British gardeners have mastered the art of artifice with the English cottage garden. The natural, carefree appearance of the traditional English cottage garden is actually the result of painstaking planning, according the the University of Vermont Extension's Professor Leonard Perry, Ph. D. Gardeners outside the United Kingdom can bring authenticity to their own cottage gardens by incorporating some of the striking flowers native to Britain.
Pasque flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris) is a spring-blooming, buttercup family perennial. Hardy to minus 30 degrees Fahrenheit, it stands 9 to 12 inches high with an equal spread. Pasque flower's blooms appear before its foliage in April and May. Similar to anemone flowers, the goblet-shaped, up-to-4-inch blossoms have bushy, yellow stamens and red-violet or blue petals. Their plumed seeds heads appear with the plant's greenish-gray, up-to-6-inch, fernlike green leaves.
Use pasque flower, recommends the Missouri Botanical Garden, in rock gardens or as a border edging. Largely resistant to disease and insects, it likes full sun to partial shade and well-drained, rich soil. This plant is happiest in a cool, moist location.
Bloody cranesbill (Geranium sanguineum var. striatum) is native to Northwestern England's Cumbria region and Walney Island. A 6-to-9-inch high clumping perennial, this geranium family plant is hardy to minus 30 degrees F. Spreading up to 2 feet, it blooms heavily from May to early June. Clusters of deep pink-veined, light pink-petaled flowers rise above lobed, deep green foliage. Plants may bloom sporadically through the summer. Seedpods resembling cranes' bills account for their common name. Leaves may become red in the fall.
This is an attractive ground cover in confined areas. Use it as a border edging or in rock gardens, suggests the Missouri Botanical Garden. It performs best in moist, well-drained rich soil and full sun to partial shade. Leaves may suffer in hot summer weather. Cutting them back reinvigorates the plants.
Giant bellflower (Campanula latifolia), another perennial hardy to minus 30 degrees F, grows throughout Britain and Europe. Reaching up to 4 feet high and 2 feet wide, it forms clumps of oblong, hairy, 6-inch medium green leaves. In June and July, tube-shaped, blue-purple flowers ascend its upright stems. The Missouri Botanical Garden advises using it at the back the perennial borders. It also works well in woodland gardens.
Happiest in cool climates, giant bellflower benefits from afternoon shade were summers are hot. Give it well-drained, consistently moist neutral-to-alkaline soil (pH of 7.0 or higher). Cutting back the plants after flowering will encourage a second bloom. Divide plants periodically when flowering decreases.