The English Cottage Garden.

A little lesson in how to get an English Cottage style garden.  

Skip right to the English Cottage Garden Tips.

I was walking down my street the other day on one of the rare May afternoons that didn’t require wearing a wind protection helmet, and it started all kinds of awkward feelings inside of me.  Not the walking around without my wind protection helmet, I was O.K. with that.  I was jealous and inspired and motivated and shamed by everyone else’s front lawn.  Every time I turned a corner I saw another house with something my house needed. A new driveway. A coat of paint.  A front yard that looked tidy. One house had a pine tree in their driveway but I don’t think that was a gardening choice so much as a byproduct of the stupid wind.  See?  This is why we should all wear wind helmets when venturing outside on windy days.

So these yards around the neighbourhood look much better than mine. At the moment, you’d only see a yard like mine from the perspective of a news helicopter.   “Yes, that’s right Dan, just under our chopper is a home that looks like it’s owned by a whackjob cult leader who is holding 22 hostages and 4 amputated turtles in their basement. Neighbours say they’ve never met the owner but are pretty sure it’s a troubled person.  I mean, the lawn says it all.  Back to you Dan …

I can’t be blamed for all of the mess.  Well, actually I can, but let’s not lay blame.  5 years ago I ripped out all of the overgrown shrubs, resodded my yard and filled the entire front yard with vegetables. You can see the disaster of ripping everything out to get it ready to make a vegetable garden yard here.  You can see how nice it turned out in this post.  The problem is I liked my front yard vegetable garden so much I decided to rent a 20’x20′ gardening plot.  Then the next year I liked THAT so much that I rented a 40’x20′ gardening plot.  The year after that I liked it even MORE and rented a 40’X40′ plot.  That’s 1,600 square feet of garden space.

I didn’t need my front yard vegetable garden anymore.  So I planted fewer and fewer vegetables in it but didn’t replace those bare spots with any plants. So in the span of 5 years my yard evolved from perfectly designed edible garden yard to kidnapper lair.  Another part of the problem was pests.  At my big garden I can cover everything in row cover or throw old milk crates over my melons to keep raccoons away, but when you do that in the context of a front lawn … well … kidnapper lair.

Get ready to call the authorities, lock your children up, avert eye contact … this … is my front yard today.

The black squirrel has been in that position for the past 3 months, paralyzed with fear. His squirrel sense is telling him whoever maintains this horror of a yard would surely catch, kill and stuff him if he shows any signs of life. He’s right on the money.

This year I’m getting it back on track, even if it’s just a quickish fix.  I’ll be putting in only 2 or 3 vegetables: a couple of tomato plants (one big, one cherry) and green onions.  The rest of my available space will be filled with a riot of perennial and annual flowers.

Behold the side yard. Equally impressive.  The rhubarb patch right beside the air conditioner is the Queen of the yard.  NOTHING could kill it and every year it comes back stronger.

That air conditioner used to be hidden by a tree I had removed last fall.  So I’ll have to figure out something to disguise it a bit.

Gertrude Jeckyll

I’ll do the yard in a Gertrude Jekyll style.  If you don’t happen to be up on your historic garden designers, Gertrude Jekyll pretty much invented the English cottage style garden. A casual balance to the highly structured and formal Victorian gardens.  She was considered a bit of a madwoman at the time, which of course means she was a genius pioneer.  Not unlike whoever invented salted caramel cookies I imagine.

I’m not starting with completely nothing. I do have a few good established perennials like Lupins, Phlox, Climbing Hydrangea, Lillies, Delphiniums and a few other things.  Which are all perfect for an English Cottage garden.  An English cottage garden looks a little bit wild in that it isn’t perfectly symmetrical with everything lined up in a row, but really it’s quite structured and well thought out according to size of plants, colour and textures.  An English cottage garden for instance wouldn’t have a border row of marigolds around it with a row of other flowers behind it. It’s more fluid than that and more chaotic.  Typically, English cottage gardens have a colour theme, a LOT of different plants and virtually no news helicopters hovering overhead.

(source unknown)  For me this is too much colour but you can tell it’s been boosted a bit in Photoshop by someone so in real life it might not be so riotous.

In order to get it done I’ve made a task list.  THIS is what needs to get done.

