13 Flowers I LOVE in a Dreamy Cottage Garden: My Favorites

If you want to create a dreamy cottage garden for yourself, but you aren’t sure which flowers you should plant, you’ve come to the right place.

I would love to share with you all the classics plus my favorites and my experience with each.

But honestly, the easiest way to achieve a cottage-style garden is to plant the flowers that give you the dreamy feel you are looking for – the ones you just LOVE.

Wispy, airy flowers that wave a bit in the breeze lend a wistfulness to the garden, old-fashioned favorites bring the love, and any type of rose will guarantee a touch of romance.

Let me tell you more about each of these plants, which ones are my favorites, and why.

1. Roses are a whisper of romance in your cottage garden.

Roses at sunset

‘Knock-Out’ roses at sunset.

Roses and romance go hand in hand. In a cottage garden, roses can ease the soul and lend a euphoric feeling. But keep in mind, roses can be high-maintenance.

In my garden, I love to use ‘Knock-Out’ roses because they produce massive amounts of blooms and are probably the easiest of all the roses to care for. You can see their color from a distance and they are equally stunning close-up.

I also have ‘Drift’ roses for the same reason. They are lower to the ground with a crazy amount of blooms. They can be used as a ground cover and are often planted on a sloping bed or hillside.

When people visit my garden, I get asked about my ‘Drift’ roses often.

I just planted a ‘New Dawn’ climbing rose on my trellis. She has gotten a slow start but I expect great things from her next season.

My big experiment this year has been with the ‘Reminiscent’ rose. They were spectacular at the nursery this spring, both in color and fragrance.

So stunning that I bought 2 and placed them front and center in my garden. They have produced beautifully and I look forward to all that is to come.

I am hoping that when you walk down the path of my cottage garden, they will cause you to slow your pace and “stop and smell the roses.”

*Traditional and a favorite of mine.*

2. Hydrangeas in the cottage garden beckon you to daydream.

Bobo Hydrangeas off the front porch.

‘Bobo’ hydrangeas off the front porch.

Hydrangeas are the flower gardener’s dream. They are stunning and evoke a wistfulness in the spirit.

There are multiple options in color and size and so many are easy peasy to take care of.

In my last garden (I have moved from house to house a lot.) I planted the ‘Limelight’ hydrangeas. They were amazing and I used their blooms to make lovely flower arrangements that continued to look so good even when they dried out.

Unfortunately, these babies grew to be giants – much larger than I anticipated, so they became a force to be reckoned with because I planted them in the wrong place.

At this house I am now, I planted some ‘Little Lime’ hydrangeas. They are smaller and equally lovely with their white rounded blooms and have not outgrown my space and hopefully won’t. They take full sun and demand very little attention from me, although it’s hard to not notice them. (So pretty!)

They also offer great winter interest if you leave the dried-out blooms. I don’t cut them back until early spring. (For more ideas on how to make your garden look good in winter, check out my blog here.)

I have also planted several ‘Bobo’ hydrangeas. They only reach about 2 feet tall and are covered in blooms.

Such a darling plant right in front of my porch. I have a friend who also chose these hydrangeas for her space because she wanted the shorter variety.

I love the blue or pink hydrangeas but those are going to be a little more finicky to grow (unless you live on Nantucket).

You will need the perfect spot (morning sun with possibly some filtered afternoon sun), some nice fertile soil, and the time to water them if the rain from above fails you.

There are tons of options here but you can try an ‘Endless Summer’ hydrangea. I have only been successful with the older version, the ‘Nikko Blue’ hydrangea.

*Traditional and perhaps my very favorite.*

3. Hollyhocks are spires of beauty in the cottage garden.

Hollyhocks in the cottage garden.

These hollyhocks are in my aunt’s garden but they originally came out of my granny’s garden. My aunt is bringing me some seed pods for my cottage garden. I hope for the best! How sweet to have flowers that came from my granny’s sweet garden!

These graceful spiring flowers carry me back to my granny’s house some 30 years ago.

Every year they grew along the fence that separated the cow field from the yard. As you were pulling into her driveway, they would dance in the breeze as if welcoming you.

When leaving “Granny’s House”, they would gently wave goodbye. Even at that young age, when I spent little time considering flowers, they bore themselves in my mind as a sweet memory tied to my grandmother.

These girls are still a bit of a mystery to me. I am in my second year experimenting with them and will press on because I NEED them in my life.

Last year I placed them too close to the front of my garden. They bloomed well but fell over and generally were a bit of a mess.

This year I planted them in the back of my cottage garden. They haven’t bloomed this year because they are biennials, (they only bloom every other year) but I’m expecting greatness next year.

*Traditional, actually iconic, and a work in progress for me.*

4. Foxglove emotes “cottage” in the cottage garden.

Foxglove is a spire of beauty in the garden, especially if you plant them in masses or they self-seed in masses. You cannot beat them for their ability to transform a garden.

