After much consideration......

April 1, 2006

Last year we completed a major restoration project on our 120 year old Victorian, and also installed a wrought iron fence surrounding our our approx. 75'long x 25'deep front yard. My original thought was to go with a more formal style garden, but after having lurked here all winter, I have decided that a cottage garden is the way to go! It would also be a lot more fun to do, and I think more appropriate to the style of the house. What do you think??

As you can see from the picture, some basic things went in last year, and now I am wondering if some of that would look wrong with my new plan... The look I am after is sort of "organized caos".... The shrubs up against the porch is Sand Cherry, and New Dawn climbing roses are growing on the

5 trellises against the wood fence. (I would really hate to give those up...) The small tree at the corner of the wood fence is a Serviceberry with 3 Gold Flame Spirea around the base of it. Between the trellises are Crimson Barberry bushes, and on either side of the stairs, Korean Boxwood.

3 Dense Yews in front of the basement window, and a Endless Summer hydrangea on either side of the gate. Inside, along the perimeter of the fence, 27 Carpet Roses! (I know... what was I thinking...) The yard is facing west, but because of many large trees in the area, not all of it gets full sun. I would be very grateful to all of you talented cottage gardeners if you would make suggestion as to what I should start with, in order to achieve the look I am after.

Let me know if you need more pictures.


Thank You!


Comments (31)

  • girlgroupgirl

    OH MY!
    That looks like it should be house off of the website we are discussing on the discussion forum! GORGEOUS!!!

    I actually think your choices are pretty good, considering the size of area you are gardening on there. Keeping simple here, might just be the thing do do. The only other option I would consider is removing the grass if you want to do that, and use the space to create a cottage garden. It would make mowing easier :)


  • faltered

    Elizabeth: Oh my gosh, we need to see more photos of your house!! Ok, maybe I need to see more photos.

    Your fence is wonderful and what little I can see of your house is great. I think you can have formal elements in a cottage garden. To me, cottage gardens are really whatever you want them to be. We have a lot of southern gardeners whose gardens are often more tropical than us northerners. But they're still cottage!

    Hope you'll stick around and share more photos with us. I'd love to see the rest of your yard and house!


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  • courtskey83

    yes, more photos of the house! I love how the entry is on a diagonal.

  • lavendrfem

    Hi Elizabeth,

    What a beautiful house and garden - I think what you've done looks wonderful with the house. the shrubs you have planted already act as anchors in the beds so I think they look great. Maybe put some lavender under the roses, and you can fill in the pots and window boxes with browalia. They do well in a bit of shade and it looks like you might have some near the front porch. Some lower growing peony poppies in the beds near the front entrance/sidewalk might look nice. You could also fill in with some annuals in between the shrubs you have planted.

    but honestly - I think it looks beautiful so far. Post some more pictures as your garden grows! we'd love to see!

  • Steveningen

    Very, very pretty Elizabeth. Illinois, my old stomping grounds. I'm glad this house found capable hands. I think the cottage look would be amazing against a backdrop like that.

    I'm not a big fan of carpet rose, but they certainly do provide a big bang. They just remind me too much of shopping mall median strips (no offense intended). My recommendation is to leave some, but move at least half. From there, you can let your own good taste decide. So many flowers, so little time. It's certain to be stunning.

  • Steveningen

    And sorry, Elisabeth...I spelled your name incorrectly.

  • debbieca

    Elisabeth, I am glad you came out from lurking : ) I think you might want to watch for a summer to see how the things you already have work for you. My garden has grown slowly due that approach but I do think it is a good one. You add a bit and stand back and appreciate each new bloom then add a bit more the next year. What you have to start will make good bones for whatever you decide to add.


  • FlowerLady6

    Elisabeth ~ Your home and gardens are lovely and I too would love to see more pictures. Pictures are always inspiring to all of us.


  • elisabeth_rose

    Thank you so much for the suggestions and comments. I am now itching to get to it! If this turns out as well as I hope, I would have no problem removing the grass to plant there as well, probably a little at the time. Lavender is definitely part of my plan. Actually I planted something I thought was lavender last year, but it turned out kind of strange looking. Mostly foliage with some long kind of curly stems with tiny bluish flowers at the tips??? (I told you I am a beginner at this.) What is browalia?
    I hear you about the carpet roses Steveningen. The rabbits have gnawed most of them to the ground during the winter, so I am not sure they will all come back. Oh well....
    Thank you also, everyone, for the nice comments about the house. It has been quite an adventure. I have posted a bit of it on the Old House forum.


    Another view


    Front porch


  • southernheart

    Elisabeth, your home, fence and gardens are absolutely lovely....so inviting!


  • dayleann

    Someday I hope my house looks that nice! You have a perfect setting for a cottage style garden, Elisabeth. Why don't you start with that far end, remove the grass, and just fill with flowers-- cram them in, maybe use a limited palette at first, use some taller ones along the fence. If something doesn't quite work, you can move it somewhere else or give it away.

    I'd love to see progress reports on your garden so I can steal your ideas!

