Cottage Gardening forum: Designing a garden, to look natural

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Name: Neal Linville
Winchester, KY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Bulbs Cottage Gardener Roses Irises
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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gemini_sage
Mar 28, 2010 6:57 AM CST
I read that Gertrude Jekyll, in her garden designs, worked toward the appearance of plants having occurred in that arrangement naturally. That is exactly the "look" I love most in the garden, but have found that it requires considerably more thought and planning than one might think. I've never been good at detailed planning on paper, other than listing plants I'd like to grow together.

Seems the Cottage Gardener must toss a lot of standard garden advice to the wind, like "tall plants in the back, short ones in the front". In the casual Cottage Garden, I love the look of shorter clumps of blooms, peaking from behind a taller plant, beckoning the onlooker to come see what lies in store. The very nature of gardening implies the constant need to move plants around in an effort for them to marry well with their companions. Like marriages among people, some don't last, some are great for a while, till one outgrows the other, and a select few stand the test of time.

Unlike the traditional Cottage Garden, my gardens meander around 5 acres of lawn space, in amoebic shaped (...or would that be shapeless?) beds with serpentine borders that follow the lay of the land. There were already a lot of mature trees dotting the landscape here when we moved in, most of which were well positioned (thankfully!).

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"...and don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous." Rumi
Name: Neal Linville
Winchester, KY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Bulbs Cottage Gardener Roses Irises
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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gemini_sage
Mar 28, 2010 7:12 AM CST
In coming up with a design plan, I first decided where I wanted particular color schemes and combinations. At some point over the years, I read that Gertrude Jekyll used cool colors through the middle of her designs, and tapered off with warm and hot colors toward the edges, so with that in mind, I planned for pastels in the larger beds in the front and side yards, where they show nicely against the back drop of evergreens and dappled shade near the house. As the beds taper off further away from the house, the colors intensify, to the west in sunset shades of corals, salmons, magenta, orange, and yellow, and to the east in salsa colors like red, orange, and gold.

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"...and don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous." Rumi
Name: Neal Linville
Winchester, KY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Bulbs Cottage Gardener Roses Irises
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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gemini_sage
Mar 28, 2010 7:41 AM CST
When we moved here in spring of '07, I had tons of stuff from my old garden that needed a home ASAP, much of which was blooming shrubs. I made some rough sketches of how I wanted beds to ultimately be shaped and where they should be, then, pretending they were already there, started planting my Lilacs, Roses, and a few other shrubs. I situated the fragrant ones for nose convenience- where they could be enjoyed without tromping into the beds, and thorny stuff toward the envisioned centers of beds. Later, I "connected the dots", either stripping sod to connect the plantings, or using a lasagna method to smother sod and create garden space between shrub plantings. So I kinda went at it backwords, but did at least get the woody "bones" in place that first year.

Having my color schemes already in mind, I was then able to just plug various plants into the beds where their colors and forms suited best.

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"...and don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous." Rumi
Name: Neal Linville
Winchester, KY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Bulbs Cottage Gardener Roses Irises
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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gemini_sage
Mar 28, 2010 7:56 AM CST
While I have had to do a fair amount of moving things around, the scheme idea has worked out well. Whenever I acquire a new plant, the color dictates which areas suit it. While bloom times vary considerably from one region to the next, and often from one year to the next, at least the combos I end up with are within a particular color palette.

After moving, I ended up with several lost tags. So I installed a butterfly/hummingbird garden that we see from the back deck, where its chaotically polychromatic. That's where any no id plant material went, and still goes today.

