The cottage garden is a whimsical and informal garden style using flowers and herbs packed closely together. The original cottage gardens of old England contained a very practical collection of vegetables and medicinal herbs meant to sustain a family; they eventually evolved to include flowers for their decorative value. Native plants are a practical and low maintenance addition to a cottage garden because they need very little extra water once they are established and should do well on rain water alone.
The drought-tolerant purple coneflower, or Echinacea purpurea, is native in the Midwest to southeast portions of the United States. It is a hearty daisy-like perennial with purple petals surrounding an orange cone-shaped center. The plant enjoys full sun to partial shade in well-drained soils. Like many traditional cottage garden plants, it has medicinal properties and has long been used as a folk remedy for colds.
New England Aster
Many varieties of aster are native to North America, like the New England aster, a robust and hardy perennial plant with flowers that range from rosy-lilac to deep purple. Daisy-like asters bloom late summer to fall and enjoy full sun in moist soil. They attract hummingbirds and butterflies.
Roses are traditional plants for cottage gardens, and there are many wild roses that are native to America. The Prairie Rose, or Rosa setigera, is a spreading deciduous shrub with simple five-petaled pink flowers that is natural to Eastern to central North America. This rose shrub likes full sun to part shade, but has less trouble with disease when given lots of sun.
The California poppy, or Eschscholzia californica, adds a splash of brilliant color to any cottage garden. This poppy is native to the western United States and grows as a wild flower from Nevada to Washington state. This flower performs best as a short-lived perennial in Zones 8-10, or it will also grow as a sunny annual in other parts of the U.S. Plants grow in low mounds and produce 3-inch flowers that are bright orange.