Evergreen cottage garden

Evergreen cottage garden

Evergreen cottage garden

Bonnie Davies is an award winning garden designer who works at Burnham's family-run, Davies Brothers Nursery. Welcome to her blog where she shares her thoughts on all things green.

When I meet someone to talk about their garden, one of the first questions I ask is ‘what style of garden are you looking for?’ and the answer is very often the same. We all love the edgy new ideas and contemporary twists to hard landscaping, but when it comes to planting it seems that for the majority of our Bucks/Berks folk, we like to keep that country feel: We want that chocolate box cottage garden.

I personally am a big fan of flowers, and love to try different combinations of big flowers next to small ones and delicate flowers next to blousy bloomers but there is one big drawback to many cottage garden planting schemes…there are a lot of flowers to delight our eyes through the summer months, but when it comes to autumn they leave us until spring. What we really need is some leafy friend to stay with us all year round.

Evergreens tend to conjure up images of beautiful (but rather big) Choisya ternata, Aucuba japonica or the much loved Rhododendron, which are all very good at giving a frame work structure to the garden. The problem is that our gardens seem to be shrinking, and many of us have got to fit more into them than plants, we want a patio, a lawn, perhaps some storage area and maybe even a relaxing water feature so we can’t dig massive flower beds to accommodate these shrubs and we don’t want an overgrown jungle of plants.

If you can’t see the wood through the trees and this all sounds as if there’s no solution, don’t worry there’s always an answer! To add year-round texture and colour to your fence why not grow some climbers? They are cheap to buy, easy to grow and quick to cover your drab old fence. Obviously you want to go for the evergreen varieties, so here’s some to look out for:

Passiflora caerulea


Clematis armandii

Hydrangea ‘Seemannii

Ceanothus (any variety you fancy)

Another way to add height without too much bulk with, is to grow standards, because that way you can grow colourful perennials

So that’s our height at the back of the border sorted but we don’t want to look out of our winter window and see a completely bare border in front of the climbers, where all our summer glory hunters are sleeping! We need evergreen perennials, winter do-gooders. Convolvulus cneorum is a fantastic perennial, because it retains its silver foliage all year round and contracts beautifully which darker leafed foliage. Hemerocallis (Daylily) and Tradescantia ‘Little Doll’ both have lush, strappy foliage that accents the more compact, blob-shaped plants. The same applies to Phormiums, and the other bonus with those is that there are many different colours to choose from (‘Bronze Baby’ is one of the smallest). 

Talking of colours to choose from, there is a Heuchera for every garden, no matter the colour scheme! They come in so many different guises. If you like your pinks and purples I would go for Heuchera ‘Blackberry Jam’ or H. ‘Rave On’, if you’re into vibrant reds and oranges H. ‘Firechief’ will set your world alight or if you want something to change through the seasons than the only Heucera for you is H. Miracle which changes from bright yellow then orange and then a burnt red leaf.

For something a bit more unusual, and to add a splash of late summer colour, Stokesia laevis is hard to beat. It flowers large cornflower type blooms from July right through until October so is superb value for money.

For an evergreen dainty daisy you could try Rhodanthemums which keep their silvery foliage year round and thrive in a sunny, well drained spot. There are also a number of beautiful and hardy Osterspermums that have a long flowering period an hold on to their glossy dark green leaves.

For a real cottage favourite though it’s hard to beat the trusted Lavender.  With a fragrance that draws you out into the garden and silvery foliage that looks nice even when it’s too wet and cold for anything to drag you outside! Lavender  ‘Hidcote’ or L. ‘Munstead’ are compact Lavenders and make them ideal for a smaller garden.

There are plenty more evergreen perennials you could choose, but I won’t take all the fun out of it, now you’ve got some ideas to get you started, and you know your cottage garden doesn’t have to mean that it only looks good in Summer, I will leave you to explore and experiment in these long awaited sunny days to come. 

Happy gardening, Bonnie.

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