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Cottage Garden Newbie! *advice please?*

Posted by Dovetail 6b (My Page) on
Tue, Aug 6, 13 at 16:56

Hello Everyone! I love the look of cottage gardens, but I've never lived somewhere I was able to have one.

I would love some advice setting up my yard. I've been working slowly with what I can afford and find. However, I just made a new full sun bed and I'm so excited to fill it up!

The bed is ~2' deep *from patio to wood* should I make it deeper? I can't make it any wider *house to edge of patio*

Off the right of the image I have a rock trimmed bed with Russian Sage, Catmint and Veronica and another bed along that same side with yellow and fuchsia daylilies. These plants are all just next to each other since those beds are rather small (I'd like to make expand them or fill them in with something?)

I used the wood as a trim, but my land lord has some synthetic shale that I could maybe use to make a rounder more curved border. The wood nearest the foreground will be moved for another bed.

I want to add some dirt to level the ground but it's been raining so much I haven't had the chance.

The shrub that's there was here when we moved in, so I just went around it.

Here are the flowers I have slated to buy so far <3:

Fritillaria Purple Bell Michailovskii:
Mid spring 6-8" (5 Bulbs)

Spanish Bluebells:
Mid - late spring 16-20" (10 Bulbs)

Allium Moly -
Late spring to early summer 12-16" (25 Bulbs)

Monsier Jules Elie Peony:
Late spring to early summer 32-34" (1 3/5 eye clump)

Yellow Narcissus:
Early Spring (maybe? moving them from a shade spot because they didn't bloom)

Lily Of The Valley:
If enough shade is created 8"-9" (maybe in that terra cottage container in the foreground. Please don't harp, I love how they smell!)

I also have some Hollyhock coming from the seed exchange woo!

So what do you all think? Are these nice "cottage" type flowers? and I wonder what sort of positions I should put them in to get that meandering "wild" look.

This post was edited by Dovetail on Tue, Aug 6, 13 at 17:58


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: Cottage Garden Newbie! *advice please?*

Always make a bed bigger than you think you want. Consider making a curved bed from that gray square thingy to the corner of the patio. You can fill the beds with annuals until you accumulate plants.
Kathy
And welcome to this forum. Everyone here is wonderful.
What part of the country are you in.


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RE: Cottage Garden Newbie! *advice please?*

I live in S.W Missouri near "come here to die" Branson.

My husband keeps complaining about "road blocks" but I just figure it's less for him to mow!


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RE: Cottage Garden Newbie! *advice please?*

Congratulations on having acquired a home with space to garden and welcome to Garden Web. You have gotten a good start on your garden bed, but as it currently is, you don't have enough depth to plant more than a single line of plants, so I would make it at least 4 feet wide if not wider. That will give you enough depth to have at least a couple of plants deep in many places and therefore have something of interest all along the garden for much of the year. If you decide to make the edges curve, help prevent DH having something else to complain about by making any curves lawnmower friendly so that he can mow easily along the edge from either direction. I'd also suggest a buried edging of some sort so that grass doesn't invade the beds. It will make maintenance easier. Check out winter sowing as a way to get new perennials inexpensively to help fill out the beds, and use mulch between plants to prevent weeds until the perennial plants get large enough.

A couple points to consider on the plants:
Around here red lily beetles eat lilies and Fritillaria, so check to be sure that it isn't a problem in your part of the country before ordering Fritillaria.

I don't want to carp, but lily of the valley can be enjoyed without being allowed to grow loose in a general perennial bed. I'd plant it inside a large diameter plastic pot with the bottom cut out and set in the bed up to the rim to serve as a root barrier. That way you can enjoy the scent and the flowers without cursing the plant for its overly enthusiastic spreading tendencies further down the road.

You have a nice selection of spring to early summer flowers, and probably want to add some flowers for later in the summer and into fall. You may want some small flowering shrubs to give some structure for when the perennials freeze back in late autumn and winter, or add a trellis tower/obelisk for vines.

Another thing to think about which might add to the cottage feel would be a tree with flowers that could add shade to the patio so you can enjoy it even in hot weather. It need not be in the bed, but should be where it will give shade when you are most likely to be wanting to use the patio.

Enjoy the process! Gardens are always open for revision and so if you don't like things the way they are, you can always change things.


