What is the secret of the cottage garden's charms? Cottage gardeners are good to their plots, and in the course of years they make them fertile. The shelter, too, of a small cottage style house and hedge favors many old-fashioned cottage garden plants. But there is something more — it is the absence of any pretentious pattern or design which lets the flowers tell their own story. The garden paths are only what are needed, and so we see only the earth and its blossoms. Garden television shows sometimes try to teach us how to dig our gardens, what perennials to plant, what fertilizers to use, the kind and nature of the soil which it is our privilege to cultivate. But true cottage gardeners ignore the lectures. They glean from experience quite as much as the TV garden expert can tell them, so they prefer to pursue their own time-tested ways.
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The term "cottage garden" is a changeable one, and may be made to include all the big class of gardens where, in the words of the flower show brochure, "no regular gardener is employed." But the romantic interpretation of the English cottage garden is a picture of little wayside plots attached to the homes of rural folks which cheer the passer-by nearly as much as they cheer their owners. One thinks of Rose and Clematis climbing over the doorway, of Sweet Williams, Peonies, Hollyhocks, Sunflowers and Pansies flowering in bed or border. Old-fashioned herbaceous plants are those which one associates with these cottage gardens, and nearly the year through one expects to find something of interest and of beauty. Many cottage gardeners do not know not the Latin names of the wealth of sweet flowers and other cottage garden plants; they have their own names for shrubs and flowers, which you will not find in the botanical books, but are formed on some whimsical idea, some errant fancy born of a quaint pastoral imagination, yet are often very appropriate and true.
Cottage Flower Garden
Today, a beautiful cottage garden can be replicated in the front or backyard of a quaint period house with its old-fashioned wood porch. Forward-facing is the flower garden, while behind it the useful vegetables grow. It is enclosed by a simple paling fence with a box-edged garden path and a wealth of luxuriant shrubs, flowers, and creeping plants. The old house windows remain, and happily have not been supplanted by a modern sash or square panes of glass, which are not nearly so picturesque. These gardens are especially rich in luxuriant cottage garden plants because the merciless hand of the "restorer" has as yet spared its beauties. Trees and flowers are an ideal border of the pretty garden path highlighted by a mantle of ivy and Virginia creeper, dormer windows and a slate roof. Such is the ideal—sometimes such is the reality.
Cottage Rose Garden
Many English cottages can boast of their rose gardens. In fact roses are the chief glory of the gardens, whether they are large or small. Unpretentious home gardeners are often puzzled by the foreign names assigned to the beautiful flowers, and strangely transform and Anglicize them. But the roses bloom no less beautifully on account of this murdering of their names. A replica of a cottage rose garden will have grass paths intersect at the center, where there will be a charming sun-dial. The beautiful garden wallkway will be edged with box and overshadowed by trees with grateful shade. The favorite roses which you would find among centuries old cottage garden plants are the Sweet Briar, the Cabbage, the York and Lancaster, the Moss, the old White Damask, the double white, brother of the pretty pink Maiden's Blush.
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The best of the traditional cottage garden plants and flowers which you will see in many a quaint garden are the lilacs and laburnums, Sweet Williams and tall white Madonna lilies, gillyflowers and love-lies-bleeding, the larkspur and the lupin, pinks and carnations, the ever constant wallflowers, and the Canterbury Bells. The everlasting-pea is always welcome in the cottage home garden, and dahlias are greatly prized, not the single ones so much as the old-fashioned, tight-growing, formal kinds. In some cottage gardens there is a tendency among gardeners to neglect these old-fashioned flowers and cultivate the hardy annuals. Nasturtiums and China asters and stocks flourish where once the Sweet William and other herbaceous plants were regarded with delight. Some garden owners appreciate herbaceous borders and to value the more traditional plants from another era, the old flowers which are the true glory of a charming cottage garden.