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A Lovely Cottage Garden ... Sort Of

| 7/29/2009 3:46:04 PM

CindyMurphyBlog.jpg“Profusion best describes the cottage garden – a place where flowers of assorted sizes, shapes, and colors spill over walls and paths, where herbs, vegetables, and berry bushes crowd among roses and fruit trees. The bloom is perpetual, as new blossoms draw attention away from any fading flowers. Planting is haphazard and cultivation is minimal, since the fullness of the beds makes it difficult for all but the most determined weeds to find a foothold. Seedlings are pampered in the beginning to assure a healthy start, and then allowed to grow freely. Plants thrive on this benign neglect.” – Marina Schinz from Visions of Paradise: Themes and Variations on the Garden

Haphazard? Minimal cultivation? Benign neglect! Ah-ha! See, there is a method to my madness; a style to the semi-controlled chaos in my yard. “You’ve got a lovely cottage garden,” sidewalk passers-by have said to me as I sit on my favorite perch on the front porch; sometimes they stop to look at the flowers in the garden along the sidewalk; other times Keith will offer them a “tour.” He’s so funny. “Let me give you a tour of the grounds,” he says. Or to me, “The grounds look nice today, Dear.” Giving the impression we actually have “grounds” to tour, instead of a ¾ acre lot in town.

A visiting friend recently exclaimed after such a tour, “You’ve brought the country right here to the middle of town.” The term “cottage garden” presents romantic images of farmhouses along a country road fronted by an old stone wall; an unpretentious village house with the open gate of a white picket fence inviting visitors up the path leading to the door; a painted lady of the Victorian era with an arch of climbing roses framing the front porch, or a centuries old stone cottage in England, barely visible through the vines covering it, and the gardens surrounding it.

Is our house a Victorian or a farmhouse? It may have started out as one, but ended up as the other. It’s changed and been added on to so many times in its one-hundred-plus years of existence, who can really tell? A house with acreage in the country, a lot in suburbia, or a brownstone in the city: the style of the house and its location is unimportant. It’s not the type of dwelling, but the abundance and variety of plantings, generous doses of color and texture that blend with simplicity which define a cottage garden.

If I have a cottage garden it was created purely by accident; some of the elements are there, but it’s not a style I set out to adopt. And whether or not it’s “lovely” is most surely debatable. Come take a walk with me, and you can decide. We’ll tour some of  “the grounds” as I tell you a little bit about one of the world’s oldest forms of gardening, and the history of how it came to be. Welcome to the cottage garden.

Front walk

Brenda Kipp_1
9/16/2009 9:40:48 AM

What a lovely garden, Cindy! I would love to have a cottage garden, but the yard needs a lot more work before I can even get to that point. It's nice to have folks like you to look to for inspiration!

Cindy Murphy
8/20/2009 6:36:37 PM

Thanks for the link, KC. I read articles on the Herb Companion's website from time to time, but the savory article must have slid past me. I loved the plant lore in the article, (it's one of my hobbies); I found it extremely interesting. I really know nothing about winter savory except that it'll grow in poor, sandy soil - it just looks like it can tolerant the abuse - and that's why it's in my garden. But the recipes!!! It's always a bonus when I can multi-purpose my plants! I can't wait to try savory and green beans; I've got plenty of both in the garden now. Good luck on your spring cottage gardening project!

KC Compton_2
8/19/2009 11:28:35 AM

Cindy-- Loved your story and will use it next spring when I start my own cottage garden project. As for what to do with the savory, here's an article from The Herb Companion, which is one of GRIT's sister publications. It's all about savory and has some suggestions at the end that made me very hungry. Thanks for the blog! K.C. Compton (Editor in chief)

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