Getout & grow

Published on Thu, Apr 15, 2004
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Get out & grow

This week I am going to talk about English and cottage gardening. They are different. I didn’t know that until recently, did you?

In my history class on gardening, I learned that an English garden was a huge new success in the 1700s. The English garden was important in creating different moods for visitors. The view was opened up by creating below ground barriers called a Ha-Ha. The English countryside has rolling hills with meandering paths and serpentine forms, like brooks and streams. The garden was an image of nature with groups of deciduous trees in meadow and often had small Greek temples or bridges one could see positioned over lovely man-made lakes. Later with the arts and craft style, Gertrude Jekyll and Sir Edwin Lutyens made famous the woodland garden and perennial border.

The famous English gardens came about after young men, on thier grand trours discovered the gardens of Italy and France. They brough home new ideas and applied them to English gardens. Italian renaissance gardens were designed as a whole and planned and ordered with straight lines and curves in the classical proportions. One would discover topiaries and grottos, water, ornamentation and the element of surprise in the garden. The Italians were master craftsmen, so one would find beautiful statues and urns in the gardens. The garden was probably built on an axial (straight-line) median with a water feature running down the center of the garden. As Italy is very hilly it had a natural advantage that a flat site can’t duplicate.

The French formal gardens were meant to be seen from above and were created on usually flat sites. The garden was meant to complement the owner, not to be enjoyed as a garden for itself. Versailles as designed by LaNote, was very formal and flat. French gardens were a single compartment divided by principal walks called a Parterre. These gardens always terminated walkways with statues or fountains. To add to the discipline they usually had hedges and trees clipped into architectural forms.

I believe most of us confuse an English garden containing elements of Italian and French gardens, with cottage gardens that are planted close to the house by the kitchen and had vegetables, fruit and flowers mixed together.

If you decide to plant a cottage garden, be authentic and plant a few vegetables and herbs among your flowers. I wrote about that a couple of weeks ago. To plant a cottage garden, first think about climbing roses such as “Crimson Rambler,” or “Sally Holmes” draped over a doorway or an arch. Try honeysuckle where it can climb and tumble through a tree. Remember that a cottage garden is a casually maintained riot of flowers so mix daylilies and delphiniums, lady’s mantle and daisies. Add lavender, petunias, foxgloves, a billowing summer phlox, baby’s breath and spring blooming shrubs such as lilacs. Many of these plants can be grown from seed and are easy to plant. Some other old-fashioned shrubs and flowers are sweet William, snapdragon, larkspur, sweetpeas and astors. Some soft, low spreading plants to soften the hard edges of paths, patios and terraces might be pinks, lamb’s ears and violas. Plant creeping thyme between stones and along paths.

In your cottage garden you might use old brick for pathways, wrought iron for arches and Victorian motif statuary. Don’t forget a birdbath and an old sundial. A white picket fence or at least a gate or two surrounds many cottage gardens. Many have window boxes filled with tumbling annuals such as million bells, alyssum, sweet potato vine, marigold and petunias.

It seems as if our area of the country is becoming warmer by the day and a cottage garden is not waterwise or carefree garden. My suggestion would be to use this type of design in a very small yard or fence a sunny section of your yard and make this a garden room. By now you know that I love garden rooms. Be inventive and investigate alternative watering systems like a drip system. Get your yard ready; it is almost time to plant!

You can install your own drip system, fences, gates and can find information in stores like Lowes, Home Depot and hardware stores.