    Dayle Ann

    As most of us will attest, our gardens are always in a state of flux, anyway. You could gradually move toward the entry if doing it all at once seems too overwhelming (that is how I do things).

  • libbyshome

    A beautiful home, Elisabeth

    Browallia is a tender perennial with small blue flowers. Too much fertilizer will give you lush foliage but few flowers. It doesn't like too much hot sun.

    I think the lavender you bought was Spanish....sometimes called French. I guess you where expecting English lavender.
    This link may help identify yours.

    Here is a link that might be useful: lavenders

  • Steveningen

    You have such a pretty home. You will be amazed at how this style of gardening will enhance what you have. It's totally shouting "cottage." Libby is correct about the lavender. For garden scent, you want English lavender.

    Why, oh why, couldn't you live next door to me?

  • Eduarda

    Elisabeth, I feel like I've died and gone to Heaven! I would feel so much at home in the middle of that Victoriana! Beutiful, that's all I can say! Your wrought iron fence is very similar to what is usually used in Portuguese traditional houses, so that was a familiar sight for me too.

    As for the garden, I think the choices of shrubs that you have done so far are perfect and will provide you with the backbones. I would add some hollies to your list, they are a good evergreen for Winter interest and look so wonderful at Christmas time. OMG, can you envision this house all decorated for Christmas?

    I do still see a lot of mulch in between the shrubs, so these spots are crying to be crammed full of plants, hence creating the cottage look. My motto is "if you can still see the ground, then there are not enough plants/flowers/roses, etc." (delete as aplicable) ;-) Hang around this forum, in no time you'll be struggling to get all the new plants you want to try in the ground. :-)


  • haxuan

    Elisabeth, how lovely your home looks! I can almost 'feel' the cool breeze around it. I just want to repeat what stevenningen just said "why couldn't you live next door to me?"
    Thanks for the pics.
    Xuan (from Vietnam)

  • eks6426

    Elisabeth--first I want to comment on your name because mine is spelled like yours with an "s" and I don't run into too many people with that spelling.

    Secondly--your house is fabulous. Many of us dream of such a background for our cottage gardens. I agree on ripping out the grass. It will give you a lot more options. You might make paths of brick/stone etc. through the flowers so you can tend to them and just enjoy them.

    On the flower choices--English lavender does smell very nice--but doesn't grow that well in zone 5b. I've had luck with hidicote and lavender lady varieties and I am in your zone. They smell delightful to me. How about some tall spire type flowers--hollyhocks, foxgloves, delphiniums? You could get some clematis to grow up your trellises...even the ones with the roses. Don't forget to add some evergreens if you rip up the grass because it's so depressing to be looking at nothing for 5 months of the year in the winter. Maybe some dwarf red/yellow twig dogwoods too. Don't forget spring bulbs. Good luck.

  • elisabeth_rose

    Thank you again everyone. I find this so very helpful and encouraging! And believe me, I would love it if any one of you would move in next door!!! (Long story)
    Eduarda, the picture is for you.


  • Nicki

    Oh Wow, Elizabeth! LOVE your home, and you have a great start on your garden.

    You are at the other end of the zone spectrum, so I'll skip any plant advice... but you've gotten some great suggestions. And you're doing just great on your own.

    I absolutely cannot wait to see how those New Dawn roses look when they fill out. Do they get as monsterous for you up there? I've seen photos of just one New Dawn swallowing the side of a house. So gorgeous.

    The photo of your porch is most inviting. The light is so soft and it looks like a great place to enjoy the garden from.

    No Steven! You can't have her! She needs to live next door to me! :)

  • fammsimm

    Absolutely lovely, Elisabeth. I particularly love the gingerbread details along the porch and roofline. It gives your house a fairy tale quality. :-)

    Your house at Christmas is just beautiful. The evergreen roping, wreaths and red bows are the frosting on the cake!


  • Eduarda

    OMG, Elisabeth, I'm still gasping! Definitely some red twig dogwoods, a couple of hollies and oh, a Christmas tree! You got to have a Christmas tree! If you don't want to plant it on the ground, as I have done, you can have a potted one in your porch, all trimmed. Anne (homenovice) did that last Christmas and I thought it was beautiful. Who says Winter has to be a dull season in the garden?

    Can you tell I'm a Christmas nut? :-)

    Your house is fantabulous (paraphrasing Dawn)

  • altorama Ray

    i think you need some clematis!! you can grow them with
    your roses too. They would look great on those trellises.

    'blue moon'


    'mme.julia correvon'-extremely vigorous & easy to grow


    'roogucci'-another almost too vigorous

    and maybe some peonies?
    your house is beautiful!


  • debbieca

    Elisabeth, I keep thinking what a great job you did choosing your fence. The snow scene really accents your design choices.

    Alida, Neat photos! I just started two Julia Correvon, Neat to see what they may look like, but I hope not too vigorous!

