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Create a Texas-Style Cottage Garden

Forget water-intensive privets and thirsty rose trellises. Options abound for pretty, posh plants that are as drought-tough as they are bucolic and cozy.

England in the 1870s saw the rise of the cottage garden, a style of landscaping that involved dense plantings and informal design. These landscapes are irregular and unpretentious with grass replaced by flowers.

While extensive, lush vegetable gardens and bountiful rose trellises are too water-intensive to implement in our often hot, dry climate, there are drought-resistant plants you can grow to create a south Texas friendly cottage garden.

One major component is the dense planting, which has the added benefit of less weeding. It takes a full three years for plants to fill in, so when first planning your cottage garden consider how large the plants will be when mature. In general, you’ll want to provide at least 12 inches between plants.

cottage garden

You’ll also want to utilize plant staging — placing taller and larger plants closer to the house, with shorter bushier plants at the front. Ideal large plants with brilliant colors include esperanza, American beautyberry, agarita and cenizo. Mid-sized plants could include sages or lantana.

esperanza flower

Smaller plants that are wonderful for staging in front include gayfeather, monarda and all the wildflowers you can think of. Climbing plants also add a lot of dimension to cottage gardens and look especially nice climbing up trellises or fences. Some of my favorites with brilliant blooms are passion flower, crossvine and Alamo vine.

cottage garden vines and seating area

Lastly, accessorize your garden! A cute picket fence creates a confined elegance on your plot of wilderness. A small trellis adds whimsy and wicker chairs with comfy cushions provide a place for you to enjoy your small space of solitude.

That’s it. Slip into your favorite calico print and live up your English cottagecore dreams.

Sarah Gorton
Sarah Gorton
Sarah Gorton is a Planner with the SAWS Conservation department. She is passionate about bats and native plants, with a particular fondness for horseherb! Sarah has completed certifications through Texas Master Naturalist and Native Plant Society. When she isn't working on her research on the use of native grasses for uptaking pollutants at UTSA, she can be found making stained glass or hanging out with her two Chihuahuas.
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