Many people adore cottage gardens for their rustic charm and fairytale-like style. As cottage gardens often have the appearance of having taken years of planting and hard work, they can be intimidating for first-time gardeners. The modern cottage garden typically blends a variety of edible and ornamental plants with a wide range of colors, textures, and sizes.
However, their full and rustic nature actually helps make them easy to maintain. There are a number of plants you can start this spring that can bring that quaint, cottage garden style to your home.
Alcea rosea - Hollyhocks
An old and well-loved flower hollyhocks actually have a history of being used to mark the path to an outhouse. Their height and wide range of colors make them an easy choice for cottage gardens. Alcea is considered a short-lived perennial in Zones 3-8. To extend its life, cut them off at their bases after the flowers fade.
Aside from their fruit, strawberries offer several other benefits. Their creeping habit makes them an excellent ground cover. They also have adorable little flowers in the spring and beautiful red foliage in the fall. If given the space strawberries will also send out runners or clones helping to fill a little more of your garden each year. If you have young children they’re sure to be a hit and will encourage them to spend time exploring looking for these delicious little jewels.
Ditgitalis purpurea - Foxglove
A quintessential feature of the cottage garden, foxglove encompasses many species with varying heights. Some of these are perennials while others are biennial. All of these species grow only leaves the first year but their spires of spotted, bell-shaped flowers are well worth the wait. If you have small children please note that foxglove is toxic to ingest. Interestingly, a chemical found in foxglove called digoxin is actually used to treat heart failure.
Echinacea sp. - Coneflower
A native of North America, coneflower or echinacea is a favorite among pollinator gardeners offering nectar to bees, butterflies and small birds in the fall. It’s perennial and can be divided after a few years to add more to your garden. The native varieties have a tendency to self-seed, but if you want more control, there are hundreds of hybrid varieties that don’t. Native Echinacea purpurea is a common herbal remedy and can be used to make tea which is believed to offer relief from colds.
Convolvulaceae sp. - Morning Glories
Morning glories have the well-earned reputation of being a garden bully. Take great care and consider when moving this into your garden because it will wander. If you do select it, place it near a fence or trellis to support its huge sprawling vines with prolific round little flowers and mind after its vines from encroaching into your beds.
Leucanthemum × superbum - Daisies
Daisies are known as the “friendly flower” and definitely bring the wildflower look to any garden. They’re easy to grow and will self-seed on their own so they will need a generous portion of your garden dedicated to them once they are established.
Rudbeckia sp. - Black-eyed Susans
Black-eyed Susans is an iconic wildflower that’s native to North America. They spread readily and are long lasting as a cut flower. They may be more meadow-worthy than formal garden-worthy which makes them an excellent selection for the cottage garden.
Rainbow Swiss Chard
Also known as Five-color Silverbeet, rainbow Swiss chard has beautiful bright red, orange, yellow, pink, or white stems with dark green crinkly leaves. It’s easy to grow and tolerates both cold and heat well. Its fun colors will look wonderful in the garden and may tempt your children into eating a few more greens!
Achillea millefolium - Yarrow
Yarrow is a wonderful and easy to grow native perennial. It comes in a variety of colors and has clusters of tiny flowers with fern-like leaves. In medieval times yarrow’s leaves were actually used to stop bleeding on the battlefield.
Phlox stolonifera - Creeping Phlox
Another native wildflower, creeping phlox makes a great ground cover. It’s perfect for planting above stone walls to create that waterfall effect.
Super easy to grow, pole beans are both edible and beautiful. There are many varieties available from green beans to yellow wax beans, to black beans. If you have to space to add a trellis or teepee they add wonderful height to your garden or can be used to create a shady spot for children to play.
A member of the allium family, chives grow in large clusters and can be trimmed with scissors to add onion flavor to a variety of dishes. They’re a hardy perennial and can be divided after a year or two. They also have round purple clusters of flowers which can be admired in the garden or added to a salad for a fun pop of color.
Adding some or all of these plants to your garden this year can help you achieve a cottage style garden even if you’re a beginner. They can all be started from seeds this spring, keeping your investment small.
Learn more about other plants to spruce up your garden this spring with our recommended 3 stunning spring plants to brighten up your garden. Or come into Homestead Gardens and talk to our houseplant specialists for more information.