Join the RHS today and support our charitable work
Free personalised gardening advice
RHS members get reduced ticket prices
RHS members get free access to RHS Gardens
Free entry to RHS members at selected times »
Reduced prices on RHS Garden courses and workshops
020 3176 5800
Mon – Fri | 9am – 5pm
Help us achieve our goals
Join the RHS today and support our charity
Cottage-style gardens need voluptuous planting and haphazard self-seeding to get the look. Here are five key plants to help you achieve it
A classic cottage garden plant, the Digitalis genus consists of biennials and short-lived perennials. Their spires provide bursts of colour in early to mid-summer. Together with other self-seeders such as granny's bonnets, they add to a sense of jostling companionship.
A fragrant addition, Lavandula is particularly at home in cottage gardens. Shrubs lend themselves to front of borders or low hedges that edge pathways.
Impressive flower spikes arrive in mid-summer. Cultivars vary in height and are generally categorised into two groups: the Belladonna Group, which contain smaller, branched cultivars that often repeat flower in late summer; the Elatum Group of taller cultivars to 2m (6½ft).
Grow them: in full sun and sheltered from strong winds. Most need staking. Once in the ground, protect from slugs. Cut back and feed to encourage a second flush of flowers in late summer.
Combine with: delphiniums are good at the back of borders, rising above lower-growing plants such as peonies, shasta daisies or iris.
Best for cottage gardens: there are no ‘wrong’ choices, but ‘Blue Dawn' AGM is a blue and purple-tinged selection to consider, while ‘Tiddles' AGM is shorter and has pastel-pink blooms. Annual larkspur, Delphinium consolida makes a good gap filler and cut flower.
Philadelphus are enjoyed for their clouds of early summer flower and overwhelming scent. Size varies from hummocky shrubs of 75cm (2½ft), to giants 4m (13ft) tall and wide.
Arguably, no cottage garden summer would be complete without roses and their perfume. Choose height and habit for the situtaion you have. But remember, the truly vintage-looking, old-fashioned roses, mainly flower once.
Garden design resources
Cottage garden design gallery
the RHS today and get 12 months for the price of 9
Buy these and more cottage garden plants at the RHS Shop
Find more plants for cottage gardens using RHS Find a plant
We're a UK charity established to share the best in gardening. We want to enrich everyone's life through plants, and make the UK a greener and more beautiful place.