Create a Charming Cottage Garden in a Weekend

It's easier than you think to make a dreamy cottage garden.

Cottage Garden Plants in Wheelbarrow

Cottage Garden Plants in Wheelbarrow

Your cottage garden can be as simple as a rustic wheelbarrow overflowing with flowers, placed in the middle of a bed of ivy.

Photo by: Proven Winners/www.provenwinners.com

Proven Winners/www.provenwinners.com

Your cottage garden can be as simple as a rustic wheelbarrow overflowing with flowers, placed in the middle of a bed of ivy.

Once upon a time, cottage gardens weren’t the romantic, fairy-tale bowers we’ve come to know. More useful than ornamental, the earliest ones were planted with veggies, fruit trees and herbs, and practical gardeners often kept bee hives and pig pens nearby. 

Today, a cottage garden can be as flowery as you like, and of course you can still tuck in attractive edibles. The key to design: don’t worry about design. Go for an exuberant, informal look, with fragrant blooms and plants that mingle freely, gracefully draping over and weaving through each other. Add color and movement to your garden with plants that attract hummingbirds and butterflies. Most cottage gardens use pastel-colored flowers, but go bright and bold, if you prefer.

Creating a cottage garden takes time, if you’re starting from scratch. But with a few short cuts, you can have a lovely cottage garden in just one weekend. Here’s how:

  • Start small. If you’ve only got a couple of days to make your garden, do what you can and add to it later. Or plant in a large container or something fun, like a kid’s old wagon, rusty wheelbarrow or galvanized washtub. Baskets made of natural materials, window boxes and half whiskey barrels are also good choices. 
  • Work around an existing bed or border. If you already have some flowers, look for more plants to tuck into any spaces, nooks and corners of the bed. Old-fashioned cottage gardens are densely planted, so don’t be afraid to shoehorn a little more. When you buy plants, look for those with blooms that are about to open, so you won’t have to wait to get a lush, full look. 
Hummingbird

Hummingbird

Wild creatures like birds and butterflies are likely to visit cottage gardens with masses of colorful flowers.

Photo by: Ball Horticultural Company

Ball Horticultural Company

Wild creatures like birds and butterflies are likely to visit cottage gardens with masses of colorful flowers.

  • No existing bed? Create your garden around a rustic shed, pebbled path, wooden gate or picket fence. You can also plant around a hedge of boxwoods or hollies, a group of conifers, or a stone wall or path. Other quick and easy options: turn your porch into a cottage garden by adding hanging baskets, containers and window boxes filled with flowers, trailing vines or herbs. Some plants to grow for an authentic look include cosmos, foxgloves, bleeding hearts, hollyhocks, roses (especially old or antique roses), coneflowers, columbines, daylilies, melampodium, love-in-a-mist (Nigella), delphiniums, daisies, peonies, daffodils, tulips and phlox. 
Delphiniums

Delphiniums

Arrange tall plants, like larkspurs and delphiniums, so they won't shade smaller, shorter plants. 

Photo by: Ball Horticultural Company

Ball Horticultural Company

Arrange tall plants, like larkspurs and delphiniums, so they won't shade smaller, shorter plants. 

  • Round up old furniture. Do you have any weather-worn Adirondack or other types of chairs hanging out in your garage or backyard? Move a charming bench or table into your garden spot. It’s okay if the pieces don’t match, although cottage garden items are typically made of wicker, wrought iron or bent willow. Just be sure the old pieces are still sturdy and safe to sit on or use. If you need cushions for your chairs, buy ready-made pillows or cushions in a floral print.
Shed Makeover

Shed Makeover

Transform a porch or the entrance to house into a cottage garden with window boxes and potted plants. 

Photo by: Proven Winners/www.provenwinners.com

Proven Winners/www.provenwinners.com

Transform a porch or the entrance to house into a cottage garden with window boxes and potted plants. 

  • Add container plants. Nurseries and garden centers sell large containers of plants already in bloom. Slip them into attractive pots and urns, or leave them in the original nursery pots and tuck them behind and between other plants. Let foliage, trailing vines and willowy-looking flowers that lean over camouflage the plastic nursery pots. Bonus: you can move the potted plants around when they go in and out of bloom, or replace them altogether.
  • Finish your weekend garden project by adding some fun elements, like an aged, decorative statue, a few moss-covered pots or a sundial. A bird house mounted on a post, bird bath, and stepping stones will wrap up the look.
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