How to Make a Beautiful Cottage Garden – My 9 Best Tips

There are so many different styles of gardening. My favorite garden, the one where I feel most at home, is a cottage garden. Perhaps you should know what a cottage garden is so you can decide if cottage garden style speaks to you.

A cottage garden achieves beauty with brightly colored flowers and plants arranged densely in a seemingly carefree way. It is relaxed without respect for rules or any idea of symmetry or balance. The cottage garden can be playful and whimsical or peaceful and serene. It is the opposite of austere or imposing. Instead, it is welcoming and inviting and encourages daydreaming. It may feel as though it is on the cusp of wild, on the verge of taking over, but is always charming.

If this sounds like home to you, let’s talk about how to make a beautiful cottage garden of your own.

1. A Beautiful Cottage Garden is Filled with Colorful Flowers

How to Make a Beautiful Cottage Garden 1. Colorful Flowers

Colorful flowers are a staple in a beautiful cottage garden.

Your goal here is to choose the flowers you like. It’s that simple.

I have a lot of perennials in my cottage garden. They come back year after year and tend to spread over time.

If you want to save money, plant these spreading perennials with plenty of distance between them and wait for them to fill in the empty spots.

A cottage garden is known for being densely packed together with little space.

It will take you a few years to achieve this look but it will happen.

If you have the budget, plant a drift of perennials with little space between them. They will make a dazzling show for you much more quickly.

Here are some guidelines for choosing flowers for your cottage garden:

Choose flowers in a range of colors. Pink, purple, yellow, and white are my mainstays in my cottage garden but my son gave me a red Gerber daisy for mother’s day and it looks amazing tucked into my garden. All colors work in the cottage garden.

Vary the texture of the flowers. Black-eyed susan grows differently than gaura. The shape of peony and lavender is not the same. Mix it up to give your cottage garden textural interest.

Use different heights of flowers. Tall, wispy flowers will sway in the breeze and give great movement. Hollyhocks will spire over the whole garden. Dianthus can be lower to the ground and hard to live without. Together, they make a huge impact.

If you want to know all the flowers I love in a dreamy cottage garden, you can read about them here.

Or if you are trying to specifically choose border flowers for your cottage garden, see my ideas here.

2. Anchor plants in a Cottage Garden Give Year-Round Beauty

How to Make a Cottage Garden Beautiful - Anchor Plants

[caption id="attachment_4571" align="aligncenter" width="768"] Both the distylium and the columnar rose of sharon are anchor plants in my cottage garden. Dystilium is evergreen so adds great winter interest and is a lovely backdrop to the roses planted in front of them.

In the end, your blooming shrubs and flowers will be the stars of the cottage garden.

But when designing your garden, you generally want to choose and place your anchor plants first then plant your perennials around them.

Anchor plants are plantings that give weight and substance to the cottage garden. They give a framework around which the rest of the garden is designed. Often they are evergreen, but not necessarily. They can be shrubs or trees.

Use boxwoods or laurels or nandinas as an anchor. Or choose trees like arborvitae or holly or juniper.

In my cottage garden, I have evergreen boxwoods as an anchor in one area, but I also chose some hydrangeas, a ‘Purple Pillar’ rose of sharon, and a lilac tree as an anchor elsewhere. My favorite anchor plants are

  1. Boxwoods (evergreen)
  2. Ninebark (evergreen)
  3. Weigela (deciduous)
  4. Spirea (deciduous)
  5. Lorapetalum (evergreen)
  6. Hydrangeas (deciduous)
  7. Arborvitae (evergreen)
  8. Distyllium (evergreen)
  9. Camellias (evergreen)
  10. Columnar Rose of Sharon (deciduous)

Anchor plants will contribute to the winter garden as well, either in their evergreen nature or perhaps in shape and texture.

For more tips on how to make your garden look good in winter, you can read my blog here.

3. Pathways in the Cottage Garden Add Charm and Beauty

How to Make a Beautiful Cottage Garden 3. Pathways

A pathway in the cottage garden adds beauty year-round.

Pathways can play a huge role in adding charm and beauty to the cottage garden.

Remember, you are wanting to encourage daydreaming with your cottage garden.

The cottage garden is an agent to produce a slowing of pace. It should encourage deep-breathing and casual sauntering.

