Classic cottage gardens resemble the houses they are named for. They are informal and more compact, and above all else, very individualized. Cottage gardens are typically planted close to the front door, and use a mixture of dense planting. Ornamentals, annuals, perennials, roses, shrubs, vines and edibles are arranged in way to delight the senses.
With an almost fairy tale look, a well designed cottage garden gives an impression of graceful charm, rather than structured formality. Early cottage gardens of the 1800's were designed with function, particularly because they most often contained vegetables and herbs, and often fruit trees and bee hives. Today the trend continues, but color and fragrance have become very important additions to the theme.
An important addition to a cottage garden design is a curved walkway or informal stone path, created with natural materials. It is also possible to create a similar look with stamped concrete or brick pavers. Whatever material you choose, it's important to display an informal look through the use of curves or materials.
Traditional cottage gardens were often enclosed to keep animals out and included arbors for plant support. Today's gardens use both these items, more often for aesthetic than purpose.
Flower choices for cottage gardening are endless. The classics such as primose, hydrangea, violets and daisies continue to be favorites, but new perennials and ornamental grasses have also found a place in today's cottage gardens.
If you're considering a cottage design, then you also need to consider welcoming birds and butterflies to your garden. Add a birdhouse, a bird bath, plants that provide food for both butterflies and birds.
Cottage gardens aren't for everyone. If you dislike formality, tend to be laid back with in personality and style and prefer the eclectic, than a cottage garden might be the perfect choice. Conversely, if your work life is filled with formality and structure, then a cottage garden could be the perfect way to help you wind down at home.