Saturday, March 15, 2008

Our Cottage Garden

This is what I would like our garden to look like.

This book, The Cottage Gardener’s Companion, paints an idyllic picture of the typical English Cottage Garden:

“… where there is a feeling of freedom and exuberance, leisure and opportunity to potter, to water, to contemplate. … Flowers, vegetables and fruit are mingled together in the epitome of the cottage garden, where bounty may be gathered at every season. The cottage gardener makes salads, apple jelly, herbal medicine, plum and damson jam from her garden; there is even something in midwinter when parsnips and turnips, brussels sprouts and leeks come into their own.”

Oh, if only that were so. This cottage garden has some of those things. There are fruit trees - a cherry tree, with bitter morello cherries that the birds love. I make pies and cherry sauce, if I can pick them before the birds eat them. There are two little espalier apple trees, which last summer produced a lot of fruit (more pies and crumble) and there is a plum tree that produced so much that it was rotting on the tree before I could pick them all.

There are some flowers – the primroses are doing really well, so well that I've put a photo of some of them on the blog header. There is a climbing rose that seems to be dying, maybe because of my efforts at pruning, despite reading “Pruning” in the Garden Guides series and any other books on pruning that I can find. I’m doing something wrong, but what I don’t know. I’ve managed to plant and grow a lovely camellia - that had an abundance of flowers last year and a fuchsia that was quite tall and spindly, but it did have some flowers. The other plant that does well, however I mangle it with my pruning is a potentilla, covered in yellow flowers for most of last summer. And the aubretia spreads itself all over the wall in the front garden whatever I do to it – it’s just starting to flower now.

We have a rambling honeysuckle growing up the fence, mingling in with a berberis, which has shiny red berries later in the year, privet and a rampant Russian vine, which threatens to swamp everything. There are violets and aquilegia which self-seed and appear in different places in the garden. There are other plants as well, shrubs and bushes that I occasionally prune back and trees – a flowering cherry tree, a pussy willow and a couple of conifers.

But the plant that grows really well in our garden is the bindweed – it gets everywhere. We have a good amount of ivy as well, growing up the fences and throttling whatever it can find. Just now it is beginning to pop up through the soil. I wish we could eradicate it completely!

I went out this morning to try to take control and did some pruning, whether I’ve killed more plants remains to be seen. I noticed that the daffodils and tulips are coming on nicely, the bluebells in the front garden are coming up well, and there is a new little holly that has planted itself in one of the borders. The rosemary bush looks strong and healthy; it grows vigorously and I always have to chop it back.

We like herbs and in the past have failed to grow basil – not enough sun here I suppose, even the basil I buy in a pot and keep on the kitchen windowsill doesn’t do very well! We had sage and mint in pots on the patio, but as they’ve got very straggly and thin we decided to start again and yesterday went to a garden centre where we bought some pots of thyme, sage, flat leaf parsley and mint. We also bought a rhubarb plant, as I do like it. I hope these will survive.


Anonymous said...

What a beautiful fresh, spring post. There is a lovely wind blowing today (hopefully blowing winter away), so that I also can tidy up the garden. I love your blog and find it truly inspirational. Thank you. Kim

BooksPlease said...

Kim, nice to hear from you and thank you for your kind words. Unfortunately it's wet and windy here today and I'm very much a fair weather gardener!

stefanie said...

Bindweed grows nicely in my garden too but it's the creeping Charlie and the Virginia creeper that we can't seem to get rid of. I won't get to plant anything until May. Sigh.

Susan said...

I'm trying to grow a cottage garden too, but since I've had to begin with a blank space of dirt, it's been slow going. So far I have perennials - one peony, one rose bush, to see how they grow - lots of daylilies, phlox, and assorted others - and I dream of having a rambling garden like the book you picture on this entry! I am so envious you can even get into your garden, although you have been having a rotten wet spring so far (according to my in-laws in Essex) - i have 4 feet of snow on top of mine! the test will be when the snow melts, to see what survived, especially the roses. anyhow, your entry reminded me spring is coming soon! and I love that you enjoy the same kind of garden that I do. Your garden sounds wonderful, too.

BooksPlease said...

Stefanie, I haven't heard of Creeping Charlie. We also have ground elder, which spreads even if you leave just a tiny piece in the ground. I looked them up at Wikipedia and it seems you can use both these plants as herbs!

Susan,4 feet of snow on top of your garden! I hope your plants have survived. Peonies are quite temperamental - at least I've found they are and one I planted some years ago couldn't survive a hard frost. It has been wet here but now snow, so far. More heavy rain is forecast later this week.