Summer Must-Haves – for small cottage gardens

Summer Must-Haves for the smaller cottage garden

Down-sizing your garden can feel daunting. While it’s tempting to think of all the lovely plants you won’t be able fit in, choosing the ones you can have, and making each one count, is exciting! Here are our faves for a little summer cottage garden that offers something for everyone:


Climbing Roses

Even the smallest of cottage gardens can fit in a rose – but you will make the best use of space if it is a climber. When choosing a climbing rose, look for those with smaller blooms so they don’t dwarf the rest of your small garden plantings. For a rose that delivers all this, plus perfume, old-favourite Cecile Brunner (it comes in pink and white) is a winner. However, if you want a climber to provide some shade in summer, and to be gone in winter when you need the light, choose a perennial such as a Keith Hammett sweet pea. Hammett sweet pea vines grow taller than most others, their flowers are usually exquisitely perfumed, and they all display pretty tendrils which are just as pretty in a vase as the flowers.


There’s little more relaxing than sitting in your own garden enjoying the fresh perfume of flowers you grew yourself. If you’re a lover of spicy fragrance, sweet little dianthus, with its vanilla and clove notes, is a treat. These easy-to-grow, low, clumping plants are sometimes called ‘pinks’, and thrive in full sun where the heat brings out their scent. Stock also brings spicy perfume to the garden, and if you choose those with pink and ruby tones, they’ll team beautifully with your pink dianthus!


A flower that lasts in the vase is always popular, especially among cottage blooms which often have a short picking life. For long lasters, look no further than dwarf Alstromeria. These colourful, clumping plants are such great value in a smaller garden because they bloom from spring right through autumn. For added value, they also draw in butterflies. Carnations are also long lasting once picked. They are so easy to grow, and come in such a variety of colours, finding some to suit your colour scheme is a breeze. Handy hint: carnations also grow from stem cuttings!

Forever flowers

Everyone likes colourful dried flowers – they look great when fresh, and fill a gap in winter, especially if you live in a cold climate or a shady spot. In the colder months, they can be popped in with fresh greenery to bring it to life even more. Traditional, colourful straw flowers are often grown for drying, but they are quite large plants for a cottage garden. Instead, head for lower growing statice. If colour is your main aim, there are many bright varietiess to choose from. However, if you are looking for something a little more sophisticated, seek out Statice latifolia (sometimes known as ‘sea lavender’). It has a finer appearance, but dries just as well.


Cottage garden flowers provide some of the best blooms for insects – but only if you stick to old favourites, and steer clear of complex ‘doubles’ that have been bred for looks, and not for pollinating insects wanting to make their way into the centre of the flower, and the source of nectar. Phacelia is a winner with the honey bees, the bumbles adore borage and Bergamot, a range of pretty little flies and our native wasp will enjoy Queen Anne’s Lace, and the butterflies will head straight for Achillea (yarrow).  Yarrow comes in a range of colours, including pastels, and can also be used as a dried flower.

A little garden has so many advantages, especially once we are retired, and want to be freer to come and go as we please. As you create your new garden space, enjoy picking and choosing to make your floral dreams come true.