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RE: Cottage Garden Newbie! *advice please?*

You've gotten some great suggestions from the above posters. I can't encourage you enough to go with a curved edge for your bed rather than straight/linear. Prior to planting any of my beds I asked my ND neighbor (who mows both lawns) which was easier to mow, a straight or curved edge. He didn't hesitate to say curved.

The suggestions that you enlarge the bed are good ones--none of my beds are less than 6 ft. wide. You're planting a cottage garden rather than just designing a border/edging for the patio, yes?

You might want to rethink your chosen plants as mentioned in the above posts. Lily of the Valley spreads by runners & develops roots like Brillo pads--I actually asked my neighbor to dig up the LOTV growing here with his backhoe & dump it down in the woods behind the house. There are so many other, better-behaved perennials, many of which can be grown from seed rather than purchased at a nursery. Also check out the winter sowing forum here on GardenWeb. I filled all my perennial beds with lush, healthy perennials & shrubs grown from seed for mere pennies in just under three years.

You may want to rethink the allium--it's been my experience the foliage goes brown and floppy well before the flowers bloom. I wasn't pleased with the overall look of it in my garden. I rely on Hellebore/Lenten rose, pulmonaria/lungwort, Polemonium/Jacob's ladder, Aquilegia/columbine and Dicentra spectabilis/bleeding heart for early-season color.

A tip with the peony--be sure you plant it at the same depth it's growing in its container. Plant it even slightly deeper and chances are good you won't see flowers on it. Ask me how I know this to be true.

Good luck & have fun!


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RE: Cottage Garden Newbie! *advice please?*

Keep that lily of the valley contained is my advice. We had it at our old house but it was kept in check by a lawn (mowing down any that tried to creep out-and they did). That house is now a rental-my DH called me from there this spring asking what those flowers were by the driveway because the tenants wanted to know. I told him lily of the valley and tell them not to move any outside of where they are please (they are gardening and we told them they are free to do so).

Now I'm cursed with it here. It's WELL established and invading several beds. I'm not sure if I hate it more or equal to the Japanese Quince, but although I love the scent I would be quite happy if it was never planted here! And where it is, I doubt I'll ever completely rid myself of it, so I just have to yank tons every year-or destroy old, well established shrubs to remove it via backhoe (oh how I'd love to just scoop it all away). I probably will pot some if I ever find a way to rid myself of it to keep a little around, as long as they can't escape through the holes in the bottom of the pot!


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RE: Cottage Garden Newbie! *advice please?*

Keep that lily of the valley contained is my advice. We had it at our old house but it was kept in check by a lawn (mowing down any that tried to creep out-and they did). That house is now a rental-my DH called me from there this spring asking what those flowers were by the driveway because the tenants wanted to know. I told him lily of the valley and tell them not to move any outside of where they are please (they are gardening and we told them they are free to do so).

Now I'm cursed with it here. It's WELL established and invading several beds. I'm not sure if I hate it more or equal to the Japanese Quince, but although I love the scent I would be quite happy if it was never planted here! And where it is, I doubt I'll ever completely rid myself of it, so I just have to yank tons every year-or destroy old, well established shrubs to remove it via backhoe (oh how I'd love to just scoop it all away). I probably will pot some if I ever find a way to rid myself of it to keep a little around, as long as they can't escape through the holes in the bottom of the pot!


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RE: Cottage Garden Newbie! *advice please?*

Thank you all so much for the advice! I'll try to get my thoughts in order:

plantmaven - I like the idea of using a curved bed! and I do agree making it bigger would be a good idea.

nhbabs - My husband appreciates your consideration :) I think I might make one edge of the bed a deeper 6' and then curve it around to a narrower 4' or so?

I can't wait to do some winter sowing, I haven't looked at the forum yet, but it seems like a great way to get plants! I do know some plants take a couple of years to bloom though?

I do agree that the LOV should stay contained, maybe I can find some cute mismatched pots for it. I love the idea of burying the pot too !

We have terrible Japanese beetles, and elder bugs but I haven't seen many other insects. I do use Neem Oil, but I know it doesn't work for all things. There are two flowering trees off the right side of the image, but they're still tiny yet, maybe a couple years old.

gardenweed- Yes, I'd like a garden, I do agree that the way it is now looks more like a border. I'd like to extend the other two beds as well and maybe connect them (aside from where the entrance is)

I do agree that I'll keep the lily potted, It can hang out the pots to it's heart content though, I adore the smell of them and the tiny white flowers. I'm partial to bell shaped flowers it seems.

