According to the song, how many kinds of sweet flowers grow in an English country garden? Well, as far as we’re concerned, the answer is ‘lots’!
If you want a cottage garden look, ‘organised chaos’ is the theme – forget plants in neat, serried rows and plant as much as possible.
Check how tall and wide each plant will grow and what conditions it likes, and plant from the back forwards.
Fill up any corners at the front with bright annuals. Mixing herbs, flowering plants and vegetable plants makes for an eclectic look and you can add interest with trellises and support cones. Plants in a traditional cottage garden are mostly a mix of pinks, blues and white. Here’s what to plant:
Pinks are a perfect choice for a cottage garden. They form compact clumps of silvery grey leaves, and flower profusely in early and mid summer with pretty variegated pink flowers. Choose a perenniel variety rather than an annual, and you’ll have colour in your garden for years to come. They’re really easy to look after, and make great cut flowers. They prefer a sunny position.
2. Pink lilac
If you have space, a common lilac or syringa vulgaris is a welcome addition to a cottage garden. These small trees originally came from Persia and were brought to Europe in the 16th century. They bear abundant, highly scented flowers in spring and early summer, and are a magnet for bees. They prefer full sun or partial shade in a sheltered position, so are ideal for planting by walls. Look for a variety that bears pink flowers rather than the more common lilac flowers – examples are ‘Pink Cloud’, ‘Pink Perfection’ and ‘Pinkie.
3. Pink geraniums
Perennial geraniums, not be confused with the variety grown in pots on sunny windowsills, are incredibly easy to grow. In fact, after a few years the main problem is to stop them growing and taking over the garden! They’ll grow more or less anywhere but prefer a sunny position, and send up a profusion of delicate pink flowers. Try a variety such as Wargrave Pink which has prolific light pink flowers.
Coneflowers, more correctly known as echinacea purpurea, are perennials which form clumps of leaves and flower with pretty, daisy-like pink flowers. Bees love them, and they’re really easy to grow being fairly resistant to pests and diseases. They prefer a sunny position, although they will tolerate partial shade. You can dry the flowers and make them into tea, too.
5. Flowering cherry
If you’ve got a little space, flowering cherry trees (also known as Japanese flowering cherry, or prunus) are spectacular. In the spring, the branches are laden with frothy flowers in pale or deep pink. You can also buy miniature varieties, as well as trees with ornamental bark that will look good all year round.
Phlox are pretty much an archetypal cottage garden plant – it’s a tall perennial with dark green leaves and prolific pink flowers in spring. The varieties we have in the UK are mostly descended from a variety that grows wild in America and can reach up to 6 feet tall, but UK cultivated varieties are smaller. The traditional colour for phlox is pink, although you can now buy multi-coloured varieties as well.
7. Common thyme
Thymus vulgaris or common thyme is a really useful addition to your border. It flowers with delicate, pretty pink or white flowers that bees love and of course it’s great for cooking with, either fresh or dried. It’s easy to grow and is quite hardy, making it ideal for novice gardeners.