By Rosalind Creasy (1985)
The early Puritans left their mark on us in a number of ways, some of which make life a series of joyless tasks. Sometimes I think their devotees must write garden books. The tone of many of the how-to books reeks of rules, admonitions, and dicta. How about a garden that is programmed to give you joy, to take care of you? The cottage garden is an outright celebration of what a garden can do for every part of you: colors to see, textures to touch, fragrances to smell, bird calls to hear, and myriad tastes for the palate. And, of course, we can’t forget the most important part, your soul. You will experience the renewal of life, that primordial urge to believe in the future. You will put your fingers on the emerging carrot seedlings, anticipate the taste of the first tomato, and feel delight when the hummingbird visits the sage and the monarch butterfly sips from the dew collected by the nasturtium leaf.
I am suggesting that you plant a rather hedonistic variation of the traditional mixed border. Put it where you usually see a conventional shrub or flower border—along a fence line for instance, or along a walk or driveway, next to the patio, or along shallow hillsides. Fill it with joy, with colors, tastes, fragrances and even tactile pleasures—a swath of flowers and foliage.
The mixed border, sometimes called the perennial border since it usually includes a large number of perennially blooming plants, has been in fashion since the late nineteenth century. It has its roots in the English cottage garden, and, at its best, the border is a subtle work of form, texture, and color—all used to together to delight the soul. Properly planned, the border changes with the seasons.
Traditionally the staples in the mixed border were non-edible flowers, mostly perennials, with a sprinkling of annuals for quick color. Popular perennial flower choices for this type of ornamental border were iris, peony, phlox, dalia, dais, chrysanthemum, poppy, and the like. A new variation in today’s perennial border is the addition of beautiful edibles such as ruby chard and flowering kale; plus a number of savory and attractive herbs such as variegated sage and dill; edible flowers such as nasturtium and carnation for your salads and desserts; and, to add still another dimension, fragrance, choose sweet-smelling lavender and stock. For many more choices, see the lists of flowers and beautiful edibles below.
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