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 aquilegias, they add to a sense of jostling companionship.
- Grow them: foxgloves thrive in fertile, moist but well-drained soil in sun or partial shade. Raise annually from seed.
- Combine with: plants that foam at their feet, such as hardy geraniums or alchemilla.
- Best for cottage gardens: the common biennial foxglove, Digitalis purpurea and improved selections such as Digitalis purpurea Excelsior Group can reach up to 2m (6ft); sIngle colour apricot hybrids or white forms are also available.
A fragrant addition, lavenders are particularly at home in cottage gardens. Shrubs lend themselves to front of borders or low hedges that edge pathways.
- Grow them : lavenders thrive best in free-draining soils and full sun. They grow particularly well in chalky and alkaline soils.
- Combine with: other aromatic classics like salvias and rosemary.
- Best for cottage gardens: Lavandula angustifolia ‘Hidcote' AGM is a compact hedge growing up to 60cm (2ft) in height, with purple flowers; hybrid lavandin varieties like L. x intermedia 'Sussex' AGM flower later and are taller at around 90cm (36in).
The impressive flower spikes of delphiniums 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.
- Grow them: in full sun or partial shade. They do well in any soil type.
- Combine with: the small- to medium-sized cultivars fit nicely into perennial beds with plants such as veronica or penstemon. Be adventurous and use a vigorous climber, such as Viticella group clematis, to grow through a larger shrubs, achieving a blowsy country effect.
- Best for cottage gardens: ‘Manteau d’Hermine’ AGM reaches around 1m (3½ft) with clusters of creamy flowers; P. 'Belle Étoile' AGM is a medium-sized, arching cultivar. Highly-scented, single white flowers have purple centres; P. coronarius 'Aureus' AGM reaches 2.5m (8ft) with initially yellow leaves and creamy-white, strongly scented flowers.
Arguably, no cottage garden summer would be complete without roses and their perfume. Choose height and habit for the situtation you have. But remember, the truly vintage-looking, old-fashioned roses, mainly flower once.
- Grow them : roses tolerate a range of conditions but prefer full sun in moist, but well-drained soil. Fertilise and mulch in early spring. Deadheading encourages many to flower again.
- Combine with: climbers can be grown up into trees; shrub roses can be fine additions to borders; groundcover roses are good for underplanting.
- Best for cottage gardens: 'Madame Alfred Carriere' AGM - a romantic cream climber that repeat flowers; ‘Roseraie de l’Hay' AGM , an upright shrub for hedging with purplish-crimson flowers; ‘Cerise Bouquet ' AGM an arching, wayward shrub bearing clusters of rosette-like flowers for large borders.
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