Cottage garden plants

Five plants for a cottage garden border

These five plants work well to create a small cottage garden planting scheme.

Cottage garden planting schemes combine a jumble of plants, informally planted with a mixture of different colours and forms. They tend to be better for pollinators than more modern planting schemes, as they feature single, open flowers. Many cottage garden planting schemes are designed for medium to large gardens, but these five plants are perfect for a smaller scheme, such as a border just 1.8m x 1.8m (6ft x 6ft).

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For most of these plants, plant in blocks of three for maximum impact and ease of maintenance. Geraniums, however, should be planted singly to drift through the border as ground cover, linking other plants in the display. This small cottage garden display will peak in midsummer, but will look good from early to late in the season. Why not add spring and summer bulbs for extra interest? Extend the season for as long as possible with anything from snowdrops to gladioli.

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Get your cottage garden off to a fine start, with these beautiful plants.


Campanula lactiflora ‘Loddon Anna’

Campanula lactiflora
Campanula lactiflora

Ideal for planting in the middle or back of the border, this clump-forming perennial is a classic cottage garden plant. It bears masses of soft lilac-pink bells from July to September on long, upright, strong stems, creating a soft, billowing effect. It’s best grown through a support to stop it flopping when wet. Campanula lactiflora ‘Loddon Anna’ associates well with a huge range of other plants.

Height x spread: 1.5m x 60cm.


Echinacea purpurea 

Echinacea purpurea 'Leuchtstern'
Echinacea ‘Leuchtstern’

Pink daisy-shaped flowers appear from June to September. In autumn, the seedheads attract plenty of birds, too. While often seen as a prairie plant, Echinacea purpurea works just as well in a cottage garden scheme, with its strong stems and height fitting in nicely towards the back of a border. The flower shapes will contrast nicely with the others.

H x S: 1.5m x 40cm.


Erysimum ‘Bowles’s Mauve’

Erysimum 'Bowles's Mauve'
Erysimum ‘Bowles’s Mauve’

Erysimum ‘Bowles’s Mauve’ starts flowering early in the year and keeps going right through the summer months, with minimal attention. It’s often seen flowering in March and is still going strong in late September. In southern regions, it can flower all year round.

H x S: 75cm x 60cm.


Geranium macrorrhizum ‘White-Ness’

Geranium macrorrhizum
Geranium macrorrhizum

Hardy geraniums make excellent ground cover and filler plants for areas of bare earth, and most flower for long periods. ‘White-Ness’ works well as it stays compact and carries pure-white flowers over apple-green leaves to form a light, frothy carpet beneath and around the other plants.

H x S: 30cm x 50cm.


Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote’

Lavender 'Hidcote'
Lavender ‘Hidcote’

Being a neat evergreen shrub, lavender ‘Hidcote’ is a year-round structural plant. Its flower spikes are a deep violet blue, which appear in early July and fade by late August, and carry the unmistakeable scent of summer. Most lavenders look great planted informally in borders, grown as hedges or used as a less formal punctuation throughout a scheme.

H x S: 60cm x 75cm.


Looking after your cottage garden

Spring

Tipping a barrowload of mulch onto soil
Tipping a barrowload of compost onto soil
  • These perennials are all fast-growing, so don’t bother buying large plants; instead, consider purchasing several 9cm pots in spring, which will work out cheaper
  • Dig over the whole area, weed well and incorporate plenty of organic matter before planting
  • If your friends have any plants on the list, or something similar or complementary, then ask if you can lift and divide some to take for free

Summer

Lavender cuttings
Lavender cuttings
  • Regularly deadhead the erysimum and it’ll keep flowering all summer
  • Clip lavender in late August every year to form a neat dome (take cuttings at the same time). Cut back the geranium and feed in summer before going on holiday, and it should produce a second flush of flowers and foliage for your return
  • The lavender is easy to propagate by taking cuttings in summer and you can simply increase your stock of other perennials by dividing in autumn or spring once established. You can then go on to use any plants you’ve propagated to extend the theme and fill any gaps elsewhere in the garden
  • The campanula, echinacea and geranium will freely self-seed if you let them or you can easily collect and sow seed when ripe

Winter

Staking perennials
Staking perennials
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  • From January onwards, cut back any growth left on the perennials. The echinacea should hold its form longer (leave as late as possible to add winter interest)
  • Tidy up, mulch and feed in spring
  • Stake the campanula early so it can grow through any support