Cottage Garden Design for the Lowcountry
Updated: May 18
What is a Cottage Garden?
A Cottage Garden is a planting style that incorporates traditional planting materials mixed with dense plantings. These gardens have both useful and ornamental plants.
Traditionally, Cottage Gardens focused on herbs, medicinals, and vegetables with occasional use of florals. There was a distinct focus on perennials, with the classic rose being a staple in most gardens.
Originally a Cottage Garden would have been a place where people could "collect" many varieties of plants, unlike today where these gardens house more native plants.
Claude Monet's famous paintings depicting his garden in Giverny are excellent example of a traditional Cottage Garden, as are the lush gardens of Magnolia Plantation, located right here in Charleston.
Brief History of a Cottage Garden:
Cottage Gardens initially emerged in Elizabethan times as a space for workers
to grow herbs and flowers. In the 18th Century, there was an uprising in interest of plants as "collectors items" and gardening was coined as a "blue collar hobby." The Arts and Crafts movement, aka The Art Nouveau era, cemented the Cottage Garden as a notable gardening style.
William Morris was a catalyst of this classification as he pioneered a seamless blend of design and landscaping into his gardens. When Morris built his home in Kent, it inspired new ideas in both design and landscaping. The "old fashioned" garden became a fashion accessory among the middle class and the aesthetic began to emigrate to America.
Design elements for a successful (and
manageable) cottage garden:
Think in layers:
- Three layers is typical/ ideal
- Think evergreen and seasonal
- Your boarders/ edging will dictate the minimum height of your garden
- Flowering season
Foliage, texture, and color will help with the transition between seasons. This is best achieved with variegated plants and whisky shrubs and plantings.
To achieve a visually impactful and appealing garden, repetition is key.
Incorporate "Foundation Plantings" into your design. These plants are cohesive, repetitive, which help as cornerstones for your garden. Design your garden around these plants.
If your space permits, integrating irregular pathways and hidden seating add a lot of interest to your garden.
To ensure blooms occur year round, plant bulbs in the Fall for early Spring interest and incorporate containers with annuals for extra flowers and more manageability.
Avoid spreading species as Winter does not get cold enough to keep them manageable.
Designing a Cottage Garden in our sub-tropical climate:
Grasses are your friends!
Tropical Bloomers add interest:
- Canna Lilies
- Tropical Milkweed
Incorporate mounding succulents for density and texture:
- Stone Crop
Humidity tolerant roses:
- Knock out