Thank you so much for the advice on the Allium! I only have so much to spend and I'd hate to waste on something that wouldn't show well.

I've heard Peonys are horridly picky, but they are SO PRETTY *-* I have a store I've seen down the road with one growing outside the back by the ally with lovely white flowers and I'm going to see if they'll let me divide it. (it's starting to grow under their foundation and is horridly shrubby looking)

eclecticcottage - Zone Buddy!! <3
I will contain the lily! I have 2 pips I planted in a bed with a divider, but I've since read the roots can run as deep as 12" so I'm going to repot it. I think maybe mismatched pots in a similar color would be fun?

I went out last night and took a bunch of hefty rocks from the river near my house. I know I'll need more, but I thought it'd make a nice bed border without having to pay a lot of money.


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RE: Cottage Garden Newbie! *advice please?*

Get your mower out and push it in a curve that works well for that mower. Then make your bed inside the mower path.


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RE: Cottage Garden Newbie! *advice please?*

I agree on the curved beds, I have a few that are straight that I might curve later.

As far as getting plants....

We started off with about the same non existant gardens as you are two years ago!

We've gone to a plant swap the past two years, that's been wonderful for adding to the plants. The one we go to doesn't require you bring anything fancy or even a certain amount, it's not a plant for plant exchange, which helps a LOT for newbies that don't have much to share.

I also hunted craigslist and freecycle for free plants. We had to dig most of them, but I've got some nice, well established plants that way.

I direct sowed some annuals both years, things like zinnia and cosmos. There are a few sellers on ebay that sell pretty good quantites of seed for .99/pack (or that area) and will combine shipping.

I hit up roadside/craigslist plant sales from other gardeners splitting their stuff, usually cheaper than the garden centers.

I found a few local nurseries that sell perennials cheaper than most (like $3 pots), and one that had $2 4/pack cell packs this spring. The $3 pots are smaller (quarts?) so they aren't instant like the gallons, but are much more economical. It took a little looking around, the one doesn't even have a webpage much less a website, but they are awesome.

Another option is to find a garden club, and see if any members can share. Even if not, a lot of the local clubs here have plant sales.


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RE: Cottage Garden Newbie! *advice please?*

Get your mower out and push it in a curve that works well for that mower. Then make your bed inside the mower path.


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RE: Cottage Garden Newbie! *advice please?*

Dovetail,
I'm so excited for you :) All very good advise you're getting. I'd like to add, that you invest in mulch. Mulch, mulch, mulch. lol.
When I was new to gardening, I had no idea how quickly weeds could take over. I still battle them, but mulch helps a ton!
Best wishes
:) Laura


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Newbie! *advice please?*

Ah, yes...mulch. Lay down recycled corrugated cardboard & overlap the edges, then spread the bark mulch over the top. Will you still have to pull weeds? Yup! But a whole heck of a lot fewer than if you don't lay down cardboard under the mulch. You can get the recycled cardboard at the grocery store, the town dump/landfill/recycle center... just ask and haul as much home as you can use. A box cutter will allow you to shape it as needed for your purposes.

Side note: worms LOVE cardboard. You put down cardboard, you'll have lots of worms. Lots of worms = healthy soil. Healthy soil = healthy, self-sustaining plants.

I do know some plants take a couple of years to bloom though?

Yes, with winter sowing, many perennials will take two or three years to mature before they bloom. If you get impatient, consider & appreciate what's happening under the soil while you're waiting for them to bloom: they're not sleeping or wasting time--they're establishing root systems that will support the blooms to come so be patient.

You can trade for perennial seeds right here on the GardenWeb forum--check out the Seed Exchange and go "shopping" for the seed types you'd like to grow. Lots of folks find harvesting perennial seeds in fall to be an addiction (myself included) so they're often willing to trade or offer seeds in exchange for postage.

I commented above that I filled all my perennial beds with winter sown perennials in a short span of time for mere pennies. I designed my garden beds carefully & had a clear picture in my mind what I was aiming for. My property is just slightly less than a full acre and I achieved my goal in just three years' time thanks to winter sowing. Mine is certainly not the only success story.

