Ideas for a Cottage Garden


Today I want to look at building a cottage garden in my backyard. We will discuss the space for a cottage garden, when the best time to plant perennials, annuals and discuss ideas for a cottage garden before you get started, shapes sizes and different plants.

Knowing your planting zone

In one of my previous posts we talked about planting zones. You can look at the gardening zone map USA or you can drill down and search for your state and county on the internet to make sure you know which planting zone you are in. Picking plants by reading the tags with the plants will tell you which zone they thrive best in and the kind of lighting the plant needs. It also has water and feeding instructions.

Where should I put my garden?

When you decide to plant a cottage garden, you will need to figure out where you are going to put it. If, you have a space that is not being used, and flowers would look amazing there, then you can start off with a blank canvas and go crazy. You will want to decide how big or small you want the garden. A bigger garden can take more time and money to fill up. You start small you can always add to it the following year. There is no specified design shape. Ideally you would want a picket fence or other type of rusting items to give it that cottage feel. I love this picture below. It’s an English Cottage Garden. I like the arbor and fence door. I like how you can really do anything with a cottage garden, including pathways to sitting areas to have your morning coffee or evening cocktail.

Personally I have a space that already has some perennials in it and also a lot of weeds. I will going to change that this year. We moved here 2 years ago and having 20 acres is a lot to handle, when the yard was overgrown. I will be loading my designated space with perennials and maybe occasional annuals. I need enough plants in this garden space to over run the weeds! I will be start some perennial plant seeds sometime in April to be ready to plant in the ground by end of May beginning of June. I want to have flowers I can cut and to attract hummingbirds and butterflies.

The best time to plant perennials

My favorite flower is hydrangeas, they are perennials. The hydrangea plant is actually a shrub. The best time to plant perennials is spring time in Michigan. If you have a hardy perennial you can plant it as soon as the ground is no longer frozen. Spring is the best time to find perennials and annual plants. Its just that time of year. I love the spring time when everything is turning green and blooming. The early perennials start popping up at the first sign of heat to the ground. Michigan is beautiful in the spring, well all 4 seasons are beautiful here.

If you have some container perennials or were still able to find some perennials to plant, fall is another best time to plant perennials. You can plant perennial flowers and shrubs after the heat of the summer. Our rainy season in Michigan is in the spring and some places are in the fall. Planting when you get the most rainfall is ideal then you don’t have to make sure they are watered every day for the roots to grab on.

There are 101 types of perennial plants out there. I did a search for perennials in zone 5, which is my area and there are 15 kinds of perennials I can plant that will thrive in my area. Out of the 15 perennials, I have, Lilies, Hostas, Lavender, Tulips, Hyacinths, Crocus’, Daffodils and Hardy hibiscus.
I plan on planting more fruit trees, bushes and we want to get some blue spruce trees too for our property. I planted some holly bushes and fire bushes, hoping they do well this year.

Ideas for a cottage garden

It’s best to make a plan. When your planning your cottage garden, have it take on the personality of the Gardner. Here are some tips for planting a cottage garden.

  • Don’t plant in straight lines
  • Have large groupings – lot of variety of the same plants
  • No spacing is needed – you want to plant kind of tight together
  • Create harmony with color; pastels with pastels and primary colors with primary colors
  • Chose different plants with the color scheme you decided on
  • Different size plants – create diversity in the garden
  • Use anchor plants like rose bushes or other type of focus plant
  • Consider fragrances in your garden
  • Add a picket fence, or arbors, table with chairs, add a walkway.
  • You can also add some container flowers by the garden too

Before planting the garden, place the plants relatively in the spot you plan on planting them. This will give you an eye for how it will look. Then you can move them around to have them in the optimal spot.

Happy Planting!

As you can see there is so much you can do to your cottage garden. There are no rules. The tips are just suggestions but as far as spacing, you definitely want to plant these flowers close together to not allow weeds to grow. The way to a successful cottage garden is to know your planting hardiness zone, if you are starting from seed or purchasing plants ready to go. You want to plant flower that will thrive in your area. Kind of have a plan on where you are going to plant your garden and the flower you plan on planting. The best time to plant perennials in the northern states is Spring because that is our rainy season. If your rainy season is the fall then fall would be the best time for your area. I also provided some ideas for a cottage garden.

Do you plan on creating a cottage garden?

Or do your already have one?

Do you need some flowers to add to your cottage garden?  Check out my Review – Online Plant Nurseries – Are They Worth Using?

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22 thoughts on “Ideas for a Cottage Garden”

  1. Wow thanks for this article. Cottage gardens contain a diversity of plants, delighting all the senses and creating a natural, relaxed atmosphere. There are many textural plants available that are pleasing to touch, such as the soft, furry leaves of lamb’s ear. A variety of herbs offer enticing aromas, and often provide great ground covers. Here are a few tips to create your own cottage garden.
    Go for the Romance. Stachys officinalis ‘Hummelo’ and Pink Supreme Roses. …
    Enclose the Cottage Garden. A twist on the typical picket fence. …
    Plant Close/Keep Soil Healthy. Clematis and Nepeta. …
    Use Curving Pathways. …
    Mix and Match. …
    Use Fun Elements. …
    Don’t Follow the Rules.Thanks 

    • Thank you!  I plan on turning one of my overgrown flower beds into a cottage garden.  I like that there is no rule and all the fun things you can add to them.

