Cottage garden for our climate

shallot(7a)June 24, 2013

We are planning to extend the flowerbed out in front of our house. I am hoping to plant the one long bed in a sort of english cottage garden style. (I can't help it, I am english!)

However, many of the typical cottage garden flowers I believe are not suited for our climate here in OK (lupines, sweet peas, foxgloves, etc). I am hoping that you knowledgeable folks will be able to offer me some alternative suggestions on flowers we could grow there that would do well in our climate. The only one we have planned so far is hollyhocks so all suggestions are welcome!

Some caveats:
- The house faces west so gets morning shade and afternoon sun.
- We will be trying to grow everything from seed to keep costs down.
- We would prefer the bulk of the flowers to be perennials if possible.

Thanks in advance for any suggestions!

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You could try coneflowers (echinacea), guara, coreopsis, lambs ear, day lilies, yarrow, gaillardia, agapanthus, peony, dianthus, volcano phlox, creeping phlox, shata daisy, sedum and many many others!

I hope this helps!!

    Bookmark   June 24, 2013 at 3:51PM
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Lisa H. will probably chime in - she's a flower-grower, for sure.

Two thoughts, though: 1) Don't forget your perennial herbs, and possibly some native grasses for height and interest, and 2) Did you know that there's a Cottage Garden Forum on Gardenweb? I didn't, but there is! Perhaps there are some other English "transplants" or cottage garden lovers on there that can help you with the heat/drought issue.


    Bookmark   June 24, 2013 at 5:54PM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

This is from a Springfield MO park and I think it is called the English garden with plants that can take our climate.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2013 at 6:07PM
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Hi Shallot! I would say I prefer a more cottage garden look, too, although I'm not quite there yet with my newer garden. IMHO, it's more about the fullness, the textures, the variety and diversity to make it more cottage-y, and not necessarily the exact plants, that make it feel "right." Now, I have not been to England so I cannot say that my feeling is exactly what you are looking for, but that's my two cents.

My goals when creating our garden were four-season interest, flowers, textures, and as little bare space (for weeds and grass to infiltrate) as possible. I've got evergreen shrubs, flowering shrubs, grasses, flowering perennials, bulbs, and groundcovers all working together. I'll post some photos from my phone shortly, and you will see that lots of things need to grow bigger to fill their spots to get me that "cottage" look, but I'll list some things that do well for me here in OKC. I did want to note two things - when I've grown perennials from seed they always seem harder than annuals and often take two years to flower, and you should make plans now to attend our next Spring Fling so that we can get you divisions to fill up your garden! Pass-along plants are the best, but I have learned to do a little research because I love to garden but am a lazy gardener, so if something wants to take over I do not take the time to keep plucking out extras, or digging too many divisions, etc. Lesson learned with pink phlox - I love it, and almost bought more last weekend, but it really LOVED our flowerbed too much and wanted to be the only thing that lived there.

I've got evergreen hollies, Indian Hawthorn, boxwood and nandinas (standard for height and nana/firepower for dwarf) as my "evergreen shrub" base - I rely on these for winter when most everything else is blah. Working to expand my range here. I have a few rosebushes (one a miniature pink and one a climbing yellow and one a carpet rose) that have stayed mostly green all winter, too.

Grasses: Mexican feather grass/ponytails is a favorite, as is blue fescue, bunny tails and a few others I don't know there names. These also help for winter interest; some stay alive year round and some die back or turn yellow but still give texture. I have a huge crop of monkey grass in the backyard - it's mostly evergreen here, but it is one of those plants that wants to dominate. Every five years or so it needs to be divided severely or you will have a monkey grass crop and nothing else. I grew the ponytails and the blue fescue from seeds - easy but slow to get good-sized.

Perennials/bulbs: lamb's ear, dianthus (pinks), artemesia stay semi-evergreen for me. Perennial lantana, May Night salvia, chrysanthemums (pinch if you want these to bloom in the fall, or be lazy like me and they will bloom right about now), liatris. Sharing plants like peonies, daffodils, daylilies, irises, oriental lilies, naked lady lilies are good to get from divisions/thinnings from other gardeners. Lamb's ear and artemisia, too. Others that I've grown from seed are shasta daisies and gaillardia and coreopsis.

Flowering shrubs: hydrangeas, because they are my favorite flower. I've never made a successful cutting, but that doesn't mean it can't be done if you are patient. Crape myrtles, for their summer flower-power.

