Typical cottage gardens—the ones we see in English gardening books and magazines—are undeniably beautiful. But when gardeners in the United States attempt to replicate their charming and iconic look, the result can often be unstructured and chaotic. David Kirchner and Scott Warner set out to create a garden in North Truro, Massachusetts, that was inspired by the romantic look and feel of those English gardens, but they didn’t want it to look messy and unruly. So they opted for a casual cottage style that uses color and repetition to prevent visual chaos.
The garden sits atop a sand dune and envelops two adjacent cottages, which are used as both windbreaks and a framework to extend the gardens vertically, with many of the shingled walls clothed in vines. True to the cottage style, David and Scott’s garden focuses on flowers in lush abundance. Some of their favorites include rockrose (Cistus spp. and cvs., Zones 6–10), rosemary (Salvia rosmarinus, Zones 7–10), and an array of heirloom roses that bloom at various times from spring through fall. The garden is dominated by plants that flower in cool, soft colors (blue, violet, soft yellow, pink, white, chartreuse). This particular color scheme gives the landscape a soothing appearance and an overall sense of calm, which helps combat any chaos that may creep in.
Since this landscape is located in New England, seasonality was an important factor. To ensure that late winter and early spring are just as interesting as summer, Scott and David planted several key woody plants and ephemerals. These include witch hazel (Hamamelis spp. and cvs., Zones 3–9) and corydalis (Corydalis spp. and cvs., Zones 5–9). The native surroundings are also embraced in this garden, with certain native plants, like Northern bayberry (Myrica pensylvanica, Zones 3–7), dotting the beds.
Despite its relatively small space when compared to the stately British gardens of Sissinghurst and Hidcote, this romantic landscape provides all the charm and whimsy you’d expect from a cottage garden.
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