The pathway is the guide to strolling. Let it meander through your plants and flowers.

In truth, it could be one of the first design elements you plan in your cottage garden.

I planned and laid my stepping stone path in my cottage garden and then planted all my flowers around it.

To learn step by step how I laid my cottage garden path, see this blog.

If you want other pathway ideas, see my ideas here. In this blog, I give you different options for pathway materials at different budgets to make a charming cottage garden pathway possible for everyone.

4. Add Decor to your Cottage Garden to Increase Beauty

How to Make a Beautiful Cottage Garden 4. Cottage Decor

I added a birdhouse and a rain chain to my cottage garden to increase its beauty and charm.

Flowers can’t be replaced for charm and beauty, but if you want to amp it up, add some cottage garden decor.

I love pergolas and obelisks and bird baths and garden stakes.

I am strategizing on ways to add arches to my garden because I think they are so lovely.

My aunt has a gorgeous concrete statue in her garden.

My friend has a birdbath that is breathtaking. She fills it with flowers every spring.

Keep in mind, these are added to the garden as a spot for the flowers to surround and accent.

The flowers give them their charm and they somehow make the flowers look even dreamier.

The aesthetic of the whole cottage garden can be changed with the right decor.

For more ideas on charming cottage garden decor, you can see my blog here.

5. Give your Cottage Garden Vertical Interest or Height

I already mentioned adding different heights of flowers to your cottage garden.

This is true for the entire garden. Incorporate different heights with your flowers, the anchor plants, and the decor.

The idea is you want the eye to have to travel up and down, to feel like you can’t take it all in in one glance.

Instead, this is an experience that requires a pause.

Not only does one flower or plant or piece of decor dazzle you in the cottage garden, but the feel of the whole does.

The cottage garden is a team of flowers and decor working together to create this haven of calm and happy and peace and acceptance and beauty.

Vertical interest plays a big part in that. A good way to achieve this is with trees or tall plants.

The tree or tall plant lifts your vision before falling back down again to perhaps some daisies or salvia.

You could also use a pergola and train a vine to climb it. The height of the pergola beckons the eye to rise.

Not to mention the height, the vine brings a different texture to the garden as does the material the pergola is made of.

Adding vertical interest to the garden takes some planning and strategy but it contributes greatly to the overall beauty of the cottage garden.

6. Awaken All the Senses in the Cottage Garden

How to Make a Beautiful Cottage Garden 6. Awaken Senses

I planted these ‘Reminiscent’ roses in my cottage garden this spring. They have added a beautiful aroma to my garden! And they’re gorgeous!

Remember, I said the cottage garden is all about an experience.

You are creating a feeling of romance and beauty.

A good way to do that is by engaging as many senses as possible.

We have already spoken about how to add flowers and anchor plants and decor to give beauty that pleases the eye.

I also love to include plants that smell amazing. In the spring, when I get home and before I run on to the next thing, I will stop, go to the garden, and smell the lilac tree I have. Or the peonies.

To take your cottage garden to the next level, add lilacs and peonies for their visual beauty but also for the sweet scent that they bring.

Certain varieties of honeysuckle are aromatic. Roses can be incredibly fragrant. Lavender planted along the cottage garden path is a great way to add a lovely scent to your garden as well.

How about a water fountain or some type of water feature in your cottage garden to awaken the sense of hearing?

The soothing sound of water is hard to beat. I have a rain chain in my garden and LOVE the sound when it rains.

Wind chimes, if not overdone, are so sweet in the garden. I love the charm they bring and the gentle sound in the wind.

All of these additions increase the beauty of the experience of the cottage garden.

7. Attract Bees and Butterflies for Beauty in Your Garden

How to Make a Beautiful Cottage Garden 7. Attract Bees and Butterflies

Butterflies love my lantana in my cottage garden and I love them. They certainly add beauty and magic. No small thing.

It’s always attractive to add movement to your cottage garden.

Tall, wispy flowers that bend in the breeze will do that, as well as taller grasses.

A metal pinwheel stake will add movement when the wind blows. A water feature adds movement.

Nothing, however, will compare to bringing in bees and butterflies to your cottage garden.

I have a ton of them this year. When I walk down my path, the butterflies all fly up in front of me and all over.

It is MAGIC.

Next-level beautiful.

The bees tend to buzz about but mainly mind their own business.

