Cottage gardens are informal and generally contain plants with a wide assortment of colors, sizes, and shapes. Shrubs, small fruit trees, vegetables, flowers, and herbs are popular cottage garden plants. A few of the plants traditionally found in a cottage garden and still used as cottage garden plants today include old-fashioned and climbing roses, foxglove, delphiniums, daisies, and lamb’s ear.
Some other traditional cottage garden plants are peonies, lilies, geraniums, violets, and hollyhocks. The cottage gardener of old chose hardy plants that didn’t require much care such as irises, phlox, sunflowers, coneflowers and snapdragons, and these traditional cottage garden plants thrive in gardens today. Plants were crowded close together in the original cottage gardens since the people didn’t have much land around their small dwellings and had limited space to plant. This created the tightly packed vegetation and riotous colors characteristic of the typical cottage garden.
Flowering vines add vertical interest to the cottage garden. Wisteria, trumpet vine, climbing roses, and clematis have showy flowers that create a striking display when climbing a trellis, fence, or garden wall. Honeysuckle and jasmine are some other traditional climbing cottage garden plants. They blossom with aromatic flowers that scent the air with an appealing fragrance.
Vegetables are commonly grown in a cottage garden, including those that grow on vines such as peas, beans, cucumbers, tomatoes, and squash. When grown on a trellis, the developing squash must be supported using slings or some other method to prevent it from breaking off the vine when it gets heavy. Other vegetables traditionally grown in a cottage garden are peppers, lettuce, cabbage, and cauliflower.
Evergreens add permanent structure to a cottage garden in addition to year-round color. Boxwood is a traditional cottage garden evergreen shrub that can be pruned into various shapes. Lavender and rosemary are evergreen herbs commonly used as cottage garden plants, and other herbs have been traditionally grown in cottage gardens as well.
The cottage garden was first seen in Europe around the time of the Renaissance. People who didn’t have much money or resources would trade seeds and cuttings known as passalongs with neighbors. The fashion of a cottage garden gradually caught on and spread to some other countries, including the United States. Since cottage gardens don’t have any formal design, the contemporary gardener can choose whatever plants he or she likes. Cottage gardens require regular maintenance, so choosing hardy, native plants can help reduce some of the workload.