[singlepic id=59 w=320 h=240 float=right]The quintessential English country cottage garden is one of grace and charm with riotous colour, tall hollyhocks, rose arbours, sunflowers lazily leaning against a muted old brick wall and bird baths covered in moss. Mature trees are the canopies under which bluebell and crocus grow in the early part of the year. The style of garden evokes many images but is essentially a very useful garden indeed.
Cottage dwellers in days gone by would have been quite self sufficient in fruits and vegetables and herbs for cooking and for medicine.
The cottage garden would have been of an all together more practical nature than the chocolate box vision we have. Nevertheless, colour and a higgledy-piggledy layout of flowerbeds, shrubs, and winding footpaths is still an easily recognisable feature today. Gloucestershire is one county that takes pride in its gardens and there are still plenty of these old style gardens to be seen.
The real birth of the country cottage garden was in the Tudor period. This was a period of great exploration and global trade was flourishing with new plants and herbs arriving from the Orient and Mediterranean. These new plants sparked an interest in gardening for pleasure and while cottage dwellers were not wealthy and had to be thrifty, they tended to grow more hardy plants and an array of all plant types were common. Annuals, perennials, vegetables, vines, small shrubs, and fruit trees were grown.
The cottage garden reached its height of popularity in the Victorian era as high levels of trade (and wealth) combined with far reaching global exploration resulted in a plethora of new plant species. Garden designers of the time took the humble cottage garden and designed it on a grand scale for the not-so-humble country estate gardens.
A family would live off the produce from the garden and extra seasonal fruit and vegetables would be preserved as jams or chutneys some eaten and some sold at local market fair days. In many larger cottage gardens there would be a house cow, a pig and chickens making a half acre or so sufficient for a family to live off. Hops and flowers would be dried for scent and powdered for medicinal purposes.
Every county has its own flower as an emblem. While we do not know who allocated them, it is nice to know the county flower of Gloucestershire is the Wild Daffodil. Narcissus pseudonarcissus (Wild Daffodil or Lent lily) is a perennial flowering plant, which grows from a bulb. It has pale yellow flowers with a darker central trumpet and the most delicious fresh scent reminiscent of its springtime flowering. The long, narrow leaves are slightly greyish in colour and rise from the base of the stem.
In modern times, the English cottage garden has not lost its appeal, but is quite labour intensive. However, there is nothing more pleasant than sitting in the garden and listening to bird song and enjoying the beauty and scent of the flowers. An amble through the Gloucestershire villages and countryside will show that in this part of the world, cottage gardens have not gone out of fashion and there are some breathtaking gardens to be seen at people’s homes as you wander by. Cooks Green Holiday Cottage has a nice big garden surrounded by miles of beautiful countryside.