Here’s the catch: these classics are biennials, which means they bloom the second year and THEN THEY DIE. It’s tragic but they find a way to survive in other ways.

The truth is, the mother plant dies. But if you leave foxglove as it is after it blooms, it will shed its seed into the soil around it and more foxglove will come up the following year. So the mother dies, but her babies live!

Keep in mind that these “babies” that hopefully appear the following year, will not bloom. You will have a clump of green leaves to take care of until the following year when they will inspire you to do everything you can to keep more in your garden.

The second option is to plant a newer variety that blooms the first year of planting. It will most likely not come back the following year but will self-seed as the traditional foxglove will.

There’s no downside here and I plan on making this type of foxglove a priority in my cottage garden next year.

Foxglove loves the sun but needs to be watered to stay their healthiest. Their roots can’t sit in water so don’t let it get soggy but also don’t let the soil dry out too much.

So the beauty is unmatched but the upkeep is a little on the heavy side. If you have an irrigation system, you’re golden. If you have time and are committed to foxgloves, give it your best go and let me know how it turns out.

*Traditional and a work in progress for me.*

5. Phlox will entertain all summer in the cottage garden.

Phlox that has just been planted.

Phlox is beautiful in the beginning but will continue to outperform itself year after year.

I am new to the phlox world and not sure how I survived beforehand.

Phlox is so easy to grow, and tolerates full penetrating sun and also part sun.

They don’t ask for any attention from you except to be seen. And you won’t be able to overlook them. The blooms are large and are visible from a distance. And they will impressively perform for you in the first year of planting.

My son lives on a corner lot at a rural 4-way intersection and has some planted at the corner of his flower bed. You can see them from a mile away in any direction. (Okay, maybe not a mile but from a long distance.)

He is a hands-off gardener, which means he doesn’t want to garden at all. Haha. And his phlox are AMAZING.

They will bloom from spring to the first frost. What more do you want from a flower? I keep planting more and more phlox in my cottage garden because they are effortlessly spectacular.

*A new favorite of mine!*

6. Yarrow is a carpet of color in the summer cottage garden.

Yarrow in the cottage garden.

Pink yarrow in the first year of my cottage garden.

Finally, we are to the flower that potentially has the biggest impact in my garden.

Considering the effort plus the bloom time, it has to be one of the top picks of flowers to grow for the novice gardener, the I-don’t-have-much-time gardener, or the plant-it-and-forget-it gardener.

Give it full sun. Then stand back and watch it work its magic.

I have planted the yellow variety in many of my gardens over the years but chose to plant pink at this home. It has not disappointed me.

I prepped the soil with cow manure when I planted it and fertilized it again this spring. I also watered my garden with an overhead sprinkler when it didn’t rain for several days in a row.

However, yarrow is known for thriving in poor soil and drought conditions so I feel certain it would have thrived either way.

Sometimes, my biggest fault as a gardener is over-babying my plants. Yarrow is an independent teenager who is eager for you to just watch from a distance.

My yarrow grew so high this season that it flopped. If you prefer a structured garden, you can stake yarrow. In my cottage garden, I embrace the flop.

After the first flush of blooms, you can cut it back a bit and then give your teenage yarrow some room to perform again. Mine has spread and created a carpet of blooms.  It is a showstopper.

*A long-time favorite of mine.*

7. Salvia will greet your cottage garden in early summer.

Salvia in the cottage garden

‘Mystic Spires’ salvia in the cottage garden is a repeat annual for me.

Not only will salvia greet you in early summer, but it will also keep up the greetings all season.

Salvia is great for your spring/early summer cottage garden because it pops up and shows out its best during that time. However, it will continue to bloom throughout the summer, just not as spectacularly as before.

Some of the other spring/early summer blooming flowers are harder for me to justify taking up space in my garden because their bloom time is limited.

Salvia is worth the space for the initial show plus they never completely quit until frost.

Salvia comes in all sorts of colors but my favorites are ‘May Night’ and ‘Rose Marvel.’

I have also become addicted to ‘Mystic Spires Blue’ salvia, which is an annual where I live. (Zone 7) It starts beautiful and just keeps on getting better and better. I’m committed to planting it every year.

*A long-time favorite and great for the new gardener.*

8. Sage is blue jeans and bare feet in the cottage garden.

Sage in the cottage garden

Sage in the cottage garden.

If sage were an outfit, she would wear tight jeans rolled up a bit, a short white t-shirt, and bare feet with a possible ankle bracelet or two. I love her.

Sage in the cottage garden adds a blue color that is hard to find anywhere else.

If you get the traditional variety of Russian Sage, it will casually meander throughout your garden without permission and add to that relaxed look a cottage garden is known for.