  2. Hi Chris, First I have to tell you that I love your website in general. And this article is the best thing I could come across, since where I live  the season of decorating our houses with the most spectacular gardens its around the corner. With all the ideas that you have given us, there is really no excuse for not decorate our homes with the most beautiful gardens in the neighborhood. I am very impressed with all the types of plants that we can add to our gardens. I really thank you very much for sharing all your experiences with us in how to create a Cottage Garden.

    • Yes I love all the different flowers.  We live on 20 wooded acres and we have done a lot so far but I have so many ideas but so little time.  I have an overgrown flower garden from the previous owners that I am turning into a cottage garden.  I am working on my next post about woodland gardens!  Stop by again for more gardening tips!

  3. Hi Chris,

    Thank you very much for your article, I really enjoyed reading it! I love plants and, although I am not an expert, I always try to surround myself with them. Most people I know who like plants (and I include myself) know very little about them.There are many aspects to take into account when designing a garden and that is why it is so important, as you said, to make a plan. It is essential to know which plants are native to our area and to find out when is the best time to plant them. A lot of work to do before getting down to work! I really liked the ideas you described for a cottage garden. I had not considered that it would be good to leave no space between the plants to prevent weeds from growing. Thanks!


    • Hi Marta,

      I love the looks of cottage gardens.  I have an overgrown flower garden from the previous owners I plan on converting to a cottage garden this year.  I like that there is no rules for this and you can make it your own signature cottage garden and add items for more pizazz!  Visit my site again for more gardening tips!

  4. Hi Chris, I really like your page. It’s always very interesting for me to build a home garden. I love it when the season is changing from warm to cool and everything is green. I can see why people feel the need to create a sanctuary o their home gardens by planting a flower garden. Spring, summer and autumn are very busy seasons in most parts of the world, so it is easier to take advantage of what nature offers. 

  5. Wow, to have 20 acres is a lot of gardening potential, so a cottage garden will look lovely. I love these tips for planting a cottage garden. What a good idea to first place the plants still in their pots, in the area where you want to plant it, to make sure what it will look like. I will definitely follow your advice and will also include a seating area where I can enjoy and admire the cottage garden.

  6. Just some time ago I considered opening a garden in my backyard. Thank you for helping me to see how fun it is to maintain a cottage garden with the right ideas. Also I really like how your site is tailored towards beginners so at least I have a reserve of knowledge and experience on your site to get back to. Have a nice day.

    • Thank you for your post!  I am glad my site will help you. It is geared towards beginners but welcome experienced gardeners advice as well!  Stop by for more gardening tips

  7. My wife would love to have a cottage garden like the one on the first picture above. I don’t think we have enough room. Presently, time is also a factor. Neither of us seem to have the time required to maintain a garden. What would you suggest are the best plants for a LOW Maintenance garden in a small yard?  

    • Hi Rich,

      You can make a small cottage garden.  The beauty of a cottage garden is there is no rule.  Plant the flower really close together so they choke out any weeds.  You can deadhead flowers or not.  You have lots of options.  Thank you for your comments and stop back for more gardening tips.

  8. Hi Chris. Thanks for sharing such a good article. I personally really like the garden and the flowers. I spend a lot of time decorating and sometimes I run out of ideas. Good thing I found your article and now I can pick up some ideas. Sometimes not every plant succeeds but here are some great ideas on how to make it work. I will definitely recommend your article to others.

    • Hi

      Thank you for your comments and please share my website with others who may enjoy gardening too!  I hope I helped you as well.

  9. Hi, I guess growing up in England I always thought that the standard garden was a garden. The houses are smaller there and most modern suburban houses either have just a back garden or a front and back garden. Most people didn’t talk about having a yard. You always had a garden and the garden was where you would grow flowers and shrubs and little trees if you had space, and have a patch or two of grass where you could sit. I guess that the term cottage garden means something special in the US. I guess it means lots of wildflowers and less of a highly cultivated look. We live in US zone 7 so I am sure we could create a nice cottage garden. A charming idea. Thanks, Andy

    • Hi Andy,

      Living in zone 7 you could definitely create a nice cottage garden.  Thank you for your comments and I hope I inspired you to create a cottage garden

  10. Hi Chris,

    Thanks for your informative article on setting up a cottage garden. I have just been staring out of my window at the plain grass and was looking for inspiration. I think you may have given me some.

    Can you advise on any particular plants that would be suitable for Scottish weather conditions? I

    I will take a look in my local garden centre and see if they have any of the plants you mention.

    Thanks again for a great article.

    • Hi Robs,

      I did a quick search for hardiness zone for the UK and Scotland looks like zones 8 and 9 depending on where you are.  That is a pretty warm zone compared to Zone 5a where I live.  Look for plants for your zone once you know which zone you are in.  Thank you for your comments.  Stop back for more gardening tips!

  11. I would like to share my 2 cents. I think a good site for a garden should incorporate primarily, at least six hours of sunlight daily. In my book, another important point is good drainage and air circulation. And I would not overlook a level location with loose, rich soil. And I couldn’t end my comment without mentioning the need for a nearby source of water (but that’s obvious).

    • Hi Able,

      Thank you for your comments and a nearby water source is definitely needed.  I am going to look at a drip system for my cottage garden, as it’s not convenient to a water source and can get neglected. I have been reading about water irrigation and drip systems.  Do you use a drip system or water irrigation?


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