Here are my thoughts on how I would describe my own cottage garden style.
I like close planting with little or no bare earth, a mixture of shrubs, trees and perennials, simple forms, old varieties, single flowers, easy to grow, native and non-native mixed. Scent, movement, wildlife, changing seasons, minimal weeding and watering, simple pruning, no staking except for when sadly it’s too late, self-seeders welcome, loads of home made compost, a small pond, and lots of seating.
I’m not too fussed about colour schemes but when choosing I go for: yellow and blue for spring; red, orange and purple for late spring; green in summer; deep yellows and burnt orange in autumn; and greens in winter. I avoid white as I find it hard to blend it in.
For style, shape, form and habit I like things loose, floppy, spreading, weaving, scrambling and robust. I don’t have much success with anything tender, delicate or that slugs like to eat.
I don’t have a greenhouse, cold frame or potting shed, so I don’t use seedlings or cuttings and I don’t overwinter anything. I don’t even do summer bedding. Some pelargoniums in pots seem to thrive if I totally ignore them.
I buy plants in 9cm pots and rely a lot on lifting and dividing to increase my stock. I have a large number of hardy geraniums which I love. They are the perfect cottage garden plant and I fell in love with them when I visited East Lambrook Manor in Somerset.
I let leaves lie where they fall but sweep and collect them on paths where I can’t afford to let them get slippery. I compost everything I can all year round and put leaves into the general compost bins. These are two wooden beehive bins which I just keep filling from the top and in time lovely black gold comes out at the bottom.
My slug control is to not grow anything that slugs like to eat, so no lupins, delphiniums or hostas, no lilies (beetles), no asters (rust), and I totally failed with sweet peas and dahlias. I’ve never managed to grow anything edible but I still feel it’s a cottage garden because of the way it feels and looks.