If that “wild” look sounds too much for you, choose a different variety of sage such as ‘Little Spire’ or ‘Denim and Lace’. Either way, you get the color and an easy-care plant that will continue to make a bigger show, in a laid-back way, every year.

If you are on a budget, plant one of these and watch it grow over the years.

If you already know you love these blue spires, plant as many as you want. It thrives in drought conditions after it is established so keeping this one around is no challenge.

So relax, take off your shoes, and enjoy these girls in your cottage garden.

*One of my favorites!*

9. Shasta daisies are friendly flowers in cottage gardens.

Shasta Daisies in the cottage garden

I wish I had cut some of the spent flowers out before I took this picture but it gives a great idea of how beautiful the daisies can be.

This sweet flower will feel like you planted a smile and a mound of white flowers with yellow centers popped up.

This happy perennial will shift your eyes on them involuntarily.

They are a great low-budget flower if you have a friend willing to share. My friend was thinning hers out and offered them to me for free. They are a center point to my cottage garden when in bloom and have produced so many contented sighs.

The daisies need very little in the way of maintenance and are drought-resistant.

If I am in the garden with some time on my hands, I might cut the spent blooms. But if I don’t have the time, the daisies don’t hold it against me.

They just keep right on smiling, I mean, blooming.

I am excited that this mound of happiness gets larger and larger as the years go on. I should have more flowers next year if all goes well.

And hopefully, in a couple of years, I will be ready to share some smiles to plant with a friend or two.

*Everyone’s favorite!*

10. Black-eyed susans are aggressive in the cottage garden.

Black-eyed susans, salvia, gaura, and hydrangeas in the cottage garden

Black-eyed susans make everyone around her look pretty too.

Black-eyed susans are similar to the shasta daisies in that they spread but even faster than the shasta daisies. They will take over a flower bed if you’re not careful.

This means you should be able to find a friend at the end of the summer who might have some to share and you will have some to share in a couple of years. (My sister shared hers with me!)

Despite their ability to grow prolifically, they are so dang pretty and worth the time spent disciplining when needed.

Some of mine flopped this summer but they looked so pretty, I left them. It all just added to the relaxed feel of the cottage garden.

These flowers are great grouped with the shasta daisies and coneflower but will squeeze them both out if you’re not careful.

In other words, Susan is a bit of a bully but she’s gorgeous so just keep her in line. She is that child you love to death but you’re never sure what they’re going to do next.

*A favorite, for any garden.*

11. Coneflower is a rocking chair in the cottage garden.

Coneflower

A shorter variety of coneflower.

Coneflower is such a nostalgic flower and feels like home.

It has so many different colors and different sizes. I just planted the beautiful ‘Solar Flare’ coneflower but it was too short to be seen. I thought it would be taller. I’m told it will grow taller next season. If not, I will move it because it was so lovely, it deserves some eyes on it.

My favorite is the well-known purple coneflower. Sometimes the oldies remain the goodies.

It is nostalgic of my granny’s garden, cottages, love, and simplicity. It makes a beautiful arrangement if you want to bring all the goodness inside too.

This flower is easy to care for and will offer enjoyment for years to come. It thrives in full sun but will perform for you in a mostly sunny spot as well.

*A favorite. More coneflower, please.*

12. Delphinium is the homecoming queen of cottage gardens.

Can you say “wow!” Delphinium is the homecoming queen of the cottage garden when she is blooming, but she is a bit finicky. She will arrest your attention and will come back year after year…if you get it right.

I have not been able to get a repeat but I KEEP BUYING IT! It is stunning and I plan on focusing on it next season to get it established. Be sure to give her only morning sun, and plenty of water, and feed her well and often.

*Traditional and a work in progress for me.*

13. Gaura is wistful and slender in the cottage garden.

Gaura in the cottage garden

Gaura adds beautiful color, texture, and great movement to your cottage garden.

To me, gaura is the unsung flower hero. She is like a fully-in-bloom ornamental grass.

Pink or white slender blooming grasses sway in the breeze. She’s wistful. She’s slender. She’s graceful. She’s faithful.

She will bloom from early summer to first frost but you have to watch when she stops blooming, cut her down about a third, and then wait for the second flush.

Little watering is required after gaura is established. Cut her back once in the blooming season and again after the first frost, or at least before spring.

This big-impact plant will add color and texture to your garden with little effort. I love her planted in groups and also as just one singular plant. She will spread in a small amount of time.

*A favorite for any garden, especially mine!*

 

Ok, I said 13, right? I could go on all day about beautiful flowers to add to your cottage garden but the above list solidly includes the classics plus my favorites.

This will get you started but if you’re like me, you will end up wanting to try every beautiful bloom you come across. If so, congratulations! You have become a flower gardener!

Enjoy the thrill of success and when you hit a snag, remember you have lots of company. Now let’s get busy playing in the garden!

 

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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