Since you're partial to bell-shaped flowers, have a look at Campanula/bellflower or Platycodon/balloon flower. Both bloom blue (or white) and for a considerable span of time.

Have fun--don't hesitate to stretch your imagination and visualize what you'd like to see your garden become.


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Garden Newbie advice

There's so much information available to you via the Internet. Check out Swallowtail Garden Seeds' website as well as Hazzard's if you've a large area to fill. White Flower Farms, Santa Rosa Gardens & Bluestone Perennials all have websites with perennial information you can access & from which you can learn what plants need aside from basic soil, water & light.

For information about winter sowing, be sure to access the GW winter sowing forum.

I'm extremely fortunate my Mom & Dad practiced organic gardening here 40+ years before I moved back home. I now benefit by their stewardship & enjoy a garden I can not only enjoy but be proud isn't chemically enhanced.


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RE: Cottage Garden Newbie! *advice please?*

You don't have to remove the grass, just put the cardboard on top of the grass.
Here is my before picture. We used cheap roofing paper. Some have commented on what ever is on the roofer paper. But I have lots of worms. The worms are the "canary in the mine", in gardening.


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RE: Cottage Garden Newbie! *advice please?after picture

Here is the after in August 2008. The before was in late 2007. You can see how much happened in a short time. I moved in Nov. 1, 2007. I brought quite a few plants from my former house.
As to the roofing paper, it was a TX agriculture county agent that told me to use roofing paper.

Kathy


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RE: Cottage Garden Newbie! *advice please?*

plantmaven,
that's amazing. Does the roof paper rot? And thanks for the "worms are the canaries in a mine" line. I'll be using that for sure.
:) Laura


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RE: Cottage Garden Newbie! *advice please?*

Yes, the roofing paper rots much fast than cardboard. It seems to me that I paid around $11 for a roll. Buy the cheapest you can get.
I did not realize that my HOA would have such a "stroke" over me taking out grass. So be aware of that. They probably could not figure out what I was doing. They never noticed that I had a nasty Arizona ash cut down. (on the left where the dark mulch is in the picture)


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RE: Cottage Garden Newbie! *advice please?*

Oh goodness!! Rain and floods have subsided and I finally got to dig into my bed. I harvested some river rocks to trim it, and have been working on the soil. It has tons of worms, so I've only been adding organic gardening soil to the dead looking areas. My hands are sore, but I think it's shaping up nicely.

Also, I decided on the peony, then Angelique Tulips, Golden Bell narcissus and Striped Squill those all come with a large amount of bulbs for a lower price so I can fill in a bit more.

I'm not sure what to do with the shrub.. It's kind of scraggly and not filled in. I'm not sure if I should remove it, trim it down and see how it does in the spring, or just leave it...


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Cottage Garden Newbie! *advice please?*

Altho' peonies grow to the size of shrubs every year, they aren't classified as such. Can you name the shrub in the photo above? Depending on what the botanical name might be, you may get more helpful suggestions about whether or not to trim it down. There are shrubs that benefit from being pruned every year whereas others are best left to their own devices. In the absence of a positive I.D., it's probably a good idea to leave it for a season to allow you to observe its behavior/bloom time/flower color.

Good for you that the bed is now curved rather than linear. You many find that "ditching" the bed works better than lining the edges with stones but you'll decide what works best for you. The formal beds are ditched in nearly every botanical/public garden I've either visited or seen pictures of which is why I adapted my own garden beds to that method. Sorry I don't have a recent photo to give you a visual. As I mentioned above, I consulted my neighbor prior to ditching the beds and he reiterated that it was much easier to mow around them if they were ditched. I can tell you from experience that weeds/grass will grow up between your river rocks and you'll be hard pressed to kill them without using chemicals or vinegar.

You'll find your own garden priorities but I recommend you consider this: perennial gardening isn't a goal with a finite end date. Rather, it's a journey. There are plenty of detours along the way.


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RE: Cottage Garden Newbie!

Sorry I failed to say, best of luck!!!


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RE: Cottage Garden Newbie! *advice please?*

I don't know what you mean by ditched? I'm not sure what you're meaning.

