Updated: Oct 22
February 20, 2023
Once again, we are at an exciting time of year…the advent before full-blown gardening season! Honestly, I feel a little behind in my gardening but am grateful for nice weather lately enabling me to get out in the dirt.
My current garden has been a process of about eight years, and I have learned that time is required to create that seasoned, accumulated cottage look that is so charming to me. So don’t be discouraged if your garden is either nonexistent or not exactly where you want it to be. Gardening is a truly an organic process, one that is never fully complete.
Gardening is all about the journey, not always the end product. Yes, stepping back to admire a well-planned garden in the height of its beauty is an unparalleled joy, yet working in a garden is its very own joy and reward.
If you have ever done any gardening, you know that money actually does not stretch as far as one might think. Very quickly, you can have several hundred dollars in your buggy at your local garden center or hardware store.
So how can you create a cottage garden without blowing the bank? Today, I’d like to share a few ideas that I’ve learned along the way. First, let me say that I am not a professional gardener by any means but I passionately love plants and being outdoors.
If you are new to gardening, perennials are simply plants that will come back year after year (given the right conditions). Here in the South, some annuals will even come back year after year if the cold was not too deep or long.
Perennials will by far give you the most bang for your buck and can often be moved or subdivided to create more plants. Perennials tend to be hardy.
Some of my very favorite perennials are Black-Eyed Susans. There are several reasons why I love them so much. First, they are unbelievably hardy! My children (and even I to my shame) have stepped on them in the off season, and they still spring up. Black-eyed Susans are easy to divide and move around. For example, I never actually bought Black-eyed Susans for my yard. The previous home owner had some growing in the yard, and over time I have divided them and transplanted them around the yard.
Not every gardener likes these sunny flowers, and last year my dear friend and expert gardener threatened to dig up every Black-eyed Susan from my front flower bed. I talked her out of such plant murder, and she disapprovingly spared their green lives (she and I jokingly differ on some plant opinions).
Autumn Joy Sedum is another hardy and beautiful addition to a garden. These succulent-type flowers withstand heat and lack of water from their sometimes-forgetful plant owners. Once again, this plant is so easy to divide and move around the yard. Several friends gave me some starter plants a few years ago, and I have transplanted sedum around the yard.
Incorporate Natural Elements
I love incorporating natural elements into my gardening because often natural elements are free and they add natural charm that seamlessly blends in with the plants and flowers. Anything such as logs, tree branches, rocks, and even tree stumps could become focal points for a garden area.
What can you use in your yard to create visual impact and serve as a practical piece? We have a pile of uncut logs in our yard, and after studying the log pile for several minutes, I noticed several logs with rotten centers. A lightbulb went off in my brain! Why not use these hollowed out logs as planters? My little guy “helped” me drag the logs up to the front garden with our garden wagon, and we cannot wait to grow some interesting plants in the logs. One log even has two hollowed-out centers which will create a truly unique visual effect.
If you have trees in your yard, chances are you will also have sticks! Find longer sticks and tie them together with some twine to create a “teepee topiary” that you can train a climber such as morning glory, Carolina jasmine, or purple hyacinth bean to grow up.
Add Upcycled Elements
Anything vintage or antique catches my eye, and the details of things made yesteryear brings a smile to my heart. Most items made today are manufactured with maximum efficiency in mind, but vintage items often pair beauty with practicality.
For example, recently I found this old painter’s ladder at Goodwill for $6. I was absolutely thrilled with the details on this ladder such as the back “x” and the handle in the center of the ladder. My plan is to paint it a soft green and place it behind the patio furniture for height and visual focus. The ledge for the paint can will become a stage for a pot of beautiful, cascading flowers.
An old, once-forgotten wheelbarrow sits on my back patio sporting a coat of Sage Green paint by Valspar. My husband kindly drilled some holes in the bottom for drainage, and then I filled the bottom layer with gravel followed by gardening soil. I’m not sure what to plant in it this year, but it’s always fun to create a new look in this wheelbarrow each year.
Another whimsical item to add to your garden spaces is an old window. You can usually find old windows at garage sales for a couple of dollars. Someone gave me these windows on my back patio several years ago, and I love how they look behind my lantanas when they grow in the summer. The chippy paint just adds to the charm. I’m not a huge fan of chippy painted items in my house
anymore, but outside in the garden is just fine by me. My mom gave me the lovely, large grapevine wreath several years ago, and it breaks up the windows and creates a group of three (if you are new to decorating, grouping items into odd numbers is a rule of thumb).
I’ve had these green pots for several years and have decided to do something different with them this year. I set them on either side of our sidewalk, creating a symmetrical effect. Underneath the pots, I laid out some bricks in a pattern to give the pot some height and encourage draining. The plan is to paint them a soft green, gray color. I’d like to create a topiary using tomato cages and ivy. We shall see what happens!
A quick word to busy people and tired mamas…
Do not let perfectionism stop you from planting something this spring. Flowers will add beauty to your life, and every time you look out the window at your flowers, you will be blessed by the beauty of God’s creation. Children absolutely LOVE to plant flowers and then watch them grow. Planting flowers is an amazing “together” activity to do with your kids. Who cares if some blogger or YouTuber has a perfect garden…just go plant something and be blessed by the beauty that surrounds YOU!
One of my absolute favorite, inexpensive, easy, and fast gardening tips is to buy packs of Zinnia seeds from the Dollar Tree and plant them near my kitchen window. Zinnias grow quickly and will smile at you for a long time in the summer!
Happy gardening, my dear readers!
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