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Everybody Loves an English Cottage Garden

Last year I did a Master Plan for a home landscape in Maine. The owner, after seeing my drawing, said, “Oh, it has an English cottage garden feeling about it.”

Just what is the English cottage garden?

American landscape designer Margaret Hensel’s popular book English Cottage Gardening gives us some insight.  Hensel based her book on the years she spent exploring villages and country lanes in England, seeing hundreds of cottage gardens. She says “The magic [in an English cottage garden] is not in having the biggest garden on the block, but in making whatever space you do have as beautiful as it possibly can be.”

Since Hensel contrasts the cottage garden with a stiff, formal garden, she concludes that it has to be a less structured place where plants are free to grow.  The plants need not be expensive, perhaps a gift  from a neighbor.  The focus throughout is on the visual appeal of  the many plants close together, all of different colors and sizes, but somehow blending.

The cottage garden features flowers that  bloom during spring, summer, and fall. Among the flowers Hensel recommends are delphiniums, roses, hollyhocks, old-fashioned pinks, and oriental poppies.

The cottage garden is small and close to the house, usually not with a lawn.  The house is the heart of the garden, and so the plants can surround the house and even  lean over a bit on the all-important walkway.

Do you have an English cottage garden?  What defines such a garden for you?  What are your favorite plants in your English cottage garden?


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