Groundcovers: golden moneywort and autumn sedum and ice plant. These are all good to share, too.

Annuals, cuz sometimes you have to wait for your perennials to fill in: Coleus is my favorite to grow from seed - easy, gets fairly large, and I've grown in part sun with pretty good success. They sell a sun coleus but I've never grown it from seed - the nursery plants did fine in the sun. Lantana annual overwinters for me with some mulch. Sweet potato vine for a riot of chartreuse color or deep eggplant color with very little money - these root readily so I buy one plant of each and make cuttings. In the hot summer, you can cut the growing tips and about 6 inches of stem, stick 'em in a cup of water on the porch and in a week they'll be rooty and ready to pot up. Lots of water at first.

I'm just getting into propagating from cuttings and finding it's really not much harder than growing from seed. Mist, mist,
mist! That helps the budget stretch for sure.

I would consider your location "full sun" when you are trying to find things to work. Even though there is morning shade, the vigor of our western sun more than makes up for it and if you put any part-shade things in, I think you'll find them fried to a crisp.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2013 at 6:37PM
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Needs about two years growth to reach cottage state, I'd say.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2013 at 6:40PM
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And the other side...

    Bookmark   June 24, 2013 at 6:41PM
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Oh, oh, I can help : ) I'm walking out the door at this exact minute, but I will come back.


You don't happen to live anywhere near OKC, do you?


    Bookmark   June 24, 2013 at 8:36PM
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Wow, thanks for the advice everyone, I really appreciate it.
Mia, your fronyard is lovely! I had hoped to come to the spring fling this year but we were attending a wedding that day. I will go through everyone's comments and make notes this evening.

I like the look of the park in Springfiled. Is that some kind of sage in the back?

Susan, I live on the north side of Norman, so not too far from OKC. I look forward to seeing your comments when you have time.

When we moved in the front bed was just two lleylandii, which I got rid of quickly. Now it has one lonely coleus, one ahlf-hearted hollyhock, a few baby zinnia spouts, and that is it. But I have high hopes for next year! I take solace that we have done a lot of work in the backyard, so I feel less bad about neglecting the front yard so far!

    Bookmark   June 24, 2013 at 9:30PM
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Shallot, my wife and I are knew to this climate (southern Oklahoma), 'though we're not new to the US by any means. Our garden is only a couple of years old, and half of that was spent in prep work. It's all been acomplished on a shoestring budget, as well.

In our two front flower beds, each 6' by 15', I first used tall bearded irises (Gifted to us. Long story.) to fill things in while I waited to plant things that might fit best within the overall design. This year, we've added a dozen old-fashioned day lilies, ten hollyhocks, over seventy daffodils for early spring color, two butterfly bushes to fill in the middles and add some color and texture, half a dozen blazing stars, a couple of coneflowers, several dozen alyssum for the borders, plus a dozen gladiolus by the walkway. There are also several dozen alliums hidden away in there, somewhere, storing energy for next year. It's all far from mature at the moment but it'll give you a few ideas. If we have any empty spots later on, I might ad a couple or three vinca minor (periwinkle) plants for more summer color.

These beds face almost directly West and are within a few steps of the street.

For the overall design, I borrowed a little from the concept of the old English cottage gardens while using a formal layout and over all design. In the end, everything will be overplanted and a bit overgrown in the entire garden, spilling into the walkways and paths.

In the bed directly in front of the house, also facing west, we are primarily using roses and lavender to fill in a 6' by 40' feet front flower bed. At the moment, we also have a few herbs and sweet potatoes trying valiantly to fill in the empty spots in those beds.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2013 at 10:08PM
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Shallot, I'm currently harboring two peony divisions from the lovely Lisa, as we live near each other in north okc. I work downtown so am sure we can arrange a division meeting in the fall!

    Bookmark   June 24, 2013 at 10:31PM
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Okay, I took pictures and I am in the process of uploading them to my photo bucket account. There are a LOT of them :) but you can flip through. You can also see a history, because I have several years worth of the same shots in that directory.

Salvias are wonderful for Oklahoma. The autumn sage salvias make a good "bush". The annual blue sages are perennial for me. You can grow them from seed. There are a number of red salvias that will get pretty tall and will self seed.

Verbena bonariensis is a wonderful cottage garden self seeder.

Malva zebrina is a miniature version of hollyhocks.

Belamcanda can give you iris type leaves and interesting flowers and seed heads.

