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17 September 2014
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how to be a gardener - The complete online guide

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3 - Principles of cottage planting
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The principles of cottage planting
Principles of cottage planting
Cottage gardens break all the usual rules of garden design, which in any case are only guidelines.

In a cottage garden, plants are grown very close together, and they are meant to look as if they were put together at random, without any real plan behind them.

But in practise it takes a certain amount of thought to create a garden that looks entirely natural.
There are several ways you can arrange plants in your border, including:

Rows look very formal. The place they usually look best is along the edge of paving or a path, but you can also use a row of identical plants to edge a cottage garden border as it ‘pulls together’ a randomly generated collection of plants.

Drifts make very natural-looking beds. Informal teardrop shapes work best. If you have uneven ground simply outline the high or low lying contours and use those shapes for your drifts. They will automatically look right for the spot. Put your tallest plants in the middle and shortest ones around the edge so that you can look at the drift from any angle and it will still look good.

Random planting
Random planting is typical of old-fashioned cottage gardens, where annuals were left to self-seed inbetween aggressive, spreading perennials. Just weed out what you don’t want. Be careful as the result can either look very natural or a complete mess.

Grouped by height, colour or plant type, cottage borders are a lot easier to organise. The usual arrangement is to put the tallest plants at the back and shortest ones at the front, so you can see everything. But why not have the odd island of taller plants in a carpet of shorter flowers so you have to look round them?

The long and the short of cottage garden design is ‘do whatever you think looks best’. Remember if it doesn’t work out, you can always dig plants up and move them.
3. Cottage garden

Top ten plants
Path basics
Pathside planting
Principles of cottage planting
Cottage garden tips

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