Task List

Weed control – holy crap – get rid of the weeds.  I’ll be using the weed rod from Lee Valley.
Edge the lawn.

Reseed and fertilize lawn.

Get rid of dead, overgrown or otherwise ugly plants (I’m talking to you sage bush)

Plant perennials and annuals of varying heights.

Mulch, mulch, mulch.

Sounds easy right?  Yeah. That’s what I think too. Which means it’ll probably end up taking me half the summer.

Elements of an English Cottage Garden

  • Structures are needed to evoke the feeling of an English cottage garden. Trellises, picket fences, stone fences, pathways and benches.
  • Lows and Highs. An English cottage garden gives the impression of rolling hills with high and low points to plantings.  Make sure you have climbers too for a real English Cottage garden feel.
  • Close plantings. There isn’t a lot of room between plantings in an English cottage garden but that doesn’t mean overgrown.  You have to maintain and trim plants to keep within their boundaries so the look doesn’t go from controlled chaos to unattended.
  • Blooms. Pay attention to the bloom time. You don’t want a garden that’s in complete bloom for 3 weeks and then nothing for the rest of the summer.

 

Flowers in the English Cottage Garden

    • Lupin
    • Delphinium
    • Roses ( I will not do roses again. I used to have an entire yard filled with roses and one by one they died due to whatever. The ones that insisted on living only did so for the first month of summer at which point they promptly lost all their leaves to black spot leaving a thorny ball of anger for the remaining 4 months of the season)
    • Lavender
    • Phlox
    • Hollyhock
    • Peony
    • Dianthus
    • Herbs
    • Snapdragons
    • Lady’s Mantle
    • Columbine
    • Foxglove
    • Heliotrope
    • Cosmos

CLIMBERS

  • Sweet Peas
  • Clematis
  • Morning Glory
  • Wisteria
  • Scarlet Runner Beans

In truth, my plan is to have this done in 2 weekends, which providing the winds allow me to venture outside, should be doable.  In fact, even if it is windy I’ll just put on my wind helmet and march onward.  It’ll make gardening a little less pleasant (it’s quite unpleasant being whacked in the face by garbage cans and air borne toddlers who have lost the grip of their mother’s hand), but this is gardening where you have to be strong if you want to survive.  I’m no delicate rose.

I’m a rhubarb patch.

Have a good weekend!


 

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110 Comments

  1. Olga says:

    I saw nothing but black squirrel! I couldn’t figure out if it was real, if you photoshopped it or if my eyes playing trick on me.
    The good thing if it all fails half of the year it will be covered with snow haha

    • Karen says:

      Real squirrel, lol. ~ karen!

    • judy says:

      Sorry about butting in but I wanted to give you credit for buying the better Wagner paint sprayer on Amazon and at /first it seemed to click to A but then I got a real cute heads up about my inability to spell(how did you know?) anyhoo do you still recommend it or have you withdrawn your recommendation?

      • Karen says:

        I love love love my sprayer. I just used it this week to spray my fence and I’ll be using it tomorrow to spray my porch. 🙂 ~ karen!

      • judy says:

        I can’t find the darn link “paint my shed with my wonderful paint sprayer” and another question. I am very worried about the many threats?russian propaganda? about our power grid and I would like to buy a propane backup generator. Do you have any ideas about this and a brand you would recommend? We already have a propane tank for the gas stove. Thank you oh font of all knowledge that is useful,helpful and saves me money.

        • Karen says:

          Are you in Canada or the US Judy? I’ll send you the link for either Amazon.ca or Amazon.com. ~ karen!

        • judy says:

          Dear Karen- I am in The former US of A….sob but if you would like to rent a basement corner to 2 old people who are agog and aghast at how quickly a Great Nation can be hit over its’ collective head with weirdness and ? words fail me. thanks for the link. I intend to paint me and mine into an unassailable corner.

        • Karen says:

          Hi Judy! Here’s the link to my sprayer … https://amzn.to/2IEOUM2 I have to say you are not the first American to ask if they could move in with me. ~ karen!

  2. Debbie D says:

    Looking forward to the after pictures. Black squirrels get me every time. We don’t have those here. Only gray and brown ones. Not sure why.