Walkers Low nepeta does really well in west facing, well drained beds.

Perennial lantana is a great plant. It will give you blooms in the late summer when not much else does.

You should think about adding some butterfly host plants. Raising butterflies are a lot of fun.

Check out the wintersowing forum and the seed exchange forum. I got soooo many seeds from the seed exchange forum. Many people will send seeds for a self addressed stamped envelope. Wintersowing is a great way to start a lot of different flowers. It is a lot more successful than direct sowing.

I can save you some seeds...send me your mailing address and I will see what I can gather. I'm already saving a few for someone else :)

Here is a link that might be useful: Yard Shots

    Bookmark   June 24, 2013 at 11:40PM
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OOHHH, I forgot perennial hibiscus! I have the tall version and I added a few of the "disco belle" series which should be shorter.

    Bookmark   June 24, 2013 at 11:43PM
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Shallot...if you are ever planning on being on the north side of me. You can come see my gardens in person. They are not the neatest beds in the world, but you can see things growing in real life ;)

    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 12:01AM
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Lisa's gardens are gorgeous! Anything else she says... she is understating the whole thing. :)


    Bookmark   June 25, 2013 at 4:40PM
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Now I have had time to sit down and look through the photos, Lisa, your yard is so beautiful! You must work very hard to keep it looking so great.

I love the annual salvias. That is one thing we plan on putting in for sure. I bought some 'blue monday' salvia at the Norman master gardens that is planted in the backyard. I guess it is an annual too. The chaste tree is so pretty! One of our neighbors has one in their front yard and I have been admiring it and wondering what it is.

I will have to go through everyone's suggestions more carefully when I plan to but seeds (probably in early fall in the sales). Lisa I will let you know the next time we come up to OKC, I would love to see your gardens in person.

My one lone hollyhock that survived growing from seed last winter and is out in the front yard is finally flowering today! I feel so accomplished, LOL.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 2:50PM
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helenh(z6 SW MO)

The blue flower with gray foliage in the other photo I posted is Russian sage. I buy them on sale when they are half price. I always check the sale plants at Lowe's. The Joplin Lowe's is good to check in fall about the time stores get Christmas trees in and that is November I think.

This is also from Close Memorial/Nathanael Greene Park Springfield MO which may have a somewhat less severe climate than OK but not the last two years. Gardeners in NE OK could drive to Springfield to see it and not be disappointed. Click my photo and it will go to photobucket where there are more pictures.

    Bookmark   July 1, 2013 at 3:15PM
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They are Longin Russian Sage. I actually just got 4 of them this weekend at Lowe's for $2.50 a plant. They are perennials too, which makes them even better!

    Bookmark   July 2, 2013 at 10:16AM
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Those sages are so pretty! I will keep an eye on the sale at Lowe's. Normally the local Lowe's (Norman) does not seem to have good sales. Maybe I just don't go there often enough and miss the good stuff.

I went to the end of season sale at Ellison's seed and feed (in Norman) yesterday and got a bit carried away, so our front garden is now a little more populated than before. I tried to get perennials, or things I think/hope we can manage to overwinter inside. The sale was very cheap!

I got and planted out today a lantana 'trailing lavender', a salvia farinacea 'rhea', a salvia greggii 'apricot', a white disco belle hibiscus, a Mexican bush sage 'santa barbara' and an unlabeled geranium. So our cottage garden has begun taking shape! I will take some pictures once everything has grown in a bit. Now it has more plants in, I realize that the space is smaller than I had thought. I had to move some zinnias just to get the perennials in!

I also got some ornamental peppers 'purple flash', 'black pearl', and 'chilly chili'. They are not for the front yard and will stay in containers. I think the purple flash might be the prettiest plant I have ever owned. Will try and get a picture of it.

    Bookmark   July 12, 2013 at 12:41PM
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Okiedawn OK Zone 7


That was a nice haul of plants you got at the end of season sale. I have purple flash and black pearl in my garden every year, and sometimes tri-variegata as well. Some years I raise them from seed, but often I never really get around to starting the seed, and then it is okay because volunteers sprout from self-sown seed from the previous year's plants. This year the purple flash ones sprouted in an area not covered with floating row cover in April and they froze, but I have plenty of black pearl and tri-variegata. Some of the tri-variegata volunteers didn't pop up out of the ground until mid-June this year.


    Bookmark   July 12, 2013 at 2:51PM
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