13 Dreamy Border Plant Ideas for a Relaxed Cottage Garden

13 Dreamy Border Plant Ideas for a Relaxed Cottage Garden

If you are aiming for a relaxed, dreamy cottage garden, choosing the perfect border plants is crucial.

There is so much to think about when making your selection.

Read my guide about planting border plants and learn all my secrets, plus see my list of ideas below to spark your creativity.

I have planted most of these in my own personal garden, so I assure you they will deliver the most bang for your buck and your effort.

Plant a combination of these as a border to your cottage garden and expect your relaxed cottage garden dreams to come to life.

1. Russian Sage

Border Plant Ideas for a Cottage Garden 1. Russian Sage

Russian sage is a beautiful choice for a cottage garden border plant. It is paired with a ‘Knock-Out’ rose to give a dreamy, relaxed feel to the garden.

Russian Sage is a wonderful blue color that will spread over time. The new varieties won’t flop like the traditional Russian sage but they will reach out their arms over the path.

I have some standing upright and another variety reaching over my concrete driveway.

They are beautifully mixed with black-eyed susans, gaura, and hydrangeas. Or try them next to your roses. There’s no bad combination.

Get them established then watch them grow and spread gradually from year to year.

2. Yarrow

Border Plant Ideas for a Cottage Garden 2. Yarrow

Lovely yarrow planted as a cottage garden border plant creates large swaths of color.

Yarrow might be my favorite. Plant it and expect a carpet of color, even in the first year.

Yarrow loves full sun but will perform in partial sun.

Mine flopped over onto my cottage stone path perfectly. It can be grown in poor soil. It just isn’t that picky and offers such a big impact.

After you get it established, it will require nothing from you but a little trim mid-season and another at the end of the season.

Even the foliage is beautiful. It is blue-green and lacy.

3. Spirea

Border Plant Ideas for a Cottage Garden 3. Spirea

Spirea is a shrub that looks great as a cottage garden border plant.

Spirea isn’t a perennial but I planted it near my stone sidewalk. I love the color it adds to the cottage garden.

It really shines in the spring with its fresh lime-green foliage before all my summer perennials bloom. Then it continues to give all summer.

I saw how wide it would be at maturity and measured it to be sure it would grow up to and beyond the sidewalk edge. If it gets any bigger, I may have to make a decision.

Spirea loses its leaves in the winter but it still adds shape and structure to the winter garden.

For more about making your winter garden look beautiful, you can check out the tips I shared in another blog here. 

Mix it in with the other perennials planted at your cottage garden border. The perennials will die back in winter but spirea will be there for you even in the winter.

4. Black-Eyed Susans

Border Plant Ideas for a Cottage Garden 4. Black-Eyed Susans

Black-Eyed Susans are a stunning choice as a cottage garden border plant.

My black-eyed susans are such a great border plant in my garden in the summer.

I have some irises planted next to the border which comes up in the spring. Then I planted my black-eyed susans in between them. When the irises begin to fade, my black-eyed susans take over the show. It’s worked well for me so far.

The black-eyed-susans have done some flopping I think because the soil has been fertilized so well. (I added lots of compost and manure in the spring.) I may have overdone it but I’m okay with the flop so it’s all a win.

Black-eyed susans are easy to grow, love full sun but will take the part sun, are flexible with soil quality, and bloom from mid-summer to late summer.

All you have to do is plant them, enjoy, and then cut them back at the end of the season. Or feel free to cut these sweet blooms for arrangements inside your home.

5. Butterfly Bush

Border Plant Ideas for a Cottage Garden 5. Butterfly Bush

Don’t be afraid to mix it up and plant a shrub as a cottage garden border plant. Three of these ‘Pugsy’ butterfly bushes are planted together for a dreamy cottage border.

Butterfly bushes come in all sizes but for my cottage garden border, I planted three of the ‘Pugsy’ butterfly bushes. Although it isn’t a perennial, it is a shrub that works well at my border.

It blooms early in the summer and then continues until the first frost. I plan on it overlapping my stone path edge by next summer.

Just like the spirea, I read what its width is expected to be at maturity, then measured and planted it with the goal that it would eventually grow beyond the garden onto the path.

As you would expect, they are butterfly magnets. Walking past these blooming plants stirs up all those winged lovelies. They will fly all around you and it feels like a fairy garden.

6. Phlox

Border Plant Ideas for a Cottage Garden 6. Phlox

This phlox has only been planted a few weeks as a border plant in this cottage garden. It is amazing at the beginning but continues to improve as it develops over time.

I planted phlox near the border in several spots in my cottage garden. Even though I am just in its first season of growth, it offers big color week after week.

There are different sizes and colors but everything I’ve experimented with so far is stunning.

Phlox spreads and gets more amazing year after year so I am already looking forward to next season.

This is such an easy perennial, it would be a shame to miss it in your cottage garden border.

I cut back spent blooms when I have the time but I’m not sure it’s even necessary. It seems intent on blooming regardless of what I do or don’t do.

7. ‘Drift’ Roses

Border Plant Ideas for a Cottage Garden 7. 'Drift' Roses

‘Drift’ Roses make a dreamy cottage garden border.

‘Drift’ roses are big impact but easy-care roses. They will grow pretty large over a couple of years. I planted three at my cottage garden border then went back and dug one up because they were outgrowing everything around them.

They need full sun to be their best. I’ve never tried them in less than full sun.

As far as maintenance, I cut back spent blooms throughout the season. They look neater and it allows them to spend more energy producing blooms but don’t feel like you have to do that. They will continue to bloom even if you don’t.

In my experience, their biggest enemy is the Japanese beetle. They will devour the blooms for about 2 months in the middle of summer.