    I loved your veggie front yard. Your plans sound great. Sorry roses don’t do well for you but it is cold up there. So I can understand. I have heard that chickens love rose petals. Something interesting to do with the deadheaded flowers. Best of luck to you and as stated earlier, can’t wait to see the results. I am sure they will be beautiful.

  3. Melanie says:

    I cannot tell you how much better I feel seeing your front yard. Mine’s worse, but not that much worse. I pretty much ignored it last year (and most of the year before) — other than moving ferns that decided to grow in odd places, and transplanting hosta babies from the gravel driveway to somewhere safer. I’m determined to get it to where I’m happy to see it instead of pretending it doesn’t exist. It will definitely take me more than 2 weekends, though!

    • Karen says:

      I’ve actually been digging weeds for the past 3 days! I think I finally got all the dandelions. What a disaster! ~ karen

  4. Lynn says:

    I love The English county gardens it’s always been my goal. Hubby on other hand prefers the French …. we have battled every year over the yard 🤪🤪🤪 . He loves roses I can not stand them, I love sweet peas he hates them. At least my sweet peas don’t cost as much as his rose’s that keep dying on him do. You named a couple I don’t know Lady’s Mantel an Heliotrope I will need to look them up. An I love my columbine mind you I am partial to most of the old variety’s . They give more joy than newer varieties at least for me. I can not wait to see how your refreshed yard looks when you are done.

    • Karen says:

      Heliotrope is pretty but it’s REAL beauty is in the scent. If you go to a garden centre search some out and smell it! ~ karen

  5. Kim says:

    Well. Apparently I have an English garden! I had no idea. It’s just how it “came out”. I even have a colour scheme! I’m sorry about your roses. Roses are my favourite. I’m on Vancouver Island, so we can grow anything here. Which makes me feel bad for the rest of the country. I accidentally called a garden centre in Saskatchewan to ask about wisteria, and apparently it only grows SOME places there. When they asked WHERE I was located and I told them close to the ocean it became clear google had given me the wrong number. (Or maybe it was my fault)

    Either way, I’m glad you can grow wisteria there even though you can’t grow roses. Is it just you or Toronto? Though tbh I am now not sure if you live in Toronto. Either way I am SUPER excited to read about your English garden and all your tips! I’m not really a vegetable grower. I’m all about the flower. So I’m glad you’ll be doing this.

    • Karen says:

      I can grow roses here, in fact I had several that were probably 30 years old. But they finally died around 3 winters ago when it was insanely cold. It was a rare occurrence. The others I dug out on purpose because they’d get either black spot or thrips every year and I got sick of babying them. 🙁 This house used to be literally covered in roses. They were everywhere. It was beautiful but too high maintenance. ~ karen!

  6. Speckhen says:

    Gertrude Jekyl has a fabulous book on gardening: A Gentle Plea for Chaos. I kid you not!

  7. Speckhen says:

    Crap I’m wrong. That book is Mirabel Osler reflecting on Gertrude Jekyll’s gardening influences, among others. It’s still a great title!

  8. Tina says:

    I had my house built 2 years ago come August. There’s a sort of dirt, unusable area behind the garage that looks like an appropriate place to house old dust bins, bent trellises and the wheelbarrow with a flat tire. But last summer I stuck some spare bulbs in there and a lavender, a couple of extra phlox and some dianthus and something that has huge purple and white flowers, all because they were extra. Now that spring has arrived, I’m amazed at how fabulous it is! So now my big job is to finish it. It looks too carefully planted in a casual pattern to keep doing it casually. It needs work!

  9. You need roses! But get the old roses like the rugosas. Magnifica is an excellent one. They need NO care, they get zero diseases, the leaves are always lush, they don’t care about temperature, and the scent of the blooms is unbelievable. Trust me. I’m the one that told you about the Grow a Little Fruit Tree book…I wouldn’t steer you wrong!

    • Karen says:

      I used to have a Hansa Rugosa which I absolutely LOVED. It was so big it had a *trunk* on it. It eventually died but you’re right, I had no problems with it. Until it died, lol. I haven’t had much luck finding a local supplier of anything other than David Austin roses. I might have to branch out my search. ~ karen!

  10. Megan says:

    Are you doing this all as seeds or will you be getting started plants?

