Choosing flowers for a country cottage garden

Country garden design tips

You don’t have to have an English cottage to appreciate a country cottage garden. The appeal of a country garden is its almost jungle-like appearance of close-growing flowers of varying colors, heights and shapes. Selecting flowers for the garden may seem challenging, but you can take the stress out of plant shopping by following these plant selection tips. Shown above are purple coneflower, Russian sage and yarrow.

Determine sunlight level

Your garden design may include sun-loving or shade-loving flowers depending on sunlight levels. Once you choose the location for your country garden, the next step is to assess the amount of sunlight received in the area. To determine sunlight levels, check to see how much sunlight hits the ground between the hours of 10 a.m. and 6 p.m. one sunny day during the summer months when the sun is hottest. Over six hours of sunshine is considered full sun. Three to four hours of sunshine is partial shade.

Flower colors

Flower colors that go well together are a matter of choice. You may choose all pastels (pink, yellow, lavender, light blue, etc.), all deep colors (red, blue, orange, etc.), or a combination of both. There is no set rule.  

Ageratum (annual)
Flower height and width

The key to creating an impressive country garden is to use an array of flower plant shapes and sizes. Grouping plants in odd numbers such as three or five plants adds visual impact. If the plant is bushy, one may be sufficient. Include at least three (or all!) of the following flower shapes and sizes in your cottage garden design:

Purple coneflower
·    Tall plants such as hollyhock, purple coneflower, foxglove, daylily, Lupinus, ornamental grass or phlox, or fruit trees like apple or peach
·    Fan shaped like Russian sage, coral bells or peony
·    Medium-height plants such as iris, salvia, rose, scabiosa, carnation or yarrow
·    Bushy like lavender, baby’s breath, aster, blanket flower or black-eyed Susan
·    Short or trailing plants such as such as ageratum, petunia, sweet alyssum, candytuft, lantana, pansy or Mexican heather

The above list is not all-inclusive but should give you some ideas.

Favorite flowers

Use garden catalogs, internet searches or window shopping at your local home and garden center to find flowers that you like. Choose one or more of your favorite flowers. It doesn’t matter if the flower is tall, like purple coneflower, or short, like moonbeam coreopsis. Annual or perennial flowers is also the garden designer’s choice, but perennials are the better value overall. Dig up established  perennials (those planted for about four years), divide the root ball into three to five sections (called divisions), and then replant the divisions to increase the number of plants in your garden.

Pulling together the cottage garden flower choices

With your favorite flowers identified, look for accompanying flowers in other shapes and sizes to fill out the garden. Read the plant information to determine how far apart to plant the flowers so you know how many to buy based on the size of your garden.