A Guide to Romantic Cottage Garden Borders: My Secrets

If you love cottage gardens, then you may wonder how to achieve that feeling a cottage garden gives you – relaxed, welcoming, accepting, romantic, and simply lovely.

Border plants are one secret piece to that recipe.

Let me show you what border plants are, how to plant them, and which ones to choose to add the romance.

Border plants are used to divide one area from another. They can be used to:

  • Divide the garden from the lawn,
  • Divide the garden from the sidewalk or path,
  • Divide different sections in the garden, or even
  • Divide your lawn from your neighbors’.

We are going to discuss ways to use a border plant to separate your cottage garden from your sidewalk or path.

Ideally, the cottage garden path is curvy and made up of stone or gravel. But even if you have a stick straight traditional cement sidewalk, you can soften those hard lines with the proper border plants if they are placed in just the right spot.

Border plants are a great tool to create a cottage garden that oozes with dreamy romance if you do it right.

What is a cottage garden?

Cottage Garden Border Plant Secrets

A romantic cottage garden filled with hydrangeas, salvia, black-eyed susans, and pink gaura.

The cottage garden is known for being relaxed, a bit wild, forgiving, and brimming over with effortless beauty.

It is packed with multiple colored perennials, with one floral variety brushing up against the next.

There is little empty space in the cottage garden, but instead, each little inch is engulfed with romantic flowers and plants that seemingly refuse to keep the rules.

A stroll through a cottage garden will leave you wondering who is in charge – the gardener or the plants themselves.

Personified, the cottage garden wears blue jeans, has a daisy tattoo, just a bit of make-up, and a smile on her face.

She is beautiful, is happy to see you, and is somehow urging you to slow down and take a few deep breaths.

The goal is to use the border plant to create this feeling. I’m going to show you how.

The traditional garden has distinct borders and lines.

The cottage garden blurs all sharp lines. She has thrown out all the rules.

She is curvy and full-figured at times; slender and tall and graceful at others. She is exactly who she wants to be with no apologies.

The main secret is to keep this in mind when selecting and planting your border plants in the cottage garden.

Secrets to Achieving a Romantic Cottage Garden Border

Honestly, the secret isn’t that difficult. I have 6 easy steps and will walk you through all of them.

1. Choose Perennials for a Romantic Cottage Garden Border

Romantic Cottage Garden Border Secrets 1. Perennials

This sage makes an easy, relaxed border plant that oozes romance.

When choosing border plants in the cottage garden, perennials will be your first pick.

Select ones that bloom profusely, are filled with color and might creep over the path.

These will be your romantic winners.

There are other options besides perennials for the cottage garden border. You can experiment with shrubs, whether evergreen or not.

Also, annuals can be beautiful in a cottage garden border.

Perennials remain the go-to in the cottage garden border, however, for their ability to put on a colorful show all year, their manageable size, and because they come back year after year.

2. Plant Flowers in Groups for a Cottage Garden Border.

Romantic Cottage Garden Border Secrets 2. Plant flowers in groups

This is 3 yarrow plants situated together. They are just in their first year in this photo. It’s romance planted in the soil.

The cottage garden is known for having swaths of color.

Sometimes one single plant can be used as an exclamation mark in your garden. Most often, placing groups of plants together will achieve the most appealing look.

This doesn’t mean you have to plant 3 in a row. Instead, make a triangle out of them. Two can be along the garden path and one behind the other two. Or vice-versa.

If you are starting out, be brave enough to experiment. This is a cottage garden so there are no rules. Just guidelines.

And it is YOUR garden. Plant what you love where you want.

But planting in groups helps me to get the romantic look I love out of a cottage garden, especially with perennials. I don’t think you will be disappointed.

3. Place Cottage Garden Border Flowers Near the Path.

Romantic Cottage Garden Border Secrets 2. Plant near the path

These daisies and black-eyed susans are planted near the border.

One of the goals of a cottage garden border is to blur the straight lines of the path.

You want to try to create a relaxed soft border instead of a strict, well-defined one. This can be achieved by placing some of your border plants closer to the path than you would in a traditional garden.

This allows the plants to romantically drift into the pathway itself.

Look for flowers that will embrace their space. In other words, they might grow larger over time, even growing a bit into the pathway.

Or maybe they tend to reach out in different directions, including your path.

Some plants may be known for flopping, a traditional gardener’s problem.

The cottage gardener often embraces the flop, even if it is right in the pathway.

But keep in mind, every border plant doesn’t have to grow into the pathway.

The cottage garden is somewhat erratic so feel free to have some designed to gently encroach on the path and others hold back.

4. Allow Border Plants to Spill Over a Cottage Garden Path

Romantic Cottage Garden Border Secrets 4. Allow plants to spill onto path

The spirea and black-eyed susans are beginning to reach out into the pathway.

You have chosen the perfect perennials, planted them in groups, and placed them near the path.

Now you will have to fight the urge to try to tame the plants you have carefully placed in your cottage garden.

When they start to grow into the path, instead of pruning them back, just give them their space.

When they flop a bit, resist the desire to stake them.

And when they reach their arms out over the sidewalk, simply embrace their intrusion.

In other words, you may feel like your border plants are on the verge of taking over – that the plants themselves are in control instead of you.

If so, you are on the right track. But you get to decide just how “wild” you want your cottage garden to get.

Try to allow them to develop to see what is going to happen. Which way will they grow and what beauty do they have to share with you?

If you simply can’t take it, then you can trim them back a bit. Or even move them next fall. But give these beauties a chance before trying to control them too much.

In the cottage garden, you are attempting a “the-plants-are-in-charge look” but in reality, you are.

You can create the romantic garden that gives you the most enjoyment. So feel free to do as you want in your own garden.

5. Add Butterflies to a Cottage Garden with Border Plants

Romantic Cottage Garden Border Secrets 5. Butterflies

Butterflies add immeasurable romance to the cottage garden.

You will not regret selecting border plants to bring in butterflies.

It is a magical experience meandering along my front walk in my cottage garden in late summer.

The butterflies see you and will all fly up and around you as if you are in some Disney movie.

Border plants become a strategy for sheer happiness in this case.

When selecting your perennials, choose a few that are favorites of our winged friends.

There are also shrubs as well as annuals that are worth planting to encourage the butterflies to call your romantic cottage garden their home.

You can check out my blog here to learn which flowers I plant to attract butterflies in my cottage garden.

6. Select Cottage Garden Border Plants with a Lovely Scent.

Romantic Cottage Garden Border Secrets 6. Add Aromatic Plants

It not only lends its beauty to the cottage garden, but also a sweet smell, creating that romantic feeling.

There is nothing more romantic than a lovely smell along a cottage garden path. This will take your garden up a notch…or two.

Remember that cottage gardens give freedom to break the rules, so feel free to plant a smaller lilac bush right on the border.

Or plant some lavender so close to the path that people may even brush up against it as they walk and usher up its lovely scent.

Hyacinth, gardenias, and peonies are all great options with many more besides.


So now you know my secrets to creating a romantic cottage garden border.

It isn’t that difficult.

So enjoy all the romance your cottage garden border brings you and yours!



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.

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