline With Beautiful Flowers
Don't leave any fences that border your garden naked. That's some prime real estate there, and a major tennet of cottage gardens is that more is more. Plant some of your favorite vining or towering plants at the fence's base, and as they grow, weave them throughout the posts. Make sure you mix perennials into your batch so they'll keep coming back every year, and you won't have to replant so much.
Put in a Gazebo as a Victorian Callback
Gazebos are the perfect addition to any cottage garden. They're fanciful and archaic and immediately instill a whimsical energy to the atmosphere. Victorian-inspired white gazebos with their intricate lattice work pair best with the bountiful flower arrangements that come with cottage style gardens. The only downside to gazebos is that they take a lot of space, so people with small yards probably won't want to sacrifice the area.
Install a Pergola for Extra Space
If you've got a smaller yard but want to feel like you're absolutely surrounded by flowers, consider adding a pergola to your backyard. Pergolas come in all kinds of shapes and sizes, but the daintier the better if you're aiming for a cottage garden aesthetic. Overwhelm the pergola's posts and arches with creeping vines and cascading flowers. Think things like climbing roses, climbing hydrangeas, wisteria, and clematis.
Set Up Wood Swings to Enjoy Your Garden
Part of the fun of putting together a cottage garden is being able to enjoy it. There's no better way to get in the weeds of your idyllic creation than putting in a wood swing. Or, if you're more of a hammock kind of person, that'll work too. Put your feet up and admire you all your hard work when it's in bloom.
Though placement is completely up to you, keep in mind that you probably don't want to be blasted by the sunlight at all times of the day. So, consider choosing a location that gets some shade.
Nestle a Bird Bath in Your Garden
Bring a touch of the natural world to your cottage garden by inviting birds to enjoy your floral splendors. Set up a stone bird bath for them to cool off during the hot summer months. Plant bird-friendly flowers near the bath to keep them well fed. Honeysuckle, coneflowers, Virginia creeper, and milkweed are just a few of the plants you should look for.
Add to the Vertical Plane With Garden Trellises
Another way to break up the horizontal lines of your garden is with a few garden trellises. These diamond-shaped walls are super easy to install, and they let you play around with the vertical design element without taking up too much space. Just like with pergolas or fences, pick both vining plants and plants that grow tall to live beside the trellises.
Camouflage Your Shed With Potted Plants
When it comes to cottage garden, plants aren't limited to the horizontal plane. Cover up your unsightly or modern garden shed by doing a little DIY project. Screw in planters around the walls, and plant in some beautiful potted plants. Petite flowering plants like petunias and pansies work great in these small spaces, and their buds are bold enough to be seen far away.
Don't Overthink It, and Embrace the Overgrowth
Above everything else, don't overthink it. Cottage gardens are supposed to be messy and unkempt looking. Embrace the overgrowth and let your plants run a little wild. Of course, keep them tamed enough that they're not encroaching on your house. But let them be a dominant space in your yard.
Cottage Gardens Bring Beauty to Your Yard
Instead of stripping your yard down to its studs, give it back the power it deserves. Let it hold space and presence by planting an array of flowers and outdoor attractions that'll entice everyone nearby to pull over and take a look. For once, let your yard do the talking.