by Jon Winters
The Contemporary Cottage Garden
Article by Dayelle Swensson
To begin, let’s explain a bit about the history of cottage gardens. The cottage garden has its roots in 18th century England. At that time it was very practical with folks relying on their gardens to supply them with their family’s needs. It included not only a variety of plants but animals too. The cottage garden’s purpose was to supply food, medicine, and dyes. The cottager’s small plot allowed for no wasted space. This ended up in packed abundant garden growth which was well maintained also preventing waste. An integral part of a cottage garden is a fence or compact hedge growth. The original purpose of this was to keep the livestock separate and away from eating the produce. Cottagers planted what they knew would work, often using plants passed along by their neighbors.
The modern interpretation of this old style is the contemporary cottage garden and it takes on many forms. There are no hard and fast rules, but a few general principles remain from the old purposes of the garden. There is a variety of different plants offering different resources. Many times the variety factor makes a pleasant display of many colors when in bloom. The plants might be used for decorating, eating, or medicinal. Whether or not the present day gardener uses the plants for all these purposes is questionable. There is also abundance evident and continual growth. The modern cottage gardener still is concerned about the look of packed yet healthy growth. And lastly, there is a delightful informality about the cottage garden present always.
As do all gardens, the contemporary cottage garden needs plenty of water. The 18th century English cottage garden most likely was watered by hand with a watering can that was filled by the well or rain storage bin. The modern-day cottage garden is more likely to be watered with a hose that is stored with a garden hose reel.
Some might argue that it’s not a cottage garden without a fence or a hedge. But this style of gardening is open for plenty of interpretation. One must keep in mind and allow for the gardener’s climate, surroundings, and personal preference. Also because of the informality of it, as was noted above, there are no hard and fast rules.
Remembering this, the cottage garden can contain the plants its owner likes growing and knows work best on the site. It is a casual style of gardening allowing for individual freedom preferred by many current day gardeners. Among the plants commonly found in the cottage garden, with substitutions made for different climates, are the following: rose, lavender, cottage pink, delphinium, foxglove, lavatera, cornflower, love-in-a-mist, poppy, salvia, sweet pea, morning glory, moonflower, iris, lily, zinnia, black-eyed Susan, sunflower, Queen Anne’s lace, coneflower, nicotiana, mignonette, heliotrope, cosmos, cleome, bee balm, butterflyweed, aster, goldenrod, nasturtium, flax, daisies, hollyhock, bachelor’s button, marigold, forget-me-not, pansy, larkspur. snapdragon, canterbury bells, cockscomb, hydrangea, phlox, and lamb’s ear.
About the Author
Dayelle Swensson is an avid writer for the web on a number of topics. Having gardened herself for many years, she is able to advise others about a variety of things including gardening tips, lawn and tree care, watering, hose reel and keeping your home garden looking good and healthy.
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