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Cottage Gardening: A Fascinating History

Lee Miller is a landscape designer and consultant, award winning garden blogger and author involved in the horticultural industry since 1996. Having started a gardening blog in 2010, she has written over 250 articles on general gardening, landscape design principles, gardening tips, planting, pruning, garden maintenance, feature plants and more. In addition, Lee Miller is the author of three books, A Guide to Northeastern Gardening, published in 2015, Landscape Design Combinations, published in 2017 and her latest publication Dream, Garden, Grow!-Musings of a Lifetime Gardener which just made its debut in December of 2018! Lee enjoys sharing her experience with others and with trowel in hand since the age of five, her passion for gardening continues to grow.

Welcome to the world of cottage gardening! The very familiar and popular modern-day concept of cottage gardening dates way back to the 14th century during Elizabethan times, when the earliest cottage gardens put more emphasis on vegetables, herbs and fruit trees. These gardens were thought to be created by workers for the purpose of growing food for household consumption, and unlike today, flowers were occasionally used to fill spaces simply for decoration. In later years, cottage style gardening was more admired for its informal design, dense traditional plantings, and mixture of ornamental and edible plants. Having gone through a major transformation during the 1870’s, cottage gardens became an addition to the development of formal estate gardens, which led to boxwood hedges and masses of greenhouse annuals and roses enclosed in what was referred to as “garden rooms”. The Arts and Crafts movement during the late 19th century focused on a return to the informal romantic planting style of the traditional English garden and well-known 19 century authors such as William Robinson and Gertrude Jekyll helped to popularize cottage garden design as we know it today.

Thatched Cottage at Old Westbury Gardens, Long Island, NY

By the early 20th century, the term “cottage garden” was described to be a large and sophisticated garden in which color and harmony were carefully planned and controlled. The famous 1910 Hidcote Manor in the United Kingdom is one of the best-known and most influential Arts and Crafts gardens in Britain, with its linked “garden rooms” of hedges, rare trees, shrubs and herbaceous borders. Vita-Sackville-West, English poet, novelist, and garden designer had implemented similar models for her 1930’s cottage garden at Sissinghurst Castle, where her idea of a cottage garden was a place where flowering shrubs were allowed to mingle with roses, herbaceous plants, bulbs, climbers and seedlings coming up wherever they have chosen to sow themselves. The cottage garden in France was a development of the early 20th century Monet’s garden, a sprawling garden full of varied plantings, rich colors, and water gardens. In modern times, the term “cottage garden” is used to describe any number of informal garden styles, using design and plants very different from their traditional English cottage garden origins.

Allium in Walled Garden Old Westbury Garden

Modern cottage gardens are associated with an assortment of shrub roses, climbing roses, and old garden roses with lush foliage. The newer hybrid English roses introduced by David Austin are very popular in modern day cottage gardens because of their old-fashioned look with multi-petaled, fragrant flowers combined with cold hardiness and disease-resistance. Many modern cottage gardens also include the use of native plantings and those adapted to the local climate. Other plants incorporated into cottage style gardens include hedging plants such as boxwood, holly, Hawthorn, Elderberry, laurel and Privet. Flowering herbs and perennials in include lavender, catmint, thyme, sage, wormwood, feverfew, lungwort, hyssop, and sweet woodruff. Fruiting trees include the planting of crabapple, dogwood and cherry. 

Cottage/Traditional Style Perennial Border

A well-planned cottage garden can be a beautiful addition to your space and be a great haven for pollinators, such as butterflies, bees and hummingbirds. As a landscape designer, I try to incorporate a mix of “cottage style” plantings with traditional plantings to create a colorful garden which has all season interest and requires less maintenance. A favorite hybrid garden I created is this mix of perennials with evergreen and flowering shrubs. A weeping Pussy Willow is surrounded by fragrant deep pink Peony ‘Karl Rosenfeld’ with an understory of colorful purple ‘Salvia May Night’. A natural stone path leads from the patio to lawn area and is followed by a collection of Peony ‘Bartzella’, Astilbe, Daylily, Allium, Salvia and Lamb’s Ear, accompanied by the decorative foliage of Hosta. 

Clockwise (Left to Right: Allium ‘Globemaster’, Lamb’s Ear, Astilbe ‘Visions in Red’, Stella D’ Oro Daylily, Peony ‘Karl Rosenfeld’, Salvia ‘May Night’ and Peony ‘Bartzella’)

Although often overlooked, plant form is another useful attribute. An extension of the garden incorporates various colorful weeping, globe and spreading evergreens, such as Weeping Norway Spruce, Juniper, Chamaecyparis, Blue Globe Spruce and Dwarf White Pine. Ornamental/Flowering shrubs include hydrangea, rhododendron, azalea, weeping Japanese Maple, Dogwood, Crape Myrtle, flowering Plum and Cherry. Masses of perennials in odd numbers of three, five and seven offer an informal cottage-garden feel throughout the garden, while the color and texture of evergreens and flowering shrubs add an update to the traditional style. Ornamental grasses can also be incorporated to create interest and flow while planters with herbs can be added and used for cooking. Cottage gardening has evolved over the centuries, but remains a timeless tradition, and the right combination of colorful perennials, evergreens and flowering shrubs can create an informal and inviting atmosphere!

Patio Garden

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Creating An Easter Garden: Easter Egg Tree Planting For Beginners

What was once a popular German tradition can now be just as fun in your own garden. Easter egg trees are great for adding instant spring color to drab landscapes. While traditionally eggs are hung on the branches of shrubs or trees (or potted branches indoors), why not go one step further and enjoy these beauties by “planting” them instead. Keep reading to learn how to make an Easter tree garden.

