Cottage gardens are often compact spaces filled with a profusion of flowering plants growing almost haphazardly throughout the space. Plants for a cottage garden include shrubs, vines, herbs, perennials and annuals. Cottage garden are traditionally enclosed by a fence, hedge or a wall with a pathway that winds through the landscape.
English lavender (Lavandula angustifolia) and French lavender (Lavandula stoechas) are perennial herbs with delicate purple flowers and leggy foliage. These aromatic selections grow best in full sun in an area with well-drained soil. English lavender is more aromatic than French lavender, but French lavender has a longer blooming time. English lavender blooms from mid summer to early fall; French lavender can bloom from early spring until late summer. Lavender can grow up to 4 feet tall; plant them along the fence line or along the pathway of a cottage garden.
Sweet pea (Lathyrus odoratus) plants are a colorful choice for your cottage garden. Sweet peas are annual climbers that can reach up to 9 feet tall. Choose from an array of colors for blooms during mid to late spring and summer. Plant sweet peas in containers and hanging baskets around the cottage garden, or plant them atop a garden wall for a spillover effect. This sweet-smelling plant prefers full sun, cooler climates and soil that drains well.
Another bushy plant that fits beautifully in cottage gardens is delphinium (Delphinium spp). These perennials grow best in full sun, but prefer moist soil conditions. These dense plants produce spikes of flowers that can grow up to 6 feet tall. Delphiniums need regular fertilization during the blooming season. Most cultivars bloom once in the early summer and then again in the late summer/early fall if you remove the spent blooms. Blue is the most dominant color of delphiniums, but you can also find plants that bloom in shades of lavender, pink, white, scarlet, orange, yellow and apricot.
Canterbury bells (Campanula medium) are biennial bloomers that offer stems covered with flowers in the early to late spring. Even though Canterbury bells only bloom every other year, the deep green foliage presents annually. Growing up to 3 feet high, the plant has bell-shaped flowers in shades of blue, pink, white and purple. Plant in full sun to partial shade in well-drained soil. Canterbury bells enjoy a moist environment, so water them frequently.
It's hard to imagine a cottage garden without roses climbing over an arbor or running along a fence line. Climbing roses (Rosa setigera) prefer full sun and soil that drains well. They often grow more than 9 feet tall with colorful blossoms during the summer. Select the color and type of climbing rose that best suits your cottage garden palate and climate. Climbing White Iceburg rose (Rosa spp. 'Iceburg') is a rugged climber with double white blooms that can last throughout the summer. If you live in a colder climate, plant William Baffin roses (Rosa spp. 'William Baffin'). These cold hardy cultivars are tough and technically classified as a shrub rose, but work best as a climber due to their long, arching canes. William Baffin roses are deep pink with touches of white in the center. They aren't as fragrant as other roses, but the blooms last from summer to fall.
Another climbing vine that fits into a cottage garden is wisteria (Wisteria sinensis). This twining vine produces showy, fragrant blue-violet or white flowers in mid spring that can extend up to 18 inches long. Train wisteria to grow along a garden fence, over an arbor or along the garden wall. Plants can reach up to 25 feet in height with thick twisted trunk-vines.