    • Karen says:

      A bit of both. 🙂 I’ve already started many seeds but not all. 2 years ago I started lupins and those are doing really well in the garden this year! Any of the annuals like snapdragons, statice, dianthus etc. I’ve started from seed. ~ karen!

  11. Chris says:

    Before you start I have only two words to say ‘Piet Oudolf’. I’m not swearing at you, Google will explain all.
    And ditch the lawn – mowing, weeding, fetilizing – repeat endlessly. Pavers and more garden.
    And if that fails consider the Sissinghurst look – you already have the white picket fence.
    Love the squirrel!

    • Karen says:

      Beautiful work. But Piet seems to use more grasses and that sort of thing that I would. I’m keeping the lawn. Others stronger than you have tried to talk me out of it, lol. I like the look and feel. I’ll give it one more shot at rejuvenation. ~ karen!

  12. Jack Barr says:

    When are you thatching the roof?

  13. Tracey says:

    You are freaking hilarious! It’s a good thing I wasn’t drinking my coffee upon reading that or it would have came out my nose. Good luck with that project. Keep us updated. I’m sure it will be the jewel of your street. P.S.-Do you really have a wind helmet?

  14. Krista says:

    What is this weed rod thou speaketh of? Please tell me it is magical of nature and all I have to do is say is, “Weeds! You shall not pass!”, and then strike it on the ground and they all disappear! (I probably shouldn’t have watched Lord of the Rings last night before bed). Can’t wait to see how your garden progresses! I am currently in the process of doing the same to my backyard.

    • staci martin says:

      I googled “weed rod”….not what I think she meant. lmao Maybe she meant a “weed wand” from Lee Valley? It looks like a long tube that fits over the weed and then you can directly spray the offending weed with a spray without affecting the surrounding plants/grass.

    • Karen says:

      It’s a weeding tool that squirts water into the base of the weed to make pulling it easier. Good luck with your yard! ~ karen

      • PMMK says:

        We bought a 1.5 acre property that wants to grow nothing but rocks and weeds. I bought a flame thrower at Princess Auto and it does a pretty good job of the weeds. It’s actually easier than all the bending that other non-chemical methods require. One caution, though. If it hasn’t rained in a few days, it’s probably a good idea to keep the hose handy.

        And, I think your rhubarb is thriving in the only ideal spot for a climbing rose. The wall and fence would provide shelter and also act as a heat sink. You know how roses love sun and heat. That’s probably what keeps the black spot off.

        Can’t wait to see pics of the new garden.

        • judy says:

          I think you just saved my sanity,my 81 year old Husband went into the hospital about a year ago and came out bed-ridden and incontinent,needless to say our small front yard full of flowering shrubs,flowers and japanese maples were totally ignored for the next year. A vine took advantage of the lack of care and (I kid you not!) grew over and covered everything,killing many plants in the process. My son finally found the time to spend 2 days pulling it all out with a huge metal rake but not wanting to use poison and seeing this devil plant popping out all over the ground I was ready to weep for a solution. I will now be known as the flame lady and hope it works. Thanks

        • Noreen McKechnie says:

          Love my “flame thrower”from lee Valley. Can’t remember what it is really called but it is great for the garden weeds and the paths.

        • Alena says:

          Thanks for mentioning that. Is it really called ‘flame thrower’ or does it have a specific name? I know my neighbours had an attachment that worked with a propane gas tank (aka your bbq gas tank) – is that what you are talking about? I have been thinking about having to get something similar as my weeds are on steroids.
          Thanks

        • PMMK says:

          It really IS called a flame thrower. And, it really did put a dent in the weeds the past couple of years. I went at them early in the season, like right about this time of year before the no-burn rule goes into effect.

          https://www.princessauto.com/en/detail/500-000-btu-propane-torch-kit/A-p8499188e .

          I’m sure I paid less than $80 for it because I shop sales. I just checked WalMart and their version is $120. We have used it for other things too; like melting ice buildup on the driveway and putting a charred finish on wood.

          You can get a version that you can attach the green gas cylinders that go on a Coleman camping stove but that makes for really expensive fuel. I just carry around a propane BBQ tank (cuz I want arms like Karen’s). Wear gloves. Handsome-Man-Unit offered to engineer a cart for me but it would have been way heavier than the tank. You can just set the tank down awhile if it gets heavy; its hose is plenty long.