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"...and don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous." Rumi
Name: Veronica
zone 5b
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indygardengal
Mar 29, 2010 8:04 AM CST
Your garden style is very close or even exactly as I wish mine to be. I do not have the beautiful rolling KY hills as a backdrop though. Love it Neal
Veronica
My attitude determines my altitude
A truly wise person uses few words; a person of understanding is even- tempered. Proverbs 17:27
Name: Neal Linville
Winchester, KY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Bulbs Cottage Gardener Roses Irises
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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gemini_sage
Mar 29, 2010 8:41 AM CST
Thanks Veronica! This sure beats the damp shade of the woodland setting I moved here from. I'm so fond of lots of gaudy color, and shade gardens just tend to be more subdued.
"...and don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous." Rumi
Name: Kelly
Simpsonville, SC
Charter ATP Member
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KLStuart
Mar 29, 2010 1:21 PM CST
Gorgeous Neal! How do you ever keep up with that much garden?!
Name: Neal Linville
Winchester, KY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Bulbs Cottage Gardener Roses Irises
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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gemini_sage
Mar 29, 2010 2:47 PM CST
Thanks, Kelly! How?-one word- unemployment, LOL! I'm working now though, and I can see its going to be a challenge. Thankfully most of my work (floral design for weddings and events) hits on weekends, so I've got free time most weeks. I've pretty much got all my beds established now too, so that hard part is over. Well,...I may still end up adding a bed or two, but for the most part I'm finished putting in beds.
"...and don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous." Rumi
Name: Kelly
Simpsonville, SC
Charter ATP Member
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KLStuart
Mar 29, 2010 3:47 PM CST
LOL, I've got about 160 WS'd varieties, and 4 - 4' light shelves inside overflowing with seedlings, have designed 2 new beds and doubled the size of my Veggie garden in the past year. Also unemployed Smiling Have actually had 2 interviews in the past week (the first response in over a year) and have made my husband promise to help plant if I actually get a job! Horrible timing on the possibility of starting work in April, of all months. But, glad to see that it seems like things are picking up a bit!

Floral design sounds wonderful! I keep thinking it would be nice to make a living out of this love for horticulture, but everything I think of has even less possibilities (money and job availability) than my current profession, graphic design!
Name: Rita
North Shore, Long Island, NY
Zone 6B
Charter ATP Member Seed Starter Tomato Heads I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Vegetable Grower Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
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Newyorkrita
Apr 1, 2010 4:48 PM CST
Neal, your gardens are just beautiful. Five acres, oh my. I can only immagine what a joy to have so much space. I only have a normal suburban sized lot. But then everything is very intensly planted here. It has to be in order to make it all fit. Plus I just continue to keep planting.

But I did have a design plan. I had rose beds laid out, I had shrub beds and areas laid out and then kept adding to them. Because my property is very mulilevel, I had to go with teraced beds in some areas. The hardscape projects alone took three years to get them all done.
Name: Neal Linville
Winchester, KY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Bulbs Cottage Gardener Roses Irises
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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gemini_sage
Apr 2, 2010 9:24 AM CST
Thanks, Rita! I love that intensely planted look, which makes having lots of space a double edged sword sometimes. But I'm such a plant pig, it won't be long, LOL.

Your patience sure did pay off, your terraces and stone work are so beautiful!

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"...and don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous." Rumi
Name: Rita
North Shore, Long Island, NY
Zone 6B
Charter ATP Member Seed Starter Tomato Heads I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Vegetable Grower Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
Birds Garden Ideas: Master Level Butterflies Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Roses Photo Contest Winner: 2016
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Newyorkrita
Apr 2, 2010 9:29 AM CST
Some of the terraces are alittle formal looking for a true cottage garden. But I had to do it so I could plant. The best looking ones are made from the real deal, stacked stone. But I also have ones made of those premade stackable blocks you buy at Home Depot. The blocks cost far less than the real stone, I could not afford to do the real stone everywhere.

