Growing a Cottage Garden in Containers

Cottage gardens were the unruly and functional response to traditional English formal gardens found on the grounds of wealthy estates.

Instead of manicured shrubs, lawns and brilliantly colored annuals the cottage garden incorporated vegetables, herbs, hardy perennials and old fashioned roses. Over time the charm of cottage gardens has caught on and many landscapers choose to use the style of a cottage garden in their modern settings.

Even if you don’t have much space you can still achieve the quaint charm of a cottage garden in a single container or a grouping of containers. Consider creating outdoor installments in the style of wild and captivating cottage gardens.


Cottage gardens are often full of rambling and climbing vines. Use trellises or other supports to encourage climbers to thrive in pots. Morning glories, sweet peas and climbing roses are classic cottage garden components.

Packed Full

Cram containers full of blooms and foliage. Keep in mind that a wild and unruly look is part of the charm of a cottage garden. Better Homes and Gardens recommends using soft pink and lavender blooms. Sprawling varieties of petunias, licorice plant and pink verbenas are the perfect plants for full and wild arrangements. Coleus and dusty miller are wonderful mounding foliage plants to fill out space and also add color and texture to cottage garden style containers.

Ornamental Edibles

Keep in mind that cottage gardens were also functional. While you or your landscape clients may not intend to eat the plants in the arrangements, ornamental edibles still contribute to the overall look of the garden. Consider adding leafy lettuces, ornamental cabbages and kale to your arrangements. Trailing herbs such as thyme and oregano are perfect for spilling over the edges of containers. The light purple flowers found on varieties of sage are ideal soft color to add to a cottage garden.


Use rustic stone or faux stone containers to maintain the old world style. Unique repurposed containers are also charming additions. Consider galvanized wash basins, old buckets, watering cans and simple ceramic pots. Grouping a variety of containers together will contribute to the full, lush look of a cottage garden.

Tips to Keep in Mind

There are a few important tips to keep in mind for successful cottage garden container arrangements:

  • All the plants used in a single container should have similar light requirements. Don’t pair shade lovers with sun lovers.
  • Cottage garden containers will need consistent watering. A lot of plants packed into a tight space means not much room for the potting medium to retain water.
  • Use a potting mix with slow release fertilizer or add your own to ensure that the plants have plenty of nutrients to grow quickly and fill out the space.
  • Choose plants that are prolific bloomers and quick to produce foliage.

Country Charm

A cottage style container garden is an excellent way to add quaint charm to dinning patios, porches, stoops, balconies and other tight spaces that cannot support a garden bed. Lush, wild plants can inspire a country ambiance even in an inner city. What are your favorite cottage garden plants?


Judy’s Cottage Garden. <>

“Cottage Garden” Wikipedia. <>

“Great Containers for Gardening” Better Homes and Gardens. <>

Image: “English Limestone Cottage with Garden in Full Bloom” by F.D. Richards


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