          Keep the garden hose handy. Please don’t ask me why I know this.

  15. Marilyn says:

    Wind helmet. Lol

  16. Tammy says:

    Hope to see some of those awesome Dahlias as well! Love Love dahlias!

    Have a great weekend

  17. Mim says:

    Karen!!!! Don’t do it! Don’t plant wisteria! You will end up a truly madwoman, hacking away at the roots that take over your entire yard. And heave up your walkway, strangle your plants (and probably that black squirrel) and generally turn eden into an impenetrable thicket of vines. Soon you will find the only solution is to sell your house and move far, far away, being sure no root fragment has attached itself to your boots, just waiting to re-establish itself at your new home.

    Other than the demon wisteria, your plan sounds ducky.

    And yes, what is a weed rod?

    • ronda says:

      i agree!! NO wisteria! my old neighbour planted it at the base of her pergola, and it “climbed” over the fence and strangled the tree in mt backyard. new neighbours tore down the pergola and took out the wisteria as best they could, and pieces of it grew back and started to strangle my lilac! 5 years on and there are STILL bits of it growing!

    • Karen says:

      Hey Mim. I’m not planting wisteria. 🙂 Although I have had it before. I just included it in the list of appropriate flowers for an English Cottage garden. Wisteria is WAY better than trumpet vine though! I had one and found it growing … IN MY DINING ROOM. ~ karen!

  18. Mary C says:

    This is my style. I found a local Facebook group of gardeners and they have given me so many plants that they’re wanted to move or thin. The more crowded an area is, the less weeds to pull. I just bought a hosta that when mature could hide a small child, the picture is even on the tag. Can’t wait to see yours and be jealous. You’re the wicked person who got me into veggies and now I have to go out and tend those assholes all summer.

  19. Jane says:

    I love my Morden roses, names for the research station here in Manitoba.
    I too have an English cottage garden, with no plans or much control over what survives. I am Sooo looking forward to seeing yours.
    P.S. I can’t kill that damn giant kale..

  20. Darlene E Meyers says:

    Thinking about the squirrel…..I hate squirrels

  21. You are way smarter than I Karen but reconsider the sweet peas!
    I planted some about 8 years back from seed. They were stunning. The grew like crazy and flowered like the world would end that fall. The next spring, their seedlings were every where. In the patio cracks and through out the garden.
    The following spring I decided to get rid of them. It took forever to pull the tap roots. Had to use vice grips they were so deep and strong. For the next five years seedlings appeared. Had to get them all before the roots became too strong. Even this year there were a few seedlings!
    A more nicer plant can’t be seen but their beauty is based in evil.
    Or maybe I’m a terrible gardener.

    • Karen says:

      Hi LeeAnne! I have perennial sweet peas already. 🙂 I’ve had them for years. You’re right that they do have tap roots, but I haven’t had a problem with them popping up everywhere. The odd one comes up but not too many. NOTHING like the trumpet vine I once had (which truly should be banned). Maybe you’re a BETTER gardener than me and that’s why you had so many sweet peas, lol. ~ karen!

      • Diane Ward says:

        Perennial sweet peas? Whaaaattt? Where do I get those? I plant a couple packets of annuals every year and get a couple sprouts.
        Ugh. They are so fussy in Calgary! The morning glorys however come up happily everywhere….so now they are my favourite. BTW, my stoopid climbing rose is coming out this year as well. To be replaced with???? Clematis??

      • CoCo Dubai says:

        Trumpet Vine – should be known as Satan’s plant. Can not be killed…

  22. leisa says:

    I read a really nice book called, “A Garden from 100 packets of Seed”. by James Fenton. The basic premis is to choose and plant flower seeds, kind of the way we do with our vegetable gardens. It inspired me to just pick some flower seeds that I like and throw them in to fill some gaps 🙂 Goodluck with your project 🙂

  23. Heather says:

    Thanks for making me laugh this morning. Good luck with your new garden. Something tells me you’re going to get carried away with it. (Which is what we all love about you, of course.) Go easy on yourself, internet friend.

