The English or cottage garden is a style that conjures up a flower-filled landscape bursting with color. Although this theme is most easily achieved in areas where rains are common and dappled shade offers comfort for typical cottage garden plants, you can create the same effects using plants that are ecologically friendly to your native environment.
One of the best ways to design an English cottage garden is to frame your garden with hardscapes and décor that will punch up the theme. Use a white picket fence or a white wooden arbor to outline your garden. Wrought iron can also blend in well with an English cottage garden. Paths and walls of used brick can help create the cozy look of comfortable age. And outfitting the garden with cottage styled benches or a romantic swing can make your garden all the more inviting,
The typical English cottage garden sports hollyhocks, sweetpeas, delphiniums, peonies, hollyhocks, roses and more. If these plants will do well in your environment, fill your garden with them. There are many other plants that will look great with this theme.
There are varieties of roses that do well in almost all garden areas. You can scramble them up trellises or over arches or even design in a rose garden devoted exclusively to these flowers.
If your area is not ideal for growing the classic English cottage garden plants, look for plants that grow well in your area but have similar habits of growth. For example, instead of delphiniums and foxgloves, try growing mullein or columbines. Look for varieties of columbine or other large families that might offer individual plants that grow in variable conditions. Use annuals and bulbs that are likely to do fine in many more areas. Stock will add perfume while pansies and snapdragons will fit in perfectly and annuals can be used in the growing season of most any climate. Bulbs like ranunculus, tulips, daffodils, freesia and more always look right at home in a cottage garden.
Create gardens that are not formal and symmetrical. Plant flowers and shrubs to create a full look. A little random wildness will look just fine in a cottage garden. Too much planning and control will destroy the relaxed look of a successful English cottage garden. Then add ornamentation like a bird bath or a set of garden chimes as a finishing touch.
You can create a tropical-looking garden even if you don’t live in a tropical climate. Of course, if you already live in a warm, humid climate you can go native. But by designing in effects, materials and the right plants, you can still create the illusion of the tropical garden even in areas that are decidedly not tropical.
Tropical gardens tend to be lush and you can ad that opulent look by planting thickly. Large-leafed plants are typical of tropical climates. Big, colorful flowers also create the feel of a tropical paradise. Check out the plants that grow well in your climate. There are usually a surprising number of them that have either large leaves or showy flowers. Even in the desert there are some natives that can be mixed with Mediterranean type plants to give a very tropical feel despite their drought-resistant lifestyles.
Don’t depend on the plants alone. Using construction materials that read ‘tropical’ will help build the illusion of a warm, humid paradise. Consider building with bamboo or rattan. You can find outdoor furniture, some of it constructed in vinyl or fiberglass for durability, that can help create the rainforest theme. You can add a water feature like a pond, a pondless waterfall or a fountain that is sculpted to enhance the sultry illusion of the tropics. Cluster closely planted greenery around your water feature to create an impinging jungle. Or perhaps you’d prefer to build a barbecue or bar with a roof thatched with palm leaves.
Finish off with some décor. A fallen tree stump, some large lava rocks or maybe a few tiki torches might fit in nicely. Don’t over-do the details or it will start to look artificial.
If you don’t live in a tropical climate, it is best to design a theme garden like this within a walled backyard or other area that is visually cut off from your surroundings. A tropical garden will look strange sitting in the middle of a tall-forested or barren chaparral landscape. Also make sure the tropical look blends sufficiently with the style of your house. You don’t want radically different styles to be fighting with each other.
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