Shrubs, trees, and vines for a country cottage garden

Flowers of varying heights and colors, growing in wild profusion, may describe the spectacle of a country cottage garden. However, cottage garden landscape design is not limited to just flowers. Shrubs, trees or vines give cottage gardens bulk or height. Many bloom only in spring while some bloom in summer. Shrubs and trees with deciduous and evergreen choices can provide a quick start on creating a cottage garden. Vines on a trellis can add color to a plain wall, like the side of a garage.

Flowering dogwood
Group trees to create a sun-blocking canopy for shade-tolerant flowering plants like bachelor's button, foxglove, or violets. For a country cottage garden comprised of sun-loving flowers like purple coneflower, cosmos, or sweet alyssum, use trees sparingly to avoid casting too much shade. Consider trees that naturally grow less than 35 feet tall. Options may include eastern redbud (Cercis canadensis), flowering dogwood (Cornus florida), or Hawthorn (Crategus), all of which burst with color in the spring. Fruit trees are also at home in a cottage garden. Cherry or plum (Pruus) or apple or crabapple (Malus) will offer edible fruit too! I favor flowering dogwood, which blooms in early spring before other trees have reached the blooming stage.

Bridal wreath spirea
Deciduous shrub choices for country garden design include butterfly bush (Buddleja) with its spear-shaped blooms of pink, white, purple, or red. Prune butterfly bush to retain a desired height or allow it to grow its full height potential of about 10 feet. Use rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) as a hedge. The blooms of rose of Sharon may be white, pink, red, purple, or blue and last from summer into fall. I like butterfly bush for the movement it gives to the garden as the flower-laden drooping canes sway with the breeze. The weeks of blooms from rose of Sharon cannot be beat. Also in contention for intense fragrance: spirea (my favorite is the bridal wreath variety) and common lilac. Jerusalem sage (Phlomis fruitcoss), which grows to about 4 feet tall and produces yellow flowers, is an evergreen shrub option for a cottage garden.

A trellis or arbor creates a vertical focal point in a cottage garden. Easy to grow flowering annual vines include sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus) with scented flowers in a variety of colors and morning glory (Ipomoea) with blooms of blue (most common), white, or purple. My preference is morning glory, but only because it grows up to 15 feet long, which is about three times the mature length of the sweet pea vine. Clematis also holds a place in my garden. As a perennial, you can expect the large blooms of clematis to return in late spring every year with proper pruning. With sufficient support, highly scented wisteria can lead the eye upward to view the pendulous clusters of blooms of white or purple. Wisteria, though, becomes a heavy vine as it matures and requires very strong support, like a pergola.