Cottage & Informal Gardens

Cottage & Informal Gardens

Where the formal garden is symmetrical and orderly, the cottage garden is anything but. Romantic, colorful and full of old fashioned favorites that include daisies, bellflowers, dahlias, lavender, roses, and my favorites, hydrangeas. There are many, many more, something for everyone in the cottage garden. Group your choices by color or create a riot of color in what might be considered an overcrowded look. Charming, fun, easy…..that is the cottage style. Adding casual walkways, borders, fences, will add some structure to this garden style along with plenty of whimsy, such as birdhouses, bigs pots and baskets. Basically, anything goes. The informal garden looks a bit more orderly, generally with some space between the plant groupings and with a slightly more thoughtful or planned approach that encourages a feeling of relaxation. Lots of curves, lots of perennials and ground covers that encircle trees. Plants such as hosts, impatiens, day lilies, feathery grasses that appear native are mixed in with brightly colored flowers. These two styles can overlap easily. More than any other style, these encourage risk taking, spontaneity, buy a plant and find a place for it somewhere approach. Many of us can relate!

Five Facts About Cottage Garden Design:

Some fun history……..

Fact one.

Cottage gardens came to us from England. And they were modeled after the gardens of the poor.

Fact two:

These gardens of the poor were not designed. They grew like topsy. Unplanned except for the delight of some farm wife.

Fact three:

Any plant the gardener could find, scrounge, exchange was used. There were no plant lists of exotic perennials. Heck, these poor (financially if nothing else) struggled to eat; they weren’t plant collectors. A few lucky ones, those who knew the head gardener at the estate might get the odd slip or two of interesting plants but for the most part, anything interesting was kept for sharing with other estates and collectors.

Fact four:

There wasn’t enough space for ornamental gardens; most of the land was used for food production so the family could actually eat something. Plants were tucked in as closely together as the poor housewife could make do in her small plot of ground and they grew there into a mad profusion of blooming wonder.

Fact five:

These small cottage gardens were “adopted” as a garden style by designers who then “gentrified” and “civilized” the garden into designs and color coordinated plans to sell to their richer clients. Middle class gardeners adopted this garden trend and the so-called “cottage garden” was born.  source

So now you know the history behind why cottage gardens are packed to the hilt with flowers, literally supporting each other. An informal garden leaves some fairly defined spaces between plants. No rules really for the cottage garden except, just fill every space with flowers!!!!!


Vertical and horizontal….a perfusion of flowers. Source





I should also mention MEADOW or WILDFLOWER GARDEN


Mixed grasses and perennials in a Meadow garden. Source

And lastly, the DESERT GARDEN

This series was an overview, really, an introduction to garden styles, but I hope this either helped you find or confirmed your style of garden, and maybe provided some inspiration for digging in the dirt. I did not get into vegetable gardens or some whimsical styles of gardening, but later in the season we will visit some of these. Thanks for stopping by! Laters, charisse

For some additional ideas  landscaping to increase property values:




  1. Which of the gardens above is yours?

  2. charlotte benford

    what a lovely site — I take this time of year to plan for the spots I am selecting — watching the path of the sun over my mostly woodland acre or so – I am happy to have found you. Thank you nso much.

    • Why, thank you! For those of us that garden in the woods, it takes a special kind of patience. As the trees grows, part sun can turn to full shade! My woods now are in full “glow”, the yellows becoming brighter by the day, the reds more intense. Enjoy planning your garden, and thank you for taking time to comment, and welcome!

  3. Victoria Moores

    So lovely. I expect to see Beatrix Potter around the corner. I love a cottage garden. I could be a Hobbit!
    Victoria Moores

    • I have a hard time picking a favorite. Where I live now I have a bit of cottage, but mostly informal. I love cottage gardens, but for most of them you need more sun than I have, at least for the kinds of plants and flowers I like best. Let’s face it. Happy gardening!

  4. Carole Moores

    Wonderful gardens, all of them but my favorite is the informal garden. That is most definitely me. The only exception is that I have to put flowers in pots not in the ground or my 144lb Newfoundland will either sit on them or trample them!

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