The English Cottage Garden: Fall 2021

The English cottage garden outside of my Southern Ontario, Canada cottage is at its peak in the autumn. It’s prime OoOooOooo and AhhhHhhHhHHhhh season for anyone walking past. If you can’t walk past then please enjoy this virtual tour.

In the spring my garden looks like crap. In fact, 3 days before this photo was taken in the fall my garden looked like crap. I may have overextended myself a tiny bit this year … and then I got a dog. So that’s why my fall garden looked like crap.

In the spring it’s because I have no evergreens in my yard so it’s literally just bare dirt and a strip of half dead lawn until the perennials and bulbs start to pop up.

Once they do, my English Cottage Garden in Canada starts to look less anemic. Tulips, Ranunculus, Rhubarb, Poppies and Peonies start popping up. It’s bueno.😘

Then it goes through a bit of a beunopause in the middle of summer when the early bloomers have finished blooming and the late bloomers (the majority of my garden) have yet to explode.

It is now time for the late bloomers.

Celosia in front of Cornel Bronze dahlia.

Apple espaliers just a day before I picked the last of the apples. Some cabbages in felt pots and in the ground.

I’m hoping there’s just enough time for my red cabbages in pots to mature before cold weather arrives. Which it should have about a month ago.

I 0% did not keep that intention. It’s a riot of colour.

Wine Eyed Jill dahlia to the left, Dollarama tuber to the right.

My spring garden could take a lesson from my fall garden.

The tour ends here.

There are a multitude of other dahlias that I didn’t get a shot of or that weren’t blooming the day I shot the pictures.

If you’d like to see the complete list of dahlias I grew this year I have them all listed with photos in this post.

If you’d like to see the most exciting, hilarious, ridiculous flower I grow in my front yard you can read all about Buzz Buttons here. They’re edible, electric and like nothing you’ve ever eaten before. Yes! They’re edible and very trendy right now.

The dahlias will continue to bloom until they’re killed by frost. Years ago they would have been dead by now, but this year it looks like they’ll be on display until at least the beginning of November. Same as last year.

Then the work of digging up and dividing the massive tubers starts.

Whenever someone walks past and asks me what all the amazing flowers are I tell them dahlias. They ask why everyone doesn’t have them when they’re so extraordinary. I explain the part about having to dig them all up in the fall, wash them, divide them … Oh! You’re still here. Good for you. :)

Most people get glassy eyed right after I say “dig them all up in the fall” and then they meander away towards someone else’s hydrangea bush.

Yeah. Dahlias are seriously a needle in the ass kind of a pain. But they’re so beautiful they’ll make almost anyone stop and stare.

Until the dahlias die and the garden once again – looks like crap.

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The English Cottage Garden: Fall 2021


  1. Anne Baulne says:

    My dahlias are dug and washed and are drying off, sort of, on the hay. Then they go into containers and in to the insulated pump house. I’ve tried every way of storing them but this has worked for several years. And I’m too lazy to divide them in the fall so do it in the spring when it’s a novelty! I love dahlias and most of mine have been gifts which is the best way to acquire plants. Karen, your dahlias are spectacular. Aren’t they rewarding.

  2. Margaret says:

    Yes I love the Dahlias too – I have been trying for years to get Honka Dahlia – finally sourced two last fall.
    Potted 6 weeks before last frost.
    Planted end of June.
    June 15 the roofers with big feet came and decimated treasured Honka. Foul words spoken. Tears shed. Slamming of doors.
    They rallied! With gusto. More blooms than you could imagine. Yay!
    They look like stars in the garden.

  3. Wendy says:

    Beautiful! I’m fairly new to dahlias but they are the stars of my fall garden. I wish they didn’t flop so much! What’s your method for keeping them from flopping? Bamboo poles? Tomato cages? Maybe a future column on your method.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Wendy! Yes I use bamboo stakes (although they have to be really thick) and rebar. Those get in the ground right before I plant the dahlia and then I tie the stem to it as the dahlia grows. Extra branches get extra rebar. And I just tie them up as they grow. Hope that helps. ~ karen!

  4. Jeanne Marston says:

    It was a weird season, at least in PA, USA. Don’t be too hard on yourself. My Zennias which normally grow to 3′ , grew to 5 1/2 ‘….I am 5’ so they looked down at me. Everything was angular. Lack of a lot of sunshine and too many hormones I fed them each week. ( I know, fertilizer). However, one comment from one gardener to another: Plant some LOW growing
    flowers along the lawn to create interesting borders and those that bloom all summer; i.e., Nasturtiums which are edible, Calendulas. Maybe a few Echinaceas. Your Dahlias are spectacular.

  5. Petra says:

    I’m intrigued by your amaranth collection. They are grown from seed? Please enlighten…what perfect companions for your delicious dahlias.
    I know that cottage gardens are a lot of work but that they are so tied to the seasons give them extra special charm. Thanks for sharing yours with us.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Petra! I grow the amaranth from seed but really you only need to grow it once because it easily (borderline too easily) reseeds itself. :) In the US I get my Amaranth seeds from Floret because she has such a beautiful variety of them and in Canada I use William Dam Seeds. ~ karen!

  6. Lori Wilson says:

    I am getting all sorts of ideas!! I am way further south than you (in Oklahoma), and so far, I have not had to dig mine…yet. We had some below 0 degree weather last winter for about 10 days, and one of mine still made it. the others did not I may or may not have willed it to come back. Lesson learned. It has just started blooming about a month late which is par for the course for this year. I am rethinking and reworking a lot of my yard, and it will include lots of dahlias and veggies. I love how you have eliminated a lot of the grass and use it to grow flowers along with edibles. I am toying with that idea, so we will see what happens.

  7. Avril says:

    There! ENGLISH COTTAGE GARDEN, in Canada! You have achieved your goal! Well done, and ABSOLUTELY SPECTACULAR!
    Love your posts and photos!

  8. Lynn says:

    Ooh so beautiful Karen.
    All I have now is shriveled remains… frost was earlier than usual for me this year. Trees are also bare , it’s going to be along one this year I think brrrr.

  9. Leslie says:

    I tried to dig up dahlias one year: they didn’t survive. I guess the tubors dried up or something.

    I have 2 different varieties in a spot by a brick wall that apparently keeps them happy over the winter, with some mulch. But I wish I could successfully divide and store my pricey new ‘annual’ dahlias.

  10. Lois says:

    Loved the tour! It’s nice that I’ll be able to revisit it when everything is withered and dead in winter.

    I’ve just been through training with a stubborn pup–so you now have big chewy objects (toys AND digestible chews like bully sticks) in every room of your house to stuff into your puppy’s mouth when he wants to chew on you, right?

    If you have any puppy questions, sign up for a free Zoom puppy chat on Thursdays at 6 (ET):
    This trainer has a PhD in training & 20+ years of experience & is so funny.

  11. Wine Eyed Deja View says:

    Well. I totally missed the mark with my screen name. It should have been Wine Eyed Jill. Hindsight.

    Fantastic work on the late Fall garden! It looks amazing. I may try Amaranth now that I see yours. I like the muted shade Also- where’d you get the bird bath with the little rusty bird. Supercute

    • Wine Eyed Deja View says:

      Ps- I see you went with the window box situation on the second floor. Hey- it’s almost Halloween…. Haha. I tease. You should see my hanging basket of dead jasmine on the deck. Halloween cometh.

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