Saturday, 18 August 2012

My Annual Flower Show

"The quintessence of the cottage garden is an abundance of colour and a jumble of scents.  The cottage flower garden is crowded with flowering plants, jostling one on top of another.  There are practical reasons for such dense planting,  Firstly, the leaves form a protective screen so that weeds have little chance of germinating and, if weeds do emerge, the dense canopy cuts out the light they need to survive.  In other words, the plants act as a ground cover." (Christopher Lloyd - The Cottage Garden)
Every year I sow lots of different annuals for the front garden - some self-seeders pop up too and dominate the beds for a while, aquilegia and sweet rocket in the spring, nasturtiums in late summer, but on the whole I dictate what goes in the borders.  Some years my plans work out better than others, but I do get a colourful display no matter what. 

"Cottage gardens are rarely filled with just one type of plant - they usually contain a wide mixture, begged or borrowed from other gardens and gardeners.  A variety of plants help to keep the beds free from diseases and pests as they have little chance of finding a sufficient number of hosts to become established."

I don't have a specific colour scheme necessarily but generally the border by the front fence tends to be mainly different shades of pink and the border that curves in front of the bay window, hotter colours.  I have a few permanent plants, like a hardy fuschia

and perennial sweet peas


but the gaps are filled with whatever plants have been successful from my spring sowings.  Cosmos and Lavatera are a couple of favourites

and Rudbeckias


I also have a permanent edging of lavender and rosemary in front of the curved bed which acts as a grey-green foil for all the bright colours.

"Perhaps the most important aspect of this jumble of plants that we call a cottage flower garden is that it is incredibly attractive.  In conventional flower borders, the plants are arranged in drifts for a calming effect.  The opposite is true of the cottage flower garden.  Random plants occur because as a gap appears either the gardener fills it with a favourite plant or nature takes a hand and self-sows a plant.  In either case, a cottage garden looks all the better for it.  Mother Nature has an uncanny way of self-sowing two colours together that no gardener would attempt, which results in stunning combinations."

I have a secret that I will share with you regarding gaps in the borders.  To give an appearance of an abundant border I sometimes cheat!  Shock horror!   Invariably there isn't enough room to dig a decent sized hole when a gap is evident - so I use perennial plants in black pots and place them in the gaps instead of trying to plant in the soil.  The black pots become invisible amongst all the foliage of the other plants surrounding it - and bingo - a full border.  Then when the annuals have all succumbed to the first frosts I can plant them out  in their permanent positions.


This Leucanthemum (or Marguerite as we used to call them) is still in its pot as is one of the Rudbeckias - I find it a perfect solution for a gappy border.

"One final point to remember when planning your perfect cottage flower garden is to avoid a rigid plan.  It is much better to allow a degree of flexibility that permits the exuberance of such a garden to flow and allows Mother Nature to give a helping hand.  Push plants in wherever there is a gap and if it looks right, do not worry to much about the 'rules'."

26 comments:

  1. Delightful. A practical question - do the pots not get knocked over by cats and weather?

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    1. Yes they do - I have to be vigilant (and remember to water them) easy to forget when they are hidden.

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  2. I think old Christo would have loved your borders, lovely combinations, well done!

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    1. Thank you Martin - that is a kind thing to say - knowing that I am no where near in his league.

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  3. Oh Elain, your cottage garden is so beautiful. Our fushia here are delicate beauties that need shade, are in hanging baskets, and require such tender love. I remember on my first trip to England seeing them planted in the ground. I have tried to plant an English garden here, but it is just too bloody hot and dry here, so I am rethinking my garden plan into more of a xero scape with native plants. Boring. Your garden is lovely and you manage it well. (I love your pinterest, btw).

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    1. You are probably right Ann you have to go with what you've got, your garden will be all the more beautiful for it. Be interesting to see what you come up with. Our cottage garden plants only do well because of the cooler climate.

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  4. Thanks for the tip about the black flower pots Elaine. My terracotta ones stick out something fierce. LOL! I love your beds full of different colors and annuals. The Lavatera is just so pretty. I will have to try it next spring. Have a lovely weekend.

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    1. After a very slow start the Lavatera have done really well, phew, I thought they were never going to grow - they look particularly lovely with the cosmos - a combination I will definitely try again next year. Enjoy your weekend too.

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  5. I like your secret tip, Elaine. My cosmos are just now coming up as well mainly because I was late sowing them. I love the crowded, colorful eye-candy you get going in every flower bed.

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    1. Funny though - I only use annuals in the front garden - it's perennials everywhere else.

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  6. Love the cottage garden style. I use stuff in pots as gap fillers too.

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  7. I love cottage gardens and yours is beautiful full of flowers. Sometimes I also use black pots with plants to fill gaps, but the problem is that I easily forget to water them in time. Especially with such hot days as we have at the moment water is very important. I used to sow lots of annuals but nowadays the garden has grown full of perennials and every spring I have to many annuals so that I have to give them away.

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    1. I know what you mean Janneke - but I only use annuals in the front garden as the soil is quite poor and perennials don't do very well. I try to remember to water the pots each time I water my containers every evening.

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  8. A lovely post, and terrific pictures. Wonderful, if I had a garden that's just how it would be! Flighty xx

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    1. Thank you Flighty - you don't do too bad with the flower side of your plot either.

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  9. What a lovely riot of colour, the neighbours must love it!

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    1. I think they do - one side has just grass - the other side is totally unkempt and out of control - so my little annual flower show stands out like a beacon.

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  10. The quintessential cottage garden!

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    1. That's what I'm trying to achieve Jayne - but there's always room for improvement!

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  11. Hi Elaine, I felt a bit of regret when I saw your how pretty your perennial sweet peas look. I used to have them in my townhouse garden years ago. I planted some in my present garden, but they got crowded into oblivion. Maybe I will try again next year. I really like the deep pink Lavatera that I grew from seeds that another blogging friend sent me. After seeing your paler pink flowers, I may have to add these lighter pink ones to next year's garden as well.

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    1. Hi Jennifer - I have to be quite brutal with the perennial sweet peas or they take over the whole bed - they have seeded themselves into my next door neighbours garden - mine are a washed-out pink but hers are a lovely bright pink - typical! As for the lavatera I have all three colours, but my faves are definitely the pale pink.

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  12. That's a brilliant idea about the black pots. I'm definitely going to try that. I have a number of perennials growing on in pots on the patio until I can find a place for them. Your idea is so much better, as you can also see if they look in the right place before planting them permanently.

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  13. What a lovely mix of flowers. Lavatera is one of my favourites too, it has the knack of making the whole border look pretty!

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    1. I agree and I love the buds which are like furled up umbrellas

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