  24. Judith Miley says:

    Composted manure

  25. Lorie says:

    Lee Valley has a water-powered weeder. Would be fun to use on a warm day as you might get wet.

  26. Jody says:

    I don’t disagree you need to get at those dandelions. Personally I find it very satisfying digging up those little ______ (fill in the blank) by the roots.
    I look forward to seeing the Cottagey result.

  27. Marilyn says:

    Weed Rod … so good to know you have one you like! Is it the Lee Valley Dandelion Digger, or Grampa’s Weeder? These are the only two weeders in the LV catalogue that have long handles/rods.

    Karen, you are a brilliant writer and a genius ‘doer’. So grateful that you are willing to pass your vast cache of useful info on to the rest of us.

    • Karen says:

      Hi marilyn! It’s the water based one from Lee Valley. So whichever that one is. 🙂 ~ karen!

      • Marilyn says:

        OK, thanks! I saw that in the catalogue, water-powered weeder, but I didn’t think it was an option.
        Now that I read about it, I can see it is a genius way to extract the entire root system.
        Must give this a try!

  28. Sarah McDonnell says:

    Morning glories and wisteria are the plant versions of a pyramid scheme. But if you plant them in a hole while still in a bucket the can be contained. Too much work for me. But then again, I tie my poorly placed shrubs to the back of a truck and drag them out of the ground to transplant. If they die they are too high maintenance.
    Lavender, lambs ears, dill, bergamot, and thyme. No watering, attracts butterflies. Gardenias in pots at the doors. A bottle tree. Stella Cherry. Sassafras. Poppies.
    Maybe it would be nice to get all the starting from friends and family so that each plant has a history. Sort of a memory garden.

    • Karen says:

      That is a good idea! My neighbours (as I mentioned) have nice gardens. Maybe I”ll see if they’re splitting this year. ~ karen

  29. Jen Mullen says:

    🙂 What a fun read to start the day! More on the evolution of the front garden, please!

  30. Rose says:

    You are brave to show the after pics of the perfect garden that are actually the before pics for your new garden, which will look amazing! The black squirrels have been nuts this year. I had one in my attic that wouldn’t leave. They are digging up my lawn. I think I have grubs. Remember the Ancaster Horticultural plant sale is this Sat.

  31. Kerrill says:

    Task List for English Cottage Garden (Alternate Method)

    Meet English Royal Prince, and convince him to fall in love with me.

    Plan wedding that will captivate the entire world, and require North American television coverage to begin @ 4 am. Optional, create brouhaha over who will escort me down aisle.

    Have prince’s Granny gift us with “cottage,” i.e. small palace as wedding present, complete with platoon of Royal Gardeners to maintain the place.

    This all might a little longer than a couple of weekends.

    • Karen says:

      I disagree. I think I can get that done in exactly 2 weekends. Here we go. Wish me luck! ~ karen

    • Karen says:

      (as an aside I might have to branch out to other lesser known countries for a suitable Prince. Like Listeria. Is there a country called Listeria? I think I might find a prince willing to take me from there) ~ karen!

  32. linda in illinois says:

    I have always tried to have an English Garden theme. Somehow it never does what I want it to do, but every year I try again. I can’t wait to see the outcome of yours.

  33. Jenny says:

    I love English cottage gardens. My husband, not so much–he thinks they look cluttered and untidy. *eye roll* We live in suburbia and our flower beds are so boring–day lillies, hostas, irises, salvia, and some (admittedly great) purple geraniums, all in no particular plan, planted by the previous owners. Oh, and with empty spots where the various rose bushes have died (roses are a challenge in North Iowa). I want to redo our flower beds but I am just so overwhelmed by the idea of figuring out what to plant and where.

  34. Your front lawn proves that you REALLY are a human, and not the original Goddess of the Home whose true name has been lost to history.

    OMG, there is hope for us mortals.

    Please keep us updated with daily photos. It would give us courage.

  35. Amy Watson says:

    I love an English cottage garden, I have a tri level brick Spanish style home on 2 acres surrounded by woods house has black hand wrought iron accents, so I will garden vicariously through you. I can’t wait to see it.

  36. tangeria says:

    Apparently I have been working toward an English Cottage garden for the last few years, with no real plan to do so. I just have really poor impulse control when plant shopping, a feeling that more is always better and an overwhelming love for old fashioned flowers.

