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Cottage Garden Design

The bounty of books for cottage gardens can sometimes overpower a bookstore. Gently curves, graceful foliage, delicate detail and intimate spaces can easily persuade gardeners into creating a similar style for their own property.

However implementing a cottage styled garden is not as easy as first envisaged. A gardener cannot simply duplicate a style they see in a book. There are three basic elements a design must first address.

Traditional cottage gardens are common in climates that have cold wet winters and warm/hot dry summers. It is crucial to understand that in South East Queensland, there are cool dry cool winters and hot humid wet summers.
Although the design layout of the cottage garden will not be directly affected by this fact, plant selection will.

Intrinsic to all cottage gardens are planting of herbs, perennials, vegetables  and flowering plants. It is these same plants that may require additional care such as pruning, fertilising, pest control, re-planting and watering. These equate to time…. Your time.
However, thoughtful plant selection should overcome most of these problems.

Identify first and foremost if you (the client) loves gardening and plants. If you do not, then perhaps an alternative style is better suited to you.
If you do, then you may have the opportunity to grow some of the most lovely plants on earth.

Layout Hints for Cottage Gardens
* include winding pathways that are no less than 1m wide
* boarder the pathways with low growing plants, tall plants further back
* work with the lay of the land… build in steps to add character to the garden
* position arbours or arches at the entrance of pathways… this reinforces garden rooms and functions
* a birdbath or sundial can add appeal in the garden
* do not over-construct the garden as the emphasis is on plants, not structures.

Plant Hints for Cottage Gardens in the subtropics
* prune in summer to facilitate ventilation around the plants and discourage fungal diseases
* plant herbs where they will receive shade in the afternoon during summer
* plant herbs facing eastern morning sunlight
* mulch gardens well to keep soil during summer
* majority of herbs like neutral – alkaline soils so treatment with lime/dolomite may be needed
* roses are integral but space them out to reduce diseases.

Despite what most people believe, Australian native plants are well suited to cottage gardens. Bottlebrushes, grevilleas, leptospermums are but a few that can be used.
Australian rainforest plants worth adding for scent include lemon scented myrtle (Backhousia citriodora), aniseed tree (Backhouse anisata), ylang ylang (Cananga odorata), native frangipani (Hymenosporum flavum) and native daphne (Phalaria clerodendron).

Bulbs, corms and tubers are strategically placed in Cottage gardens for seasonal impact. The better types for this climate are:-
Agapanthus, Canna, Crinum, Cyrtanthus, Gladiolus, Hemerocallis, Hymenocallis, Hippeastrum, Kniphofia, Lilium longiflorum, Tulbaghia varieties, and Zephyranthes.

As this is a subtopical climate there is also scope for including plants such as gingers (Hedychium), blue ginger (Dichorisandra thyrsiflora) and bougainvilleas.

Top 5 beginner herbs for scent in Subtropics
French lavender
lemon verbena
scented pelargoniums
sambac jasmine

Top 5 beginner herbs for culinary uses in Subtropics
lemon grass

Top 5 beginner flowering perennials for Subtropics
michaelmas daisies
otacanthus Little Boy Blue


written by Paul Plant, Editor of subTropical Gardening magazine - www.stgmagazine.com.au

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