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  • Writer's pictureClair Derwort

How to Begin a Beautiful Cottage Style Garden in a Cold Climate

There’s something undeniably enchanting about a cottage garden—the vibrant riot of colors, the lush foliage, and the delightful mingling of flowers that create a natural tapestry. For those looking to transform their outdoor space into a picturesque haven, starting a cottage garden, and in a cold climate, might seem daunting. However, with thoughtful planning and the right selection of plants, you can create a charming and resilient garden that will flourish even in cooler temperatures.

Understanding the Cottage Garden Aesthetic

A cottage garden is defined by its informal, yet harmonious design. It celebrates a diverse array of plants, mixing perennials, annuals, shrubs, and herbs in a seemingly haphazard, yet artfully curated manner. The goal is to create a natural, inviting space that feels both wild and curated. The best cottage gardens are often deeply personal to the gardener and that is partly what makes them so special.

Steps to Start Your Cottage Garden

  1. Assess Your Space and Climate: Begin by observing your garden space. Note the areas that receive the most sunlight, the spots that remain shady, and the general soil condition. Cold climates often come with shorter growing seasons and frost, so understanding microclimates within your garden is crucial. Choose a location that maximises sunlight, ideally with at least six hours of direct sunlight per day.

  2. Prepare the Soil: Good soil is the foundation of a thriving garden. In colder regions, the soil can be heavy and compacted. Start by removing any weeds and working organic matter, such as compost or well-rotted manure, into the soil. This improves drainage and fertility, giving your plants a healthy start. Healthy soil = healthy plants.

  3. Select Cold-Hardy Plants: It may be a no brainer but the key to a successful cottage garden in a cold climate is selecting plants that can withstand frost and low temperatures. Here are some hardy favorites:

  • Perennials: Peonies, delphiniums, phlox, and hostas provide reliable color year after year. They are more expensve to invest in initially but will reward you with a better show year after year.

  • Shrubs: Lilacs, hydrangeas, and roses are classic choices that add structure and fragrance.

  • Annuals: Pansies, snapdragons, and calendulas bring seasonal splashes of colour.

  • Herbs: Thyme, sage, and chives are not only useful in the kitchen but also add texture and variety to your garden. Plus they work as great natural pest deterents. Herbs make the best companion plants for multiple uses.

  1. Layer Your Plantings: Cottage gardens thrive on the principle of layering. Plant taller species towards the back or center of your garden beds, with medium-height plants in front, and shorter ground covers at the edges. This approach creates depth and visual interest, making your garden appear lush and full.

  2. Incorporate Edible Plants: Blending edible plants with ornamental ones is a hallmark of cottage gardening. Consider planting berry bushes like raspberries or blueberries, or adding a section for vegetables like kale, lettuce, and rhubarb. Not only do they contribute to the garden's beauty, but they also offer the joy of homegrown produce. Just as using some flowers in the veggie patch is as beneficial as it is beautiful. Such as calendula and marigolds amongst lettuce and tomatoes.

  3. Plan for Continuous Blooms: To ensure your garden remains vibrant from spring through fall, choose plants with staggered blooming periods. Early bloomers like tulips and daffodils herald the arrival of spring, while summer brings an abundance of roses, coneflowers, and daisies. Late bloomers like asters and sedums keep the garden lively well into autumn.

  4. Add Garden Accents: Part of the cottage garden charm comes from its quaint, whimsical touches. Consider adding elements like a rustic wooden bench, an antique birdbath, or charming pathways made from gravel or stepping stones. Climbing plants like clematis or climbing roses trained over an arbor or trellis can add vertical interest and a touch of romance. This is the part where indiviual style can really be reflected and that personal touch. Most of our pieces in the garden are from signifcant events or were gifts; such as the dome we have was i my garde at The Melbourne International Flower and Garden show, or a small stone bird statue that was from my Grandmother one christmas.

Maintenance Tips

A cottage garden is relatively low-maintenance once established, but a few regular tasks will keep it looking its best:

  • Mulch regularly to retain moisture and suppress weeds.

  • Deadhead spent flowers to encourage continuous blooming.

  • Divide perennials every few years to prevent overcrowding and to fill spaces in the garden cost effectively.

  • Prune shrubs and climbers to maintain their shape and health.

Embrace the Process

Creating a beautiful cottage garden is a journey, not a destination. It’s about living the seasons, learning from your garden, and finding joy in the unexpected beauty that arises, as well as in each failure. Each year, as your garden matures and evolves, you’ll find new delights and deeper satisfaction in the natural sanctuary you’ve created.

By following these steps and choosing plants suited to your climate, you’ll be well on your way to enjoying the timeless charm of a cottage garden.

Happy gardening, Clair

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