  37. karen says:

    I totally approve of your plant list! I do have some other suggestions if they generally grow well in your zone: moon flower vine (climber that blooms at night and smells great), nasturtiums which are edible and good for both you and your chickens, chinese yard long beans which are climbers and 2 beans give you a whole meal. I will be growing yard long beans on my coop this year to give the chickens a little extra shade. I also plant members of the mint family in pots around my chicken coops as they help repel insects (mint, lemon balm, cat nip / cat mint).

  38. Thandi Welman says:

    AMPUTATED TURTLES???

  39. Jo says:

    Wasn’t going to weigh in with this because you seemed resolved to No roses…but a later comment suggested you Might be open if the right one came along… I think Jane is right about the Morden Manitoba roses. They are also known as the Explorer series as they’re named after, um, you guessed it, exploreres. My dark pink John Cabot rose did fabulously well for 10 years (intertwined with a purple clematis) reaching up and over a pergola (full sun) here in my Zone 5b garden on the shore of Lake Simcoe. When I moved to an apartment, I bought another and put one in a pot (one of those big copper wash buckets really) on my north-west facing balcony (so only partial sun) and it’s been going great for 3+ years now with 6′ of growth and nothing special in terms of care except water and compost. No problems at all and masses of blooms and rosehips when I let them develop. They’re built for our winters and laugh in the face of snow, ice, wind and our other big problems – freeze/thaw cycles. Highly recommended if you want to give roses another go.
    Still, looking forward to see what you do! Happy gardening.
    Oh – one more suggestion – sweet autumn clematis – flowers allover with masses of tiny white flowers in late late summer/autumn – a glorious vine with beautiful flowers at a time when everything else vertical is done.

  40. YoungJin CHOI says:

    I highly recommend the English cottage garden – which mine might meet the description – it is mainly perennials with the occasional potted succulent and annual. I find that since the plantings are so close together that the maintenance is next to nothing. Plus then I can jam in alot of plants, so there is something blooming each month.!
    (Attached is a pic of my front door bed.)

  41. sarajane says:

    HI Karen,

    Delurking to point you to “Buck” roses – they were developed to survive Iowa winters by ISU professor Griffith Buck. I had all kinds of roses die in my Illinois garden (damn you, David Austen!), but I’ve had a Buck climbing rose on my fence for the past 4 years and we are going to have to give it a severe lopping this year, as its taking over the yard/rest of the English garden.

  42. Mary W says:

    I ADORE your grass covered with dandylions! I didn’t even see the squirrel as my eyes were devouring the lush green grass with those amazing yellow balls of wonder. Had to go back and see what commenters were talking about and think that the real magic would happen when the tiny parasols were released to the wind in magical white streams of happiness. Yeah I did see some dead plants but that grass! and those great free vegetable greens just waiting for munching. Now that my shock is over at getting rid of all that – I simply adore English gardens – the best of all gardens – and since my own back/front door is being uprooted in a driveway concrete enhancement, I can concentrate a new tiny area to that very thing – my dream garden in just a few feet of space and you are here to help. HURRAY! for concrete enhancement. Now how to hide the family garbage cans at my front/back door. I have a mother-in-law suite at the back of my daughters home and share the cement walkway attached to the driveway with their back door into the garage AND the garbage cans. Lovely welcome site. I don’t care but a pretty English garden would certainly divert attention. Can’t wait for your update with lots of pictures and steps. Appreciate all that considering the garden plots you are caring for.

  43. Denise Potter says:

    This is a random question, but I have observed that you can generally provide the answer to many plant related questions (or possibly your readers can). Years ago, I planted allium. For a few years it was great and then pretty much quit blooming. But, it didn’t die but instead has reproduced beyond reason. I try every year to dig out those darned white onions but it isn’t working. Does anyone have a solution?

  44. Paula says:

    Done in 2 weekends? Are you on crack? Did you forget that next weekend is Christie???

  45. Rockelle says:

    Haha! You really are great Karen! Thanks for being you!