You can allow the beetles to have them in mid-summer and enjoy the roses in early and late summer. Or you can declare war on the beetles.

There’s no easy way to defeat them, however, and you don’t want to harm the butterflies and bees that your cottage garden will become home to.

Even though the Japanese beetles are no small problem, I consider the beauty of the ‘Drift’ roses to be worth the battle with the beetles.

Be careful to not plant ‘Drift’ roses along a path as they have thorns. I have mine planted where my garden meets the driveway. There isn’t much passing pedestrian traffic in this spot. It has been a highly visible area but no snags.

8. Gaura

Border Plant Ideas for a Cottage Garden 8. Gaura

Pink gaura is so wispy in the cottage garden and would make a lovely border plant.

Gaura is a big favorite of mine and has been for years and years.

I think I’ve planted it in every garden I’ve ever had over the years. That’s a lot because I have moved from house to house many times.

Gaura is like an ornamental grass with gorgeous pink or white blooms at the tips. It is slender and sways in the breeze.

Plant it and add great texture to your garden. It will spread and reach out over the border of your cottage garden…and then will wave at you in the breeze! You will absolutely love it. I already have it planted in my side garden but plan to add it to my front garden border next spring.

9. Lavender

Lavender is my next scheduled addition to my front garden next spring.

I love its color and scent so I plan to use three of them.

The goal is for it to reach out over the edge of my cottage garden in time and reach out into the path. Hopefully, my guests and I will be able to catch a whiff of the fragrance as we pass.

10. Lantana

Border Plant Ideas for a Cottage Garden 10. Lantana

This is the only picture I could find of my lantana! It is a great picture of a window box my son built. Behind the window box is beautiful lantana used as a cottage border plant.

Lantana is an annual where I live (Zone 7) but I love it because it is easy to plant a little 4-inch pot of it in the spring and not too expensive.

Then it requires very little attention all summer since it is drought resistant and will thrive in poor soil.

By fall mine are always at their peak and the butterflies and bees love them.

Some of my summer flowers will be dying back, but lantana continues to thrive.

By fall, it overflows the garden onto the garden path, offers beautiful color, and is home to butterflies right there in my cottage garden.

11. Verbena

Border Plant Ideas for a Cottage Garden 10. Verbena

Planting verbena as a border plant also means you will have butterflies to greet you.

Verbena, also an annual where I live, is similar in behavior to lantana. Easy to plant, not too expensive, drought-resistant (maybe not as much as lantana), and will do well in just about any soil AND the butterflies and bees go mad for it. They are all over my verbena.

I have it planted right on the border of my cottage garden so when you walk by, butterflies go flying everywhere and you feel like you are in a magical fairy garden.

I limit the annuals I plant each year for budget reasons, but verbena is a must year after year.

12. Salvia

Border Plant Ideas for a Cottage Garden 12. Salvia

Salvia makes a lovely cottage garden border plant. Everyone loves it including bees, butterflies, and my grandpup, Waffles.

Salvia, whether an annual or a perennial, is always a good idea anywhere in your cottage garden but especially along the cottage garden border.

I have ‘Mystic Spires’ salvia, an annual, planted at my cottage garden border for the same reason I plant the lantana and verbena. It is an easy-care plant.

Not only is it beautiful, but it also brings in those magical butterflies and a ton of bees.

13. Ornamental Grasses

Border Plant Ideas for a Cottage Garden 13. Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental grasses are perfect as a dreamy cottage garden border.

I don’t have ornamental grasses planted on my border but I consider them a great option. They mix up the texture of the garden and make the flowers look even more lovely.

I love the shape and movement of the grasses in the garden.

I have two flanking my front porch steps.

They would be beautiful at the border, as well, with their slender arms resting high over the garden path. You wouldn’t go wrong with ‘Pink Muhly’ grass or ‘Dwarf Hameln’ grass.

14. Hydrangeas

Border Plant Ideas for a Cottage Garden 14. Hydrangeas

Hydrangeas are always a good idea in the cottage garden and will even work as a border plant.

Oops! I said ’13’ but here is a bonus cottage border plant idea for you.

There simply is not a bad place to situate a hydrangea. They add so much romance to the cottage garden.

Plant them wherever you want, including a border. I would choose smaller ones like ‘Bobo’ or ‘Endless Summer’ or ‘Little Lime’ hydrangea. There are so many options so enjoy researching other varieties.

 

That’s 14 ideas for cottage garden borders but it is not a conclusive list. There are other great ideas out there! Feel the liberty to experiment. And if you want my secrets on cottage garden borders, check out this other blog here.

Tracy Crosland, owner of Hey Honeysuckle

Written by Tracy Crosland

I was born and raised in small town, Tennessee. As an adult, I found myself thrown into the construction business, building new homes in our little town. My son has now taken over the business, which means I do what I want - a lot of playing in my cottage flower garden (zone 7). I hope you feel the love in my garden and in my blogs and that we can be friends.

For more about me, click HERE.

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My Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Your First Cottage Garden

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Cottage gardens make me happy!
I want you to be happy too…so this one’s on me.

  • Learn to create your first cottage garden with step-by-step instructions
  • A checklist to keep you on track
  • Images to inspire
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My Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Your First Cottage Garden

My Step-by-Step Guide to Creating Your First Cottage Garden

Cottage gardens make me happy!
I want you to be happy too…so this one’s on me.

  • Learn to create your first cottage garden with step-by-step instructions
  • A checklist to keep you on track
  • Images to inspire
  • Increase the value of your home by thousands
  • Explode your happiness quotient
  • Oh, yeah. It’s free! Free happiness.