Fill your garden with a riot of glorious flowers, herbs and vegetables with this guide to growing a cottage garden.
A traditional cottage garden was once an important source of food for the family, with vegetables, fruit, herbs and flowers growing side by side. Today it's a much sought-after romantic ideal complete with overflowing flowerbeds and just a few vegetables and herbs. It's a style of garden that suits most situations and types of property - although it's not ideal for a shaded plot.
Cottage gardens rely on perennial plants for shape, rather than shrubs, with any bare walls covered in climbers. Towards the back of the border choose tall plants, such as hollyhocks, poppies, dephiniums and foxgloves. For mid-level interest choose from pinks, aquilegias, lavender, hardy geranium and candytuft. Edge the front of the border with creeping jenny, violas and lady's mantle. There's no need to be too exact about arranging plants by their height as the look is relaxed and casual. For more plant ideas check out the specialist nurseries, such as Hardy's Cottage Garden Plants
For a really informal look, grow herbs and vegetables in amongst the plants in your herbaceous border. Runner beans are quite at home climbing up a wigwam of canes in the middle of a flowerbed. Herbs with attractive leaves, such as thyme, oregano and parsley would fit in nicely at the front of a border. Otherwise, if you'd rather keep decorative plants and vegetables separate, select a sunny spot for a dedicated vegetable patch.
At the end of the summer leave annual plants long enough for the seeds to ripen so you can collect them to scatter directly on the soil, or sow in trays the following year. Seeds from plants like aquilegias, calendula, love in a mist, cornflower and poppies are easy to collect - and they'll probably do a good job of scattering their own seeds around! In the autumn cut down perennials once they've flowered and are looking bedraggled. Then, lift and divide large clumps to refresh the plant and make extra ones.
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Original article and pictures take http://www.housebeautiful.co.uk/garden/designs/a459/how-to-grow-a-cottage-garden/ site