Creating an Easter Garden

Easter egg tree planting begins by collecting your chosen eggs. You can decorate them however you want beforehand or leave them be and do it later. It’s generally better to start out small with just a few eggs, unless you want to plant a hedge of a dozen or so. The eggs should be planted at least 4 inches (10 cm.) deep in well-draining, fertile soil. If you’re planting more than one of these magnificent trees, keep the spacing at around 6 inches (15 cm.). And remember to begin sowing at least 8-10 weeks in advance so you can enjoy your eggs in time for Easter!

Since it can take some time for these eggs to sprout into new trees, you can always cheat and go the quicker route by planting an Easter eggplant, which will germinate in only a couple weeks, before maturing into an exciting plant loaded with gorgeous white eggs that deepen into cream, yellow, and orange. This is also a good option for those having little space, as the plants only reach about 12-36 inches (30-91 cm.) tall, making them suitable for containers too.

Additional Plants for Easter

In addition to your newly planted Easter tree, you’ll want to capture the essence of this festive occasion by adding other elements reminiscent of the holiday.

Okay, so not everyone is a fan of those colorful little marshmallow peeps, but some people do enjoy them. Even if you don’t want to eat the sticky chicks, they’re still cute and fun to have in the garden. An easy way to save money is to grow your own marshmallow plant. Keep in mind these plants for Easter prefer marsh-like or damp areas. That said, there are many varieties and flavors available, so you’re apt to find just the right one.

Don’t forget your Easter grass. While there are a number of grasses that can be grown in the Easter garden, wheatgrass is an excellent choice, but other fast-growing varieties such as rye or oats work well too. Just make sure the type you choose is appropriate for the conditions in your area. And, as you’re waiting for the seed to germinate, consider adding a mesh cover to protect the grass from birds, animals and insect pests.

Other plants for Easter that can be added to the garden might include:

• Rabbits aren’t always welcome, but Easter is an acceptable time to invite them. Help your garden come alive with bunny tail grass or bunny ears. You’ll need something to feed all those rabbits, so be sure to plant some carrots too.

• What’s an Easter egg tree with the hens and chicks? These easy-care plants are a must have for your outdoor Easter décor. Celebrate the holiday with decorative balloons by planting balloon flowers around your Easter tree.

• And, of course, what would Easter be without chocolate. Grow some yummy chocolate mint, chocolate mimosa, and other chocolate flowers so your family can enjoy these delightful snacks as well.

As you can see, creating an Easter garden is easy and will delight the little ones for months to come with lots of eggs and other treats come harvest time. Remember to keep an Easter basket handy for harvesting all these goodies!

HAPPY APRIL FOOLS’ DAY!

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Agave victoriae-reginae Care & Info

If you’re still looking for that one centerpiece for
your garden, balcony or even a sunny living room, stop right here. Agave
victoriae-reginae, better known as the Queen Victoria agave, is probably one of
the most spectacular succulent species out there. Tough and easy to grow, it
makes the perfect addition to any spot that still lacks an eyecatcher plant!

Keep reading for everything you need to know about
growing the Queen Victoria agave.

This caresheet is a guest post by Mari from Houseplant
Central
, an informative website centering around houseplant
care. This indoor gardening addict has been growing houseplants for years now
and hopes to inspire you to greenify your own home too!

Agave victoriae-reginae: Natural Habitat

This hardy agave species is naturally found in North Eastern Mexico, where
it inhabits (semi-)desert conditions. This is not a very hospitable habitat:
the plant is known to grow on very steep cliffs, holding onto poor soil. As a
result, it has evolved to be very hardy and withstand almost anything nature
can throw at it.

Agave victoriae-reginae: Cultivation

If you’ve managed to obtain a Queen Victoria agave to grow in your own
garden or home, you’ll find that adhering to general succulent/agave care
guidelines works just fine for this species. It’s not demanding and will
forgive the occasional beginner mistake.

This slow-growing agave will thrive in well-draining, airy soil that
contains a significant amount of grit. When grown outdoors it should be
protected from the blasting afternoon sun to prevent burning. Indoors, where
the light is weaker, place the plant in the sunniest spot you can provide.

Like most succulents, the Queen Victoria agave appreciates plenty of water
during the summer growing season. Provide water as soon as the soil goes dry,
which can be multiple times a week in very dry climates. During wintertime this
species goes dormant, which means waterings should be reduced drastically to
prevent rot. Once or month (or even less when temperatures drop low) should
work best.

Provide your Queen Victoria agave with the care it needs and you’ll slowly see
it flourish into the typical geometric growth pattern that has made it so
popular. With a maximum size of around 50 cm/20” this is not the largest agave
out there, but its spectacular leaves more than make up for that.

Queen Victoria agaves take up to 10 years to reach their adult size, but they are certainly worth the wait.

Agave victoriae-reginae: Temperature

The Queen Victoria agave is a great choice for those that would like to
grow succulents outdoors for most or even all of the year. Although the species
prefers temperatures above freezing (0 °C) year-round, it can deal with light
frost as long as its soil is kept dry.

In climates that get a lot of rain and/or frost during wintertime, you
might want to move your Queen Victoria agave indoors during the harshest
months.

Agave victoriae-reginae: Propagation

If you’re looking to multiply your Queen Victoria agave, the easiest way to
do so is to look for the offsets this plant naturally produces. Simply separate
one of these pups from the main plant using a sharp knife, leave it to dry for
a few days and then plant it in well-draining soil.

Like other agaves, the Queen Victoria agave will bloom once, usually after
10 to 15 years. This bloom signals the end of the plant’s life, as it’s
monocarpic, but don’t despair. Agave blooms are a wonderful sight to see and
you can harvest the seed pods to start the cycle all over again.

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