There’s nothing like the look of a classic cottage garden,
where sweetly-scented blooms ramble
amongst each other in a happy bounty.
Traditional cottage plants are sometimes described as “old-fashioned”—think Grandmother’s cutting garden—and are often long-blooming, easy-care, and delightfully fragrant.
This combination has all of the traditional cottage garden elements. These selections have an extended bloom season, and are drought-tolerant, which means no fuss, no muss beauty all summer long.
The Dianthus and Sweet Alyssum will fill the air with the fragrance of honey and cloves, and the Silene provides unique beauty
with its brightly variegated foliage.
Silene dioica ‘Clifford Moor’
This is a real workhorse of a plant. The vivid foliage wakes up early in the spring, and quickly spreads to a nearly 2’ wide mound. Bright pink flowers rise gracefully above the plant, to about 18”. The flowers bloom pretty much constantly until the first frost, especially if deadheaded. The real star here is the chartreuse and green foliage. Silene prefers full sun and well-draining soil, but this plant is very adaptable.
“Pinks” are a quintessential cottage plant. ‘Firewitch’ has delicate, gray-green foliage that forms a tight mound to 1 foot wide. Wispy stalks rise about a foot above the plant, topped with bright fragrant magenta flowers. Blooms will continue through the summer if deadheaded. Dianthus likes full sun and excellent drainage.
Lobularia maritima: Sweet alyssum
A very reliable plant, Sweet Alyssum blooms all season long, even into mild winter months! Its tiny, honey-scented blossoms attract hoverflies, bees, and other beneficial insects. An annual, it can reseed itself just enough to pretend it’s perennial. Will grow to about 6” tall and wide, but is wonderful planted en masse to form a dense groundcover. Likes full or half-day sun and average soil.
These plants do well in the ground or in containers. Add For a very full look, plant in sets of three about 1 foot apart. They will fill in quickly.
If you want to move away from the pink scheme, there are many lovely substitutions available. Each of the following are also long-blooming and very easy-care: Groundcover Campanulas such as ‘Birch Hybrid’ or ‘Dickson’s Gold,’ Geranium ‘Rozanne,’ Annual Lobelia,
Linum perenne--Blue Flax
Trapaeolum majus: Nasturtium
Nasturtium ‘Whirlybird Cream’
Care & Maintenance
Amend soil at planting with planting compost to ensure good drainage. If planting in a container, use a good-quality potting soil. Add an organic fertilizer such as EB Stone Sure Start at planting time.
An all-purpose or flower fertilizer in spring and again in summer will be sufficient food for these plants—they are not heavy feeders. These plants will look their best in full sun (at least 6-8 hours of direct sun), and will need regular watering to establish them the first season.
After a year, a deep weekly watering in the warmest months should be sufficient. Deadheading or lightly shearing back the plants will help them keep flowering.