They have never bothered me or anyone who has been in my garden.

Even my grandpup, who puts his nose right on them, has gotten away unscathed.

It’s a great feeling to think I am feeding a species that is declining and quite a responsibility, as well.

Both bees and butterflies feed on nectar-rich plants.

Plant them and they will come.

Well, there are a few other things you should consider.

You can check out my blog about how I attract bees and butterflies to my cottage garden HERE. 

No one is unmoved by the beauty of butterflies and bees in the cottage garden.

8. Create a Cottage Garden that Evokes a Romantic Feeling

How to Make a Beautiful Cottage Garden 8. Romance

Roses and the sunset play together in the cottage garden to create a romantic touch.

The most beautiful cottage gardens aren’t simply a collection of lovely flowers. They are more than that.

Adding all the elements we have already discussed can create a space that evokes a feeling you can’t quite explain within you and hopefully, within the visitors to your garden.

Sometimes it’s gasp-worthy awe. Other times it produces a sense of calm.

Sometimes I’m speechless. Other times all I want to do is take pictures, or maybe just sit still in the middle of the garden.

All of these times, it affects something much deeper than a simple, “Oh, how pretty.”

It affects the soul. Or at least it does mine.

I have shared several tips above. All of these can combine to create a beautiful cottage garden that affects the deepest parts of the soul.

Sometimes we call that romance.

Perhaps it’s the romance between two lovers but often it is the beauty of the romance of flowers, tightly packed together, playing among each other and between each piece of the garden.

The romantic bench and the large white hydrangea blooms bending over its top.

The black-eyed susans next to the pink swaying gaura.

The roses intertwined with the sage.

The birdbath with salvia at its feet.

The gerber daisies peeking out of the obelisk.

The butterflies flitting among the tall verbena.

Even the pink dianthus popping out of the soil.

The romance of the cottage garden is undeniable to any who pause to notice.

If you can create a cottage garden that evokes a romantic feeling (you can!), consider yourself successful.

For more ideas on how to create romantic cottage gardens, check out my blog here.

9. The Most Beautiful Cottage Garden Defies All the Rules

A cottage garden gives you the impression that all the flowers and plants somehow just started growing where they are.

There seems to be no evidence of design strategy.

Symmetry and balance aren’t terms used in cottage gardening.

You don’t have to be sure to plant the tallest ones in the back and then stair-step them to the front.

Don’t worry about planting in 3’s or using just one or two colors.

Cottage gardens are a collection of flowers and plants you love along with the decor you love.

My Granny’s Garden

Before I even knew what cottage gardening was, I LOVED my granny’s garden.

It looked to me as though it was a collection of plants and flowers she had collected over the years.

A friend gives her some seeds, so she throws them in an open spot.

Her sister gives her a cutting from her garden so my granny may have plopped it in the nearest open area.

Maybe she sees a flower she loved growing wild and transplants it into her garden. Maybe…put it over there.

She added as she went. Each flower or plant telling a story.

I don’t recall it being super organized or structured. It was a bit wild but I LOVED IT!

It was a place I felt welcomed and loved. Just the thought of it warms my heart.

I want a garden that warms my heart and hopefully the heart of others. I want my granny’s garden.

Over time, I’ve come to realize her garden fit the description of a cottage garden.

Throw Out the Rules

As you are creating your beautiful cottage garden, feel free to choose the plants and flowers you love, even if they don’t fit in with “the rules.”

There are traditional cottage garden flowers but that doesn’t mean there are flowers you can’t use.

Everything is permissible in the cottage garden.

If you aren’t sure where to place a flower, go ahead and plop it where you want.

Did you find a bench you like? A pergola? Add it where you see fit.

It’s your garden. And keep in mind, everything can be changed.

The cottage garden is always evolving.

Feel free to experiment and test things out.

Even the most experienced gardeners have successes and failures. All of them move and change things in their garden as they want.

This is Your Cottage Garden Green Light

So, relax. Just get started planting and let your cottage garden grow and change over the years until it becomes all you ever dreamed of.

You can do it.

I always tell my kids, “How do you learn how to do anything? You simply have to do it to learn how to do it.”

It’s so fun to see how the garden changes from season to season and year to year.

Embrace the process and happy cottage gardening!

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

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.

I want to be happy! Give me the guide!


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.