  46. Caroline says:

    My battle with weeds got nipped in the bud last month. I have a back yard veg garden and a 3 yr birthing of a cottage garden in the front. This yr I put all my perennial herbs in the front so I can use one of the back beds as a nursery
    Back to THE WEEDS. In a 2 gal sprayer I pour white vinegar. Spray directly onto the weed, even those tiny spreading one, being careful not to spray anything but the weeds. Choose a sunny day with no chance of rain. By the next day the weeds will be mushy, black and dead.
    I carefully spray the top of the wood surrounds (very low pressure from the sprayer) of the beds. That keeps the squirrels from digging up my young herbs. Watch and respray the wood every few days til the herbs are established or the squirrels have given up.
    A friend grew stupendously floriferous roses..any kind…She all but spit at them. How did they thrive? Of course she fertilized and watered in dry times, BUT she cut those suckers down to about 18″ about June..every yr! Without fail. I did that to one of my knockout roses last yr. It worked!
    This year I’m going to do that to my little re-claimed fairy rose.
    Good luck, Karen. I know you’ll meet the challenges. Looking forward to the results.

    • Karen says:

      Vinegar is a great weed killer! I’m afraid to use it in the middle of my lawn. I’m not a great shot. 😉 There’s also a recipe with vinegar, epson salts and dish soap. I’ve never tried that one but I have used vinegar to good results. Sometimes takes a couple of applications for really big dandelions. ~ karen!

  47. Jill Ackerman says:

    Your pending reality is, alas, only my dream. We live close to a conservation area from where 5 deer come to our lawns to lie down and relax after a feast of our entire supply of Hosta, followed by a good poop. Canadian deer obviously are not as appreciative of a beautiful garden as British deer. Sigh………..

    • Karen says:

      I was just talking with relatives last night about all the plants they’ve lost to deer. I think I’m the only one who doesn’t have a problem with deer using their front yard as a salad bar. ~ karen!

  48. Kristina says:

    It’s going to be lovely, and I’m sitting here feeling jealous in thirsty California, where it’s all sage this and yarrow that. One thing I noticed in the gardens I visited this winter in the UK was that the really nice ones had some sort of winter interest — branches in pretty shapes or colors, evergreen plants, and I imagine in your part of the world that would include plants that look pretty covered in snow. Have fun.

    • Karen says:

      Absolutely. I should definitely have some sort of evergreen but I don’t want to give up the space, lol. Maybe a few boxwood. 😉 ~ karen!

  49. gigi says:

    Well, well, well. I thought I recognized that huge rhubarb and remember your tease about a Cottage Garden. Let’s roll back the tape to August 2015.
    I have been a reader for many, many years and follow with bated breath; anxious from the title of your post, through til the last comment. Amazed at 98% of the escapades you tackle with such aplomb, style, enthusiasm and always, success.
    It was after reading your “front yard garden 2015” column about Beyoncifying your garden, that I finally accomplished a MiniKaren! My life was changed.
    Whereas, I not only purchased the tools and necessary items for a project ala Karen, I USED them. Correctly. Yet with some trepidation. These plants weren’t going to just sit there mocking me, as some purchases have previously. I assume that you are not like that. You never suffer from a purchase that emboldens you to make a change, yet the fear of failure of said project prohibits you from ever getting started. You do your research, eat some chips, arm yourself with what you need, pull up your boots, fluff your hair, aim your camera, then dive in, headfirst, cocksure, bold, confident and hilariously successful. I have long marveled at what you have tackled, and always wish I had some of the strength and courage that you possess. Ok, this is getting sappy. The point is, I would never be as hilarious, charming or gregarious as you, but if I attempted something you had accomplished, I’d be a little closer to being a confident DIYer. So, I jumped in with my attempt at cottage gardening. You sowed the seeds of a monster. Gardening is ADDICTIVE. I have to hide my seed stash from my husband, it’s embarrassing. I keep on adding more and more curvy beds and clumpy gardens. We have a rule, I don’t mess with HIS square veggie garden. Period. That’s his rule. I also have an older, experienced gardening neighbor who constantly tells me my tomatoes and cucumbers do not belong in a flower bed, should be in rows, and my plants are wayyyyyyy to close together to be able to enjoy each one separately. I just nod my head, tell her I’m still learning, and think of you, my Ninja Garden Master.

  50. Zala says:

    I would love to seea step by step post. Been wanting to plan(t) it for ages but it terrifies me.

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