Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Tips to create a cottage-style garden

How to create a cottage-style garden

Love the idea of a traditional cottage garden? Follow our essential guide for top tips and advice

Look after your soil

The secret to the cottage garden look is healthy strong plants, but undernourished soil cannot sustain an abundance of flowers and foliage.

Improve soil fertility and moisture retentiveness with well-rotted farm manure, homemade compost or sacks of ready-made soil conditioners.

Fork slow-release fertilisers into the soil early in the year around large shrubs and climbers to give individual plants a boost all season long.

Don't forget to water

"Summer for most plants is a time for rapid growth. In order to sustain this, the plants need plenty of light and food, and copious amounts of water. In very hot weather that may mean watering twice each day to prevent wilting." Steven Bradley, A Year in the Garden

Use ground cover

One way to make a garden look full is to cover every scrap of bare soil. Ground-cover plants that stay quite low growing and spread across bare ground will do this.

Good choices include ivies, periwinkle and bergonias. Epimediums are great for shady places, and stachys (lamb's ears) are ideal for sun.

Split the plants every year in spring to increase your stock, and plant new ones to cover the area even faster.

Get the colour scheme right

The traditional cottage garden suits certain colours. You can't go wrong with these three steps.

Step 1: Make sure there's lots of green as this is what gives the look of abundance and natural beauty.

Step 2: Introduce touches of silver - use stachys to edge the pathway for an excellent contrast to the grass.

Step 3: Add key spots of colour using roses and clematis. Try herbaceous perennials like campulanas, and annuals such as poppies. In general, deep blues, pale pinks and crimson, plum and purple all work well.

Later in the summer, Japanese anemones in pink or white will give a pretty display for weeks at a time when many flowers are setting seed or turning to autumnal colours.

Choose the right plants

Go for more traditional plants in your cottage-style garden. Here are our five favourite choices.

Alliums - are perfect for early summer flowering

Astrantia - is very cottagey and delicate looking

Lupins - are ideal for adding a shot of brilliant colour in early summer

Marguerites - seeds around freely but always looks fresh and cheerful

Sweet rocket - has an amazing evening fragrance