Cottage garden flowers can transform any outdoor space into a beautiful and charming area with their layers of vibrant colours and sweet fragrances. This guide is your starting point for creating a delightful cottage garden that celebrates the beauty of nature’s palette and showcases an array of stunning cottage garden flowers.

A cottage garden is a beautiful way to add charm and character to your home while enjoying the pleasures of gardening. As a homemaker, you’ll appreciate the joy of cultivating a garden that’s not only visually appealing but also reflects your creativity and passion for nature.

Old English rose and sage in my cottage garden.
My favourite old English rose in peach alongside sage and daisies.

While embracing the art of homemaking in my daily life, I discovered the joys of gardening. Our cottage home came with a garden jam-packed with beautiful roses—28 to be exact—and a huge variety of bulbs like dahlias, tulips, daffodils, and bluebells. Not to mention the rows of Camilla’s along the fence lines and the blossoming rhododendrons. It was exactly what I dreamed of! 

Since moving into our home, I’ve made many adaptations to create a more honed cottage garden style to my taste. We’ve added raised vegetable beds, replaced grass with stones, and I’ve added a variety of plants, including:

  • English and French Lavender
  • Geraniums
  • Peonies
  • Hydrangeas
  • Perennial Herbs (Sage, Rosemary, Thyme)
  • A lemon tree
  • Rhubarb
  • Lambs ear
  • & lots of ground cover plants

I enjoy cutting flowers from my garden throughout the growing seasons to make beautiful floral arrangements for my home using thrifted vases.

Bunch of handpicked cottage garden flowers for a vase. Tulips, sage, freesias and lavender.

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What is a Cottage Garden?

A cottage garden is about creating a lovely, relaxed and charming space bursting with colour, texture, and fragrance. The idea is to mix ornamental and edible plants together naturally and effortlessly. 

Cottage gardens are a low-maintenance way for homeowners to express their creativity and passion for nature while adding character and personality to their homes. They are a place to escape from the stresses of daily life and enjoy the simple pleasures of gardening.

Cottage gardens were primarily used for practical purposes, such as growing herbs, fruits, and vegetables to feed the family. But over time, they evolved into a place of beauty and charm, with a mix of ornamental and edible plants that created a relaxed and inviting atmosphere.

If you love all things pretty, floral and lovely, check out my guide on Cottagecore.

Learning As You Grow

Gardening, like cooking or sewing, is a skill honed over time. Start with easy varieties requiring less care, like beginning homemaking with simple recipes. Over time, as you understand the soil and the seasons, you can add more plants.

Tips for Beginner Cottage Gardeners

  • Start Small – Choose a corner or a border to start your cottage garden.
  • Go for Variety – Include a mix of perennials, biennials, and annuals for year-round interest.
  • Think Height and Texture – Plant taller flowers at the back and layer forward with shorter ones.
  • Include Edibles – Mix herbs and edible flowers for a functional vintage cottage garden. I have planted my rhubarb under two rose bushes and my sage next to dahlias. Thyme sprawls from the vegetable garden across the stone pathway.
  • Plant Ground Cover – Don’t forget about ground cover. I know this blog focuses on cottage garden flowers to plant, but it is lovely to have some greenery during the off-season when these aren’t blooming. My favourites are lamb ears, creeping wire vine, creeping thyme, Corsican mint, or creeping phlox.
Our cottage garden progress with stones and new raised beds
Our cottage garden. There is still lots of work to be done, but it’s packed with plants.

12 Cottage Garden Flowers to Plant

The charm of a cottage garden lies in its selection of flowers. Here are some classics that no nostalgic cottage garden should be without:

Peonies

These lovely flowers are a staple in cottage gardens and are available in many shades and sizes. They bloom in late spring and early summer and are perfect for creating a romantic and elegant atmosphere. They require full sun or partial shade and well-drained soil.

  • Companion plants: Pair with spring bulbs like daffodils or tulips for a stunning early-season display.
  • When to plant: Plant peony tubers in early autumn to ensure a stunning display of blooms in late spring and early summer.
Stunning close up of a bright pink Peonie in my cottage garden
Vibrant peonies along our front fence garden.

Foxgloves

These tall and elegant flowers are perfect for adding height and structure to a cottage garden. They bloom in early summer and attract bees and hummingbirds. They prefer partial shade and moist, well-drained soil.

  • Companion plants: Plant alongside ferns or hostas for a woodland garden feel.
  • When to plant: Foxgloves prefer partial shade and moist, well-drained soil, making them ideal for woodland garden settings.

Bluebells

Bluebells bring a touch of enchantment to cottage gardens with their delicate, nodding blooms and enchanting blue hues, evoking a sense of natural beauty and tranquillity.

  • Companion plants: Pair with ferns or under roses to create a woodland-inspired garden corner and add texture to the planting scheme.
  • When to plant: Bluebells are typically planted in the fall, ideally before the first frost. This allows them to settle in and establish their roots before winter dormancy, resulting in beautiful blooms in spring.
Beautiful bluebell plants blooming along the side of our garage
Bluebells and tulips along our garage wall.

