Using wildflowers in a traditional cottage garden

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Ahhhh spring! The time for new beginnings, new life and new ideas; it’s also Nature’s promise that summer is on its way and we can start looking forward to the gentle humming of bees going about their business, gardens bursting with colour and scent; the smell of the barbeque and the sound of children playing (or in the case of my family, arguing about who gets control of the hosepipe for the water fight).


Summer preparations begin now.


A relaxed style of gardening makes summer time easy

legs and feet in a wildflower meadow with oxeye daisies and cornflowers

Summer days are made for relaxing in the garden - not for weeding, mowing or pest control!


If, like me, you enjoy gardening in spring time but want to spend summer relaxing with friends and family a wildflower or cottage-style garden might be just what you need. These colourful but informal gardens typically feature beds and borders that are so full to bursting with flowers that the weeds don’t get a look-in. And even if weeds do grow – you can barely see them.


Great! That means I won’t we on my knees weeding when I should be in my chair reading.


This type of garden won’t get out of hand when I go away for my holidays either.


Get the look

 

The cottage garden is traditionally very productive.  It would be used to supply the household with fruit and vegetables as well as cut flowers, medicinal herbs and traditional remedies.   The flowers may seem like a bit of frippary but don't forget that flowers support bees - and bees pollinate food crops.  Some of  them are also edible and, used correctly, with the right knowledge and skills, can cure all sorts of things.

cottages with front garden crammed full of colourful flowers

Cottage gardens are beautiful , easy to maintain and multipurpose.  They support beneficial insects such as bees and ladybirds.  

This sort of garden then is crammed with plants. It's usually a series of  fairly small beds and borders - so that flowers and foliage can be picked without trampling on neighbouring plants.  Beds are separated by paths.  Often they're grass paths  (cheaper to create) but gravel, bricks or pathing stones are used too.

Once you have your beds laid out, there are 3 ways to stock them with plants.


1. Individual plants
2. Grow from seed
3. Pre-planted blankets


Let’s look at the pros and cons and practicalities of each.


Creating your cottage garden with plants from the garden centre


For: you choose the plants and place them where you want – full control over the design.


Against: Expensive; you will need to control weeds until the plants are fully grown.


Grow your cottage garden from seed


For: Inexpensive, fascinating, a great sense of achievement, you choose the varieties


Against: Takes 2-3 years to reach maturity, baby seedlings need careful nurturing


Use a pre-planted blanket of plants

partially unrolled roll of Meadowmat wildflower turf

A roll of wild flower matting:  Several plant species grown onto a special mat - all the gardener needs to do is unroll it onto prepared ground, water it in and wait for an instant cottage-garden style display to grow.


This is an interesting concept and one you may not be familiar with. You will doubtlessly have heard of lawn turf – a speedy way of improving or making a lawn. Preplanted blankets are installed in exactly the same way as turf, but instead of containing 100% grass plants, they are made up of lots and lots of different species growing in no particular order.


For: Quick, easy, no hassle, plants are already established and there’s no room for weeds to grow.


Against: Limited choice of plant mixes, quite heavy to lift and manoeuvre, more expensive than seed (but cheaper than plants).

cottage garden with wildflowers

A cottage garden created using Meadowmat wild flower matting


How to plant wildflower matting

 


Different types of pre-planted blankets


Meadowmat Wild Flower Turf (aka wild flower mat):  Loves poor soil and sunshine.  Easy to install. Flowers from late spring onwards.  Incredibly easy to look after.

More about Meadowmat


Enviromat sedum matting:  Low growing, drought tolerant, great on slopes, attracts butterflies and bees, really low maintenance.

More about Enviromat


 


More garden ideas


Case study: bringing a Norfolk garden to life with wildflowers



15 wildflowers beloved by bees


Using wild flowers for traditional crafts