I think the shrub is some kind of boxwood or Eounmyus. It was here when we moved in, it gets small yellow flowers on it. If it'd fill out nicely so I could shape it, I wouldn't mind it being there. When we moved in the leaves were totally dead looking, so we hacked off the dead bits and its been making a decent effort to grow.


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RE: Ditching

In my experience, ditching means digging a shallow trench--roughly 4 inches deep by 6 inches wide--along the outer edges of your flowerbeds. I have an edging tool that has a semi-circular blade on the end that makes it easier to cut through the grass/turf. A spade can also be used.

The ditch not only defines the edges of the garden bed, it also collects water and, I suppose to some extent it discourages spreading weeds.

If you Google Images of botanical gardens, you'll see how the beds have been edged.

Sorry I can't help identify the shrub. I don't grow boxwoods but have several Euonymus cultivars growing in my beds but all are compact, slow-growing & zero-care plants. The plant in your photo doesn't look anything like what's growing in my garden. As I suggested above, it might be worth waiting & watching how it performs for a season or two before you decide what to do with it.

FWIW, if you Google Euonymus fortunei images, you'll have a visual of the types that are growing in my garden.


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RE: Cottage Garden Newbie! *advice please?*

That looks much better than your original bed, although I can still see some awkward areas for your mower. It is true that with flowerbeds 'less is more' and they should be as large as you can fit in. A few big beds look way better than lots of small ones. That always looks like a pet cemetery to me. Have you incorporated the bed you mentioned that had day lilies in it too? The fewer separate beds the easier to mow. I also agree that the rock edging is not really practical. Grass will be growing up through it in no time and encroaching into your bed. By 'ditching' gardenweed is talking about what I would call 'edging' a flower bed. Cut vertically through the turf all around the bed with a spade or edging iron to a depth of 4 - 6 inches. Make a V shaped trough all around the bed and keep it sharp edged and trimmed with edging shears. There are several videos on Youtube if you put in 'Edging a flower bed.'

Your shrub looks more like a Ligustrum (privet) to me. Can you provide a closer view?

One other thing - it's fun to select and source plants but you should force yourself to be patient. Time spent on preparing the soil thoroughly ie removing all perennial weeds, thoroughly cultivating, composting, etc is never wasted. Next year you don't want to be trying to extricate quack grass or bindweed from your prized plants. And now you have some space I would thoroughly encourage you to start a compost heap.


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RE: Cottage Garden Newbie! *advice please?*

You can edge by cutting a V trench along the edge or you can use a buried edge such as the plastic edge that Kathy/Plantmaven shows in her second photo. The V trench will require redoing about once a year, though that may vary on your season length and soil type. I also have a friend who has a power edger that works well for her to create a cut edge, though I've never seen it in use.

My DH (who does the mowing) finds that the mower wheels fall into cut-in trench edging (which I prefer as far as appearance) so he vetoed that for our yard. I use a similar edging as Kathy (heavy duty plastic that I bought at a big box store) with the addition of a line of bricks just inside the bed. (Craigslist can be a good source of free or inexpensive used bricks.) DH runs the mower wheels on the bricks around the edge of the bed and so doesn't need to do any edging with a weed whacker. The grass pretty much hides the plastic.

Regardless, as others have said, the rock edging alone will be a nightmare to maintain.

Here's a photo that includes my edging.


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Cottage Garden Newbie! advice

Without contradicting other recommendations listed above, you've received some excellent & valuable suggestions. There are plenty of ideas floating around out there that will minimize the hours you spend on maintenance in your garden so feel free to pick and choose what works best for you in your own specific circumstances. You'll soon discover what you prefer in terms of methods of maintenance.

We each have a different vision of what we want our garden beds to be. Some want spectacular blooms that put on a show for anyone passing by. Others (like me) aim at attracting & sustaining pollinators so we plant things that serve that purpose.

I'm guessing you don't want me to say it but I'd be lying if I didn't recommend you examine your garden goals so you can focus on how to achieve them. My goal was always to attract bees, butterflies & hummingbirds so I grew & planted things that would sustain them.


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RE: Cottage Garden Newbie! *advice please?*

Well, look at you! Love the new bed.
A couple years ago I paid a man to edge all the beds with brick and concrete. He is a sweet little fellow that is retired and did not charge but $200 for the front and the back. I am a widow and can no longer do those things. You can see the edging in this picture.


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