Saturday, May 14, 2016

I HAVE THE COTTAGE GARDEN GENE

It's not surprising that I have this gene. After all, I spent the formative years of my life growing up in England, the land of cottage gardens. You only had to drive into a rural area to see multicolored, informal groups of plantings both in gardens and along the hedgerows. Who knows how far back the cottage garden dates but their numbers increased dramatically during prosperous Elizabethan times.  Once-fashionable garden designs have come and gone but the cottage style of gardening has remained. It seems I have brought it to Texas.


It isn't an easy gene to carry with you to Texas. In the words of Penelope Hobhouse, 'Well, I just think that if I were a plant, I wouldn’t want to live in Texas.' Not true. There are plenty of plants that like living here in Texas and even though their flowering may be short they are happy enough to return for another year. The problem is more to do with their success during a long growing season. They don't come in quietly in the spring, flourishing through the summer and fading into the fall. They just keep growing.


This year many plants didn't even go dormant and the penalty is that they now have a very long growing season to look forward to and they will keep on growing and growing unless they are cut back.

Engelmannia peristenia with Verbena bonariensis

So what are the features of a cottage garden. The first is that they are usually enclosed by walls or hedges. The garden is not meant for the person passing by. Plants are crowded together so there is little soil showing. The plants generally come from neighbors and friends, cuttings and seed. The plants are a veritable jumble with flowers growing alongside the vegetables.


Plants put themselves where they want to be.


And even the most weedy plants are welcome.

Pink primroses among the Dicliptera.

And when the annual  plants fade the cottage gardener goes out and collects their seed to save for next year so she can spread the flowers everywhere.


It's in the genes.

17 comments:

  1. You are so amazing--making a cottage garden in a climate as harsh as yours. It's not only in your genes, it is in your heart and soul as well---and it shows. Glorious!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Sue.We have had so much rain this spring it almost feels like England.

      Delete
  2. Beautiful! I love your gardening style.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Renee.It is a lot of work but has many rewards.

      Delete
  3. Hilarious! I've got that gene, too. No matter what I do, a cottage garden is what I end up with. And I love it. Now that I know I can't help myself (because it is in the genes) I will enjoy it without guilt. Thanks you so much for explaining this.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I guess we can't do anything about it. Or can we have gene therapy. The only problem is that it may look like an easy garden but it sure takes a lot of work.

      Delete
  4. Well thank you ma'am for the defining terms! This is fascinating. As it so happens, like Jane Strong, no matter where I've gardened, every bed I plant ends up as some form of a cottage garden, though minus the enclosing walls. I suppose I've somehow been unconsciously emulating that style without appreciating the long heritage behind it. Best to have it all out in the open - genes will out!

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I think that is why cottage gardens have survived. It is the natural way of things. Think of a meadow with all manner of flowering plants self seeding. Not that there are many meadows around these days.

      Delete
  5. Interesting. I like cottage garden style too - at least in some ways -- the riot of plants, the lack of bare soil, letting plants seed and spread where they may (to some degree).

    I'm not quite as laissez-faire with super aggressive plants -- at least with non-natives. I think I'd have a garden just of love-in-a-mist if I didn't keep trying to weed it out!

    And while I have some inclination toward 'walling' my garden with hedges, I also want to share the beauty of the garden with others, so I hope to leave at least some of the views untrammeled.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I'm not saying that there isn't a lot of work to keep some plants at bay. It is a constant battle with some. As to the walls-we have them to keep the deer out and not for any other reason. We have no street appeal but we do share the beauty of our garden with hundreds of people. It is just the nature of where we live.

      Delete
  6. The gene is strong in you. It's a case of cottage meets fiesta....a riot of beautiful colors, in your garden.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Yes, I'm not choosy about colors. I like most plants.

      Delete
  7. So true! Your cottage style gene has given birth to a most amazing collection of beautiful plants. I especially love the area with the Engelmann’s daisies. I never thought of garden walls being there to keep the garden from the view of passers-by.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The British have always liked their privacy. Most houses would have a wall even if only 3 feet high. I wonder what American gardens were like before the lawn was introduced. That changed many things over here, but there were never continuous lawns from one house to the next in England.

      Delete
  8. I love your cottage garden and long to emulate it. I'm trying to wean myself of the inclination to clip everything as soon as it fades in order to encourage more rampant self-seeding.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You have an incredible number of flowering plants, most of which I have never heard of. Your garden is beautiful and your Monday vases are always a delight.

      Delete
  9. And a cottage garden is sunny and bright with flowers! I had a cottage garden that I loved at my former home. Not enough sun in my current garden, alas. Your self-seeders and pretty "weeds" are looking beautiful, Jenny.

    ReplyDelete