Then I still keep the spirit of a cottage garden by planting a jumble in the beds, terraced or not.
Name: Lucy
Hamilton, MA (Zone 6b)
irises
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irisarian
Apr 23, 2010 6:39 PM CST
um--I didn't think that 'cottage gardens' had a formal design. A bit here & a bit there.
Name: Rita
North Shore, Long Island, NY
Zone 6B
Charter ATP Member Seed Starter Tomato Heads I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Vegetable Grower Lover of wildlife (Raccoon badge)
Birds Garden Ideas: Master Level Butterflies Celebrating Gardening: 2015 Roses Photo Contest Winner: 2016
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Newyorkrita
Apr 23, 2010 7:16 PM CST
I don't know if there is just any one type of cottage garden. Certainly Cottage Gardens are less formal. But I think many ways to do a cottage garden.
Name: Neal Linville
Winchester, KY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Bulbs Cottage Gardener Roses Irises
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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gemini_sage
Apr 24, 2010 5:28 AM CST
Cottage Garden design themes have evolved for sure, especially in American gardens. Early, traditional cottage garden designs typically had a somewhat formal structure they way the paths were laid out in straight, symmetrical grids and often edged in short boxwood or herb hedges, but the garden within was less structured with plants meandering together. Originally they were the result of the gardener having very little space to work with, and maximizing use of that space. In American home gardens, we often have more space to work with, and have the freedom to pull from traditional cottage garden design concepts that work for us individually. Early cottage gardens, being small, typically had no lawn space, but most cottage gardeners in this country maintain lawn space as well. The paths and borders in my garden are serpentine and flowing, following the lay of the land. While that isn't a traditional cottage garden design, the beds themselves are planted in a cottage garden style, and the informal borders work well with the meandering plantings within.

I think the traditional English cottage garden often blended the formal with the informal, like a neatly trimmed topiary among the informal plantings. I find that unexpected blending adds nice visual interest. That's one of my favorite aspects of the English style of gardening in general.
"...and don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous." Rumi
Name: Polly Kinsman
Hannibal, NY (Zone 6a)

Charter ATP Member Region: United States of America I helped plan and beta test the plant database. I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Irises Lilies
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PollyK
May 8, 2010 9:04 PM CST
Your gardens are beautiful, Neal. A lot of thought put into them, and obviously some study. I'm glad you have researched cottage gardens so you can enlighten us.

My biggest problem is just letting go of, I guess, my OCD when it comes to planting. But Russ is worse, he would put everything in rows. Rows of marigolds, LOL.
Name: Kelly
Simpsonville, SC
Charter ATP Member
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KLStuart
Jun 11, 2010 6:27 AM CST
Well, here are my new beds all filled out... not sure if they qualify as cottage gardens, other that the fact that I make a plan and then improvise so much that I might as well throw it out the window! Something important always dies before I get it in the ground, or doesn't germinate, so I start improvising and just fill in spaces. Still learning the habits of many of these plants that are new to me also, so that makes for some crazy combinations...



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Name: Kelly
Simpsonville, SC
Charter ATP Member
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KLStuart
Jun 11, 2010 6:28 AM CST
My butterfly/hummer bed that is still under construction. Construction stopped as planting season began, and probably won't pick up again until fall... not reallly thinking I want to haul stone in this heat, and still have planting to do anyway!

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Name: Neal Linville
Winchester, KY (Zone 6a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! Bulbs Cottage Gardener Roses Irises
Garden Ideas: Level 2 Celebrating Gardening: 2015
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gemini_sage
Jun 11, 2010 7:20 PM CST
Beautiful, Kelly! Definitely has Cottage appeal!
"...and don't think the garden loses its ecstasy in winter. It's quiet, but the roots are down there riotous." Rumi
Name: Kathleen Tenpas
Wickwire Corners NY (Zone 5a)
Charter ATP Member I was one of the first 300 contributors to the plant database! The WITWIT Badge Raises cows Region: New York Farmer
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Kathleen
Jun 16, 2010 2:35 PM CST
For me, cottage gardens are those that are begun with a plan and then allowed to become themselves. I often describe my gardens as farmhouse gardens, because there's no way I'm passing this off as a cottage, the herb/kitchen garden blends into the strawberry patch/self-seeding annuals. There's a pathway and then the roses that weren't here before I was leads into a small wildflower garden under a dogwood. Another path and the fairy garden wanders into some perennials and a screen with some climbing roses. The foxglove end up wherever they want to be, the daisies are ubiquitous, johnny-jump-ups, forget me nots and Dianthus become living mulches, before I get fed up with not being able to see the other plants and rip them out. In the spring there are thousands of daffodils, in June there are hundreds of roses and all growing season there are goldenrod that I occasionally get sick of and rip and pull.

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