This beautiful old rambling farmhouse in the Hilltowns of Western Massachusetts had very few gardens to integrate it into the landscape. While there was great “bones” to work with (mature sugar maples, fields, stone walls, etc…) it lacked color from herbaceous perennials. When Jim and the clients started to work on the landscape design it was agreed that keeping the gardens natural in feel was paramount so the gardens did not feel disconnected from their macro environment. We have maintained the gardens through the first season and have been impressed on how fast it has filled in. These gardens morph throughout the season and are an ever changing myriad of soft blues and pinks, the client’s favorites.
Before: The future perennial garden bed was an old gravel driveway. The driveway was unused, became covered with weeds and a fence was later put over it. After a soil test we worked in many yards of compost, topsoil and organic fertilizer raising the garden up many inches.
After (1 Year Later): Even though the soil was greatly improved it was critical to install perennials and grasses that would thrive in a hot, dry, low-fertility condition. All this and they had to be in different shades of pink and blue. In the late spring the ornamental grasses, lupine and catmint are in their full glory. These are soon to fade but then the coneflower, queen of the meadow and the salvia come in.
The catmint, salvia, and early astilbe can be a great combination of textures and soft colors. Notice the depth of the bed. It is far deeper than a conventional “foundation planting” allowing a generous path that bisects it giving a person access to maintain the bed or just to stroll through and enjoy. All stonewalls in this project was done by another contractor.
When combining colors keep the cool colors with other cool colors. If you plan to integrate a hot color do so by transitioning to it with a neutral color like green, gray or white.
Repetition of plant species is a vital component to any cottage garden. Not only throughout a single bed but from one bed to another. This will give many small unconnected gardens beds a feeling of connectedness and continuity.
The view from the porch was and important one to consider. The clients spend a lot of time there (spring, summer and fall) so plant: height, fragrance and bloom time were important considerations.
A simple stepping stone path was also used in this bed. Low growing creeping phlox was planted around the path because it will love the heat the stone will radiate and it will never get tall and flop over the stone impeding the path.
The use of a vertical element can be striking providing it is used in mass. Failing to do this it can seem awkward and out of place.