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The Art of Crafting a Stunning English Cottage Garden

English cottage gardens have long been a source of inspiration for gardeners and design enthusiasts alike, with their lush, untamed beauty and effortless charm. However, creating a stunning mixed border that blends the formal elegance of English garden design with the whimsical charm of cottage style gardens is a challenge that requires careful planning and attention to detail. To help you achieve this look, we spoke with Tom Coward, head gardener at Gravetye Manor, to uncover the secrets to crafting a truly wild and beautiful mixed border.

Step 1: Plan the Color Scheme

The key to creating a mixed border that looks wild and natural is to have a plan. “Nature puts plants together in ways we can only dream of mimicking, so you can be quite free with the color theory you use,” says Coward. To start, focus on how colors work together and how they contrast. Choose a color scheme that resonates with you, and then select plants that fit within that palette. Consider the colors of the flowers, foliage, and stems, as well as the overall mood and atmosphere you want to create in your garden.

Step 2: Layer Leaf Textures

To add depth and visual interest to your mixed border, choose plants with different leaf textures. “Texture is more important than color because a variety of textures brings a sense of movement to a border,” says Coward. Mix coarse, fine, and medium-textured plants to create a visually appealing combination. For example, pair a delicate, fern-like foliage with a bold, leathery leaf or a soft, velvety bloom with a prickly, thistle-like stem.

Step 3: Incorporate Self-Seeders

Incorporate plants that will drop seeds and come back on their own to add a naturalistic element to your mixed border. “You can get a self-sustaining population of plants that brings a naturalistic element to a formal planting,” says Coward. This will also reduce the amount of maintenance required in your garden. Choose plants that are known to self-seed, such as cosmos, zinnias, and marigolds.

5 Essential Tips for Designing a Natural Garden

  1. Plan the Color Scheme: Choose a color scheme that resonates with you and select plants that fit within that palette.
  2. Layer Leaf Textures: Mix different leaf textures to add depth and visual interest to your mixed border.
  3. Incorporate Self-Seeders: Choose plants that will drop seeds and come back on their own to add a naturalistic element to your mixed border.
  4. Include Shrubs and Trees: Incorporate shrubs and trees to provide structure and depth to your mixed border.
  5. Set Out Tender Perennials: Plant tender perennials in a location that provides the right amount of sunlight and care.

Conclusion

Creating a stunning English cottage garden that blends the formal elegance of English garden design with the whimsical charm of cottage style gardens requires careful planning and attention to detail. By following these 5 essential tips, you can create a wild and beautiful mixed border that will be the envy of your neighbors. Remember to be adventurous, edit your garden with intention, and learn by making mistakes. With patience and practice, you can create a garden that is truly wild and beautiful.

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