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GardenSMART :: How To Build a Cottage Garden

How To Build a Cottage Garden

By Stephanie Pratt, InstantHedge
Photographs courtesy of Instant Hedge

A cottage garden is an experience. It engages all the senses and invokes a feeling of strong connection to both the past and the present. It creates an ecosystem where pollinators, birds, and other creatures thrive. The best part is that they are easy to create and maintain if done right.

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Here are four key components of a thriving, low-maintenance cottage garden:

1. Irrigation – You will want to have your irrigation system set up before you plant. A great way to go is using drip line. There are multiple types, so you can choose whatever you like best. Some have emitters that you can place by each plant for optimum control, and others slowly release water all along their length for more even distribution. An irrigation specialist at your local home and garden store can help you find the best fit for your garden.

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Before cottage garden installation.

2. Foundation trees for structure – Start with planting some larger specimens to give your garden height and an established feel. Some favorites are Japanese maples, European beech, columnar and weeping conifers, or flowering trees like crabapple or cherry.

3. Low-maintenance perennials – Fill in all blank spaces with no-fuss perennials that will largely care for themselves. Start with 1- or 2-gallon sizes as they will fill in quickly. Some favorites are Hosta, Heuchera (coral bells), Acanthus (bear's breeches), Agapanthus, Cimicifuga (bugbane), Epimedium, ferns, ornamental grasses, Liriope (lily turf), Thalictrum (meadow rue), and Tricyrtis (toad lily). Try to avoid plants that require frequent deadheading or pruning during the summer. That way you can make one sweep in the fall to clean up spent material. Make sure not to leave the litter on the ground as it can harbor slugs and disease over the winter. To protect roots, prevent weeds, and enrich soil, apply a thick layer of mulch in the fall.

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During installation.

4. Easy boxwood hedges – One of the most defining characteristics of a cottage garden is a tidy boxwood hedge surrounding beds that spill over with color. This provides structure to keep the garden looking intentional and to keep paths clear. The fastest and easiest way to do this is to use a pre-finished boxwood hedge from InstantHedge (pictured above). You could also plant individual boxwoods but would need to wait several years for them to fill in and form a solid border. A single light trim per year is plenty to maintain the shape and size of the boxwood hedge.

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After cottage garden installation.

With good planning and careful plant selection, you can quickly and easily create a stunning cottage garden that will become more beautiful with each passing year.


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