Hollyhocks

These tall, dramatic flowers add a touch of old-fashioned charm to a cottage garden. They bloom in mid-summer and prefer full sun and well-drained soil. They can grow to 8 feet tall and require staking to keep them from falling over.

  • Companion plants: Plant with daisies for a cottage garden border.
  • When to plant: Hollyhocks are best planted in early spring after the last frost date, ensuring they have ample time to establish and bloom during the growing season.

Lavender

These fragrant flowers create a relaxing and serene atmosphere in a cottage garden. They prefer full sun and well-drained soil and bloom in mid-summer. They are also a favourite of bees and butterflies. My top variety picks are English and French Lavender. Prune lavender plants lightly after flowering to promote bushiness and prevent woody growth.

  • Companion plants: Stunning when paired with herbs like sage, thyme, or rosemary. They also look great on their own along a fence or garden border.
  • When to plant: Lavender is ideally planted in early spring, after the last frost date, to ensure proper establishment and robust growth throughout the growing season, particularly in a cottage garden setting.
English Lavender planted along our fence line with new blooms
English Lavender along our back fence.

Roses

These classic flowers are a must-have in any cottage garden. They come in many colours and sizes and bloom from late spring to early fall. They prefer full sun and well-drained soil and require regular pruning to keep them healthy and blooming. Deadhead roses regularly to encourage continuous blooming throughout the growing season.

  • Companion plants: Underplant with hardy geraniums or alchemilla mollis for ground cover.
  • When to plant: Roses are typically planted in the spring, after the last frost date in your area, when the soil has thawed and is workable. This timing allows the roses to establish their root systems before the onset of hot summer weather. For most regions, this means planting roses in early to mid-spring.
Close up of a light pink old fashioned rose
Old fashioned climbing rose attached to a wooden trellis on our garage wall.
Old climbing rose against our garage wall.

Sweet Peas

These delicate, pastel-coloured flowers are perfect for adding a touch of whimsy and romance to a cottage garden. They prefer full sun and well-drained soil and bloom from early spring to late summer. They require support to keep them from falling over and benefit from regular deadheadings.

  • Companion plants: Train sweet peas up a trellis alongside clematis or morning glories.
  • When to plant: Sweet peas are ideally planted in early spring, around 4 to 6 weeks before the last frost date, to allow them to establish and bloom during the cooler months of the growing season.

Poppies

Bursting with colour and character, poppies are a true statement flower in any cottage garden. They come in various shades, from bold reds and oranges to soft pinks and whites, and their delicate, papery petals add texture and depth to any planting scheme.

  • Companion plants: Pair with ornamental grasses for a meadow-inspired look.
  • When to plant: Sow poppy seeds directly into the garden in early spring for best results.

Dahlias

Dahlias are a quintessential feature of cottage gardens. They boast tall blooms in many hues, shapes and sizes, ranging from light pastels and purple to bright pinks and yellows. They offer structural height to any garden bed. My favourite type of Dahlia is the Café Au Lait variety, which has large blooms in a soft, delicate shade of pink.

  • Companion plants: Pair with roses or sweet peas to create a vibrant and romantic display in your garden.
  • When to plant: Dahlia tubers are typically planted in early spring after the last frost date, ensuring ample time for establishment and a full growing season of stunning blooms.
Close up of a Cafe Au Lait Dahlia in my cottage garden

Daisies

There’s nothing quite as cheerful as a bed of daisies in the springtime. Their bright white petals and sunny yellow centres add a playful, youthful vibe to any garden, and their low-maintenance nature makes them a great choice for novice gardeners.

  • Companion plants: Daisies pair beautifully with lavender, roses, sweet peas, oregano, and catmint, creating a charming and vibrant cottage garden display.
  • When to plant: Daisies are best planted in early spring after the last frost date or in the fall, several weeks before the first frost, to establish before extreme temperatures.
Big daisies planted along our front fence line in our cottage garden

Iris

With their striking, sword-shaped leaves and vibrant blooms, irises are a true showstopper in any cottage garden. They come in a range of colours, from deep purples and blues to softer pinks and yellows, and their exotic appearance adds a touch of drama to any planting scheme.

  • Companion plants: Iris pairs well with roses, daylilies, and sage.
  • When to plant: Early spring after the last frost date to ensure optimal establishment and growth during the growing season.

Tulips

Tulips are beloved classics in cottage gardens. Their elegant blooms, available in various colours, from soft pastels to vibrant primaries, add a burst of springtime charm to any garden bed.

  • Companion plants: Pair with daffodils or hyacinths for a stunning spring display. These plants complement the colours and enhance the overall visual impact of your garden.
  • When to plant: Tulips are typically planted in the fall, ideally 6 to 8 weeks before the first frost date. This allows them to establish roots before the cold weather sets in, ensuring a beautiful spring bloom.
Tulips growing amongst the bluebells along our garage wall in our cottage garden
Tulips growing between bluebells along our garage wall.

Embrace the Journey

Remember, like homemaking, gardening is a personal journey. I am still working on my forever-changing cottage garden daily, which is part of the joy of gardening. It’s not about perfection but about creating a space that reflects the love and care you invest in it.

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