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Cottage Gardens Undergo Revival
By Norman Winter
Central Mississippi Research & Extension Center
There is a revival of sorts going on in the world of gardening, and it's all around us. It may be as close as the house next door. It is the revival of the cottage garden.
I know in some places cottage gardens never left. But now cottage gardens are popping up not only in rural areas, but also in new neighborhoods with the most modern homes. Included in this revival of style comes the old fashioned picket fence.
The fence may be white or natural, but it is there and it is serving multiple purposes as it did for our ancestors. Sure it may keep in the pooch, but it is a design element in the garden and a support structure for vines like the coral honeysuckle, clematis cypress vine and yes, even moonvine.
In addition to vines, you'll find antique roses like Zephirine Droughin, Madame Isaac Pereire or the Yellow Lady Banks on these fences. Even though these old standards are having their own revival, David Austin's English Roses like Abraham Darby, Evelyn and Graham Thomas English are draping these fences with fragrance and elegance.
The rustic picket fence is not the only structure finding its way back to today's cottage garden. The classic wooden bench is also showing up regularly as gardeners realize it's not only a thing of beauty but the perfect spot for a cup of morning coffee and a place of brief rest.
Cottage gardens are like snowflakes with no two alike. The common thread seems to be a love for flowers that drape fences and those that give a tall, spiky texture coupled with a heavy sampling of perennials.
For instance, the old-fashioned larkspur is popular again with its tall stature, wispy foliage, bright delicate flowers and a perennial-like performance by re-seeding. Yet the new angelonias, though not quite as tall, are finding great favor because they bloom for months and months, returning after the mildest of winters.
Perennial salvias are a staple in cottage gardens for their tall, spiky texture. Salvias like Victoria blue, meadow sage, indigo spires and blue anise sage are hard to beat in the cottage garden or the perennial border.
Tall round flowers are also important. The Goldsturm, Black-eyed Susan; Bravado, purple cone-flower; and Alaska, shasta daisy, are some of my favorites. Use these flowers to tower above other favorite annuals or perennials.
I am almost totally dedicated to planting flowers in groups of single colors. Rarely do you find Norman touting mixtures. But there is one mix that I do like and think is superb next to a white picket fence or just about anywhere in the garden. This mixture uses the delicate, daisy-like flowers of the Sonata cosmos in colors of magenta, pink, and white which are borne at the top of feathery foliage.
The place where you harvest tomatoes, peppers and corn is the vegetable garden. The area I have been talking about is not a flowerbed, but is a cottage garden. It is the area visitors will want to see and your children or grandchildren will remember.
Now is the time to get your soil prepared, lay out your design and create the cottage garden of your dreams.