How to Build a Cottage Garden


A cottage garden can contain an array of colorful flowers and greenery that provides a softening transition from the lawn or walkway to a charming cottage. A picket fence, fountain, bench or gazing ball might be nestled in among the spectacle. Butterflies might flit about a winding pathway that beckons even the least curious. You might hear bees humming in the distance as you run your hand across the top of the lavender bush to release its heavenly scent. Perhaps it is the endless selection of cutting flowers that turns your love to garden into a desire to build a cottage garden.

Step 1

Make a drawing of the ground area where you want to build a cottage garden. Capture the location of what will be the backdrop for the floral display, like a building, fence or trees. Include the location of windows, doors, walkways and any other stationary items like trees, shrubs of bushes that you want to keep in your plan.

Step 2

Measure the length and depth to be covered by the garden and record that on your drawing. A cottage garden can take up an entire yard. However, it is wise to start with a smaller garden to see what you like and what grows well. You can always expand the garden. You can use the measurements to determine how many flowers will fit in the area. Be sure to read the plant labels for the distance apart the plants should be planted.

Step 3

Decide if you want to plant annuals or perennials. Annuals are cheaper than perennials, but annuals last only one season. Despite that, annuals give you the option to use different flowers each year. Perennials can be more cost-effective than annuals, if you want to keep the same flowers in your garden year after year. Perennials can be split every few years for planting elsewhere to expand your cottage garden.

Step 4

Choose a color palette. For a smaller garden, more typical to an urban yard, choosing three to five colors will provide a more subtle blend of muted shades. Options could be pastels like yellow, pink and lavender; hot colors like orange, yellow and red; or mostly greens with occasional touches of color as might be seen in a shade garden. Overall, cottage gardens are typical sun gardens, but some homeowners only have the option for shade-loving colors.

Step 5

Plan for varying heights of plants. Tall plants could be 3 to 5 feet or more (like purple coneflower, hollyhock or foxglove); medium could be 2 to 3 feet (like lavender, yarrow or sage) and short could be ground cover to 2 feet tall (like rue, primrose or veronica). Tall plants can go against tall areas, like a house or a fence. Use medium-height flowers to separate tall and short ones. For visual impact, flowers should be in groupings. Herbs can also be used in a cottage garden.

Step 6

Use a bench, statue, obelisk or lawn ornament like a gazing ball as a focal point along or at the end of a walkway. An arbor at the entry to a walkway can hold flowering vines like clematis or wisteria. Walkways can be brick, stone or mulch. A trellis against a building can support climbing flowers like roses. Plant boxes with flowers like alyssum trailing over the side can be used under windows.

Things You'll Need

  • Measuring tape
  • Annuals
  • Perennials
  • Lawn ornaments


  • The English Cottage Herb Garden
  • The Early Cottage Garden
  • Cottage Garden Plants
Keywords: cottage garden, cottage garden flowers, garden design

About this Author

Barbara Raskauskas's favorite pursuits are home improvement, landscape design, organic gardening and blogging. Her Internet writing appears on SASS Magazine, AT&T and various other websites. Raskauskas is active in the small business she and her husband have owned since 2000 and is a former MS Office instructor.