Be inspired by the beauty of cottage garden designs
Centuries ago, middle class European workers created an informal, intelligent and beautiful way to decorate the front gardens and rock walls of their modest cottages.
Using flowers, ornamental foliage, fructiferous plants and herbs given to them by their patrons or neighbors or found wild in the countryside, they began to imitate the beautiful and elegant landscapes found on the wealthy family houses.
This was not only a way to adorn their gardens and cottages, but a way to have those extra vegetables and herbs for their everyday meals at hand without the need to go to the market. Flowers, plants and herbs all in one space, spread out in the garden and walls in no particular order but very well kept, was the key to these cottage gardens.
All of the vegetation serves a purpose in a cottage garden. Fructiferous plants were meant to yield their delicious produce. Tomatoes, apples, pears, strawberries and other indigenous fruits and vegetables were harvested in season. The flowers planted around them were used as natural fertilizers when their petals fell. The primary purpose of flowers was of course to infuse the garden with color and to permeate the surroundings with their fragrances.
Ornamental climbing plants such as the clematis vitalba, known as “traveler boy,” and lonicera periclymenum – the “european honeysuckle” – were planted thoughtfully to gradually grow and flourish while sticking to the rock walls of the European cottages. Owners also developed hedges with ornamental foliages that covered or were used as fences that helped divide the land between cottages. They would also help keep the privacy of the property.
Herbs were also a very important part of the assortment of plants in the gardens. They were not only used for culinary purposes as we use them today but they were key ingredients for medicinal, homemade remedies and teas. A third and very common use for herbs was to add them to homemade cleaning solutions.
French cottage gardens, or “jardins de cur” as they are called in French, were originally cultivated in England when it was inhabited and influenced heavily by the French. Today this is one of the most popular styles of gardening in the world.
Different from the first cottage gardens that were not referred to as “French country gardens,” and which were designed depending on the part or country in Europe, today’s gardens are basically one style.
Years ago people had to work their gardens with plants and flowers that were indigenous to their country or area and were easy to find and take care of. Today we can easily get plants and flowers from all over the world making every garden a unique and different style of cottage garden.
What started as an economical way to make small European working men cottages beautiful and different, is now a stylish and admired gardening style that is used in museums, governmental offices, hotels and expensive real estate around the world. Since end of the 19th century, there have been magazines that have glorified and reverred this style of garden and that have dedicated entire issues to describing the process of planning, planting and tending to them.