  • bellarosa

    What a cute home! I would add some low maintenance perennials like phlox, catmint, rudbeckia, purple coneflowers and daylilies. Its a good idea to plant in groups of 3 or more. Do you have room to add an arbor somewhere? I think that would be a nice touch.

  • girlgroupgirl

    Thanks for the clematis photos! I was trying to figure out what my "red" clematis was (labled Niobe, it was not)...it's mme.julia correvon! I grow her in the Cramoisi Superior and they are fantabulous together.

    Elisabeth, if you have rabbit problems, try ordering a product called Deervik. I get it for my mother. It is stinky and you dip little sticks into it (they give you some, but you can use any stick of any kind), then you place these short sticks around your plants. That has been the only thing that has kept rabits from eating off my Mom's plants and bulbs. The bonus is, it works in winter too, when other products freeze and do not smell.

    The house is perfection personified!!


  • elisabeth_rose

    Again everyone, thank you. I am sooo looking forward to starting my new garden adventure!

    GGG, rabbits have been quite a problem for me for some time. Behind the woodfence we have a courtyard where I have done most of my gardening so far (mostly annuals) and every year the rabbits would eat everything in sight. We discovered that they were living under our deck out there, so we got them out and covered their entrances up with chicken wire. Since the courtyard is completely fenced in we thought that was that, but think again! They dug down under the fence and got in that way. We filled their holes with stone and covered it up, and they dug somewhere else. Again and again and again........
    We finally solved that problem by digging down about 18" under the entire fence and installing some stainless steel kind of wire, guarantied not to rust. That then was attached to the bottom of the fence. They now have turned their attention to the front yard. It was suggested that we should line the inside of the iron fence with chicken wire, but that would kind of ruin the look I am after.... Someone suggested fabric softener sheets, but the only thing that did was make the varmints smell nice! A friend uses a spray called "Liquid Fence", but that STINKS sooo bad it would be impossible to enjoy the garden, and I would probably be banned from the neighborhood! So, my long-winded question is this: How bad does Deervik smell?

    Altorama, I have thought of adding Clematis to my trellises, but after Nicki said that one New Dawn rose is capable of eating a small house, I am a little apprehensive about what these 5 will do..... They were planted last year as tiny little seedlings, and as you can see, by the end of the season they were up to the top of the fence. We'll see....

    Bellarosa, I love the fragrance of phlox, and will absolutely have some of that. I have heard that they are prone to bad mildew problems though.

    Eduarda, I did actually have a Christmas tree on the porch last year. It was not up yet at the time that picture was taken.



  • altorama Ray

    in zone 5, i'm not sure New Dawn will get to house-eating
    size here. how did they do over the winter?

  • elisabeth_rose

    Since my New Dawns were so new and still very vulnerable last fall, I covered them with mulch, garden fleece and burlap for the winter. I just uncovered them today, and lo and behold, not a single inch of cane was lost!!!! Can't wait to see how they do this season! We have had such a strange, relatively mild winter, that I was worried that I had over done it and perhaps smothered them. Now let's just hope they leave the house alone :)


  • BecR

    Elisabeth, your Victorian is so very charming---I love it! The snowy holiday pic is drop dead gorgeous with the red bows against the white snow---and interesting as well with the golden fall foliage on the large trees you have there. Very nicely done. The fencing gives just the right Victorian touch, and your porch is so comfy and inviting looking (I esp love the coleus). Your garden looks good as well. So, you have a great start on a charming cottage garden. Let it evolve over several seasons and I am sure you will have a jewel there.

    I don't think wire would hurt the look by the fence---the rabbits would hurt the look more in my opinion. You could camouflage it pretty well with lush plantings.

    I agree to start small and replace some of the lawn with more flowers and meandering brick pathways. I would add some more roses (shrubs), preferably Old Garden Roses. Be sure to check out the Antique Roses Forum here on Garden Web, for advice on what would do well in your climate. Include spring bulbs and daylilies to give you blooms spring thru frost. Can you fit in a small spring flowering tree somewhere (cherry?)--- I love pink & white harbingers of spring and think it would go well with the color scheme (ie your New Dawns).

    I envision a potted fern of some type on your porch, either hanging or on a stand by the door.

    Can't wait to see more pics as your garden progresses.

    Happy gardening. :-)


  • shodorov


    do you remember what that fence cost per foot?


  • lorinscott_1

    Incredible house, Elisabeth! I think you've done a great job with your foundation plantings and adding to them with colorful perenials and annuals would really boost your cottage factor. Agreed that stone pathways would look beautiful and thinning out the carpet roses is a good idea. Daylillies, Shasta daiseys and Knock-Out roses would be pretty. It might be a fun bit of whimsey to cut strips out of one of the "islands" of grass in a maze shape.....and plant up the middle.

    I, too, am anxious to see how the New Dawn roses perform....they are so lovely and will be gorgeous on your fence.

  • PattiOH

    Elisabeth, your fence adds so much to an already BEAUTIFUL home. Very pretty grounds as well. I'm looking forward to seeing how your cottage garden develops!

    Shodorov, don't be shy, just say what's on your mind!


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