The Best Plants for a Cottage Garden

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The Best Plants for a Cottage Garden

I have always loved cottage garden landscapes.  Did you know they originated among peasants in England {with every plant having a purpose, i.e. hedge to provide privacy, herbs for cooking, medicinal plants, flowers for cutting, etc.}?

I love that even though they appeared chaotic and untamed, they were actually a well-thought use of space–I wonder if English peasants would laugh at the idea of suburbanites paying landscapers good money to replicate their style?

pink roses

The key to cottage gardens is to find and layer plants that will provide color from early spring to late fall–as well as having shrubs, etc. that are evergreens, so that even in the winter, you have clearly defined landscaping.

Most cottage gardens are densely planted for this reason–plus, as an added bonus, the dense plantings offer less space for weeds to thrive.  Remember to mix in other organic elements, like gravel, walking stones, etc.


Here’s the 411 on the best plants to start your cottage garden:

  1. Coralbells.  These are typically pink, red or white flowers that bloom in early spring.  They attract hummingbirds and add great color to semi-shaded spots.
  2. Daisy.  Daisy flowers are pretty much required in a cottage garden.  They are hardy and look great in a simple vase.
  3. Foxglove.  Foxgloves look like little bright colored bells.  They have a habit of reseeding themselves each year, so they are pretty low maintenance for the the high impact color they provide.
  4. Hollyhock.  Hollyhocks are  perennials, which basically means a one-time investment.  They are typically taller {4-8 feet}, with a wide choice of flower colors.  They are perfect for a layered cottage garden look.  In beds, these can be planted near the back, with shorter flowers planted in front of them for a wall of color.Sequim Lavender Festival and Street Fair
  5. Lavender.  Lavender is one of those ornamental herbs that can provide you with TONS of uses.  Lavender has deep purple flowers that attract bees.  It can also be dried or added to tons of recipes to add a delicate flavor.  I think EVERY garden needs Lavender.
  6. Violas.  Violets always make me think of Alice and Wonderland.  They are perfect for the garden, because they add color to cooler seasons.  For looking so delicate, they actually can withstand spring and fall weather really well, giving you a much needed burst of color in bleaker gray weather.
  7. Boxwoods.  Boxwoods are an evergreen shrub that are favored in cottage gardens because they can be groomed and shaped to either provide privacy or to define spaces within the garden.
  8. Forsythia.  Forsythia is a large shrub that blooms bright yellow in the spring and then stays green through late fall.  Most rose gardeners tell you to wait to prune your roses until the Forsythia blooms–they are a fantastic addition to the garden for that reason alone {they are like a little spring alarm clock}.  They have a kind of wild, untamed look with a pop of color.basil plant
  9. Basil and Thyme.  Edible herbs are essential to a cottage garden, not just because they are usable, but also because they detract pests.
  10. Peony.  Peonies are crazy beautiful and basically thrive on neglect.  They add color and size to the garden–plus they smell amazing when they are blooming.
  11. Iris.  Iris flowers are great cut and placed in vases {I used to bring them to my teachers in the spring when I was a little girl}.  You typically start them from bulbs {or transplants from a neighbor} and they come in basically EVERY color imaginable.  They are another one of those one time effort plants and look super classy when they are planted with a green backdrop {think:  evergreens or ornamental grasses}.Ornamental Grass
  12. Ornamental grasses.  Grasses are a low maintenance way to get green into your landscaping {or purple}.  They are pretty much impossible to kill and they make fantastic backdrops for more colorful flowers.
  13. Hosta.  Hosta is another great pop of green color.  They are great because they can tolerate quite a bit of shade, they are perennials, and they have shoots of tall purple flowers in the spring.
  14. Sweet William.  Sweet William is another flower that usually self-seeds, making it a low-maintenance choice.  It has clusters of bright colored, highly fragrant flowers.  Hummingbirds and butterflies love them.  Some varieties even have purple leaves, which adds another color dimension to the garden without really even having to try.hydrangea
  15. Hydrangea.  Hydrangeas have massive flowers, in a variety of color.  They usually bloom from June to September, so you get a lot of bang for your buck.
  16. Catnip.  Catnip is an extremely hardy green herb.  It makes great tea and repels mosquitoes.  If you are looking to put your plants to work, this one will do the job.
  17. Cone Flower/Echinacea.  Cone flowers are typically purple {though you can definitely find other colors} perennials with huge orange cone-like centers.  They attract birds to the garden and bloom from June to August.
  18. Bleeding Hearts.  Bleeding hearts are so pretty and delicate, they are almost unreal.  They are prized because they have beautiful heart-shaped flowers, but thrive in the shade.
  19. Delphinium.  Delphinium are short-lived bloomers, but they are literally so breath-taking when they do bloom, they are totally worth it.  The colors on these tall flowers {about 20″} are so vibrant, they almost seem unreal.
  20. Lady’s Mantle.  Lady’s mantle makes great ground cover.  It has large green foliage and gets tiny yellow flowers throughout the summer.  It is happy in full-sun to part-shade.

Happy planting,


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Mavis Garden Blog – Seedling Updates and Pictures

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basil seedlings

This year we are growing almost all of our garden vegetables {and flowers} from seed. I thought it would be fun show you how a few of the seedlings are doing.

If you’ve never started your seeds indoors before, not only is it easy to do, but it’s kind of nice to be able to grow something indoors when the weather is so stinkin’ chilly outside.

I like to plant seedlings in flats, to save space under the grow lights. This year I am growing 3 different kinds of basil.  Last year was my first successful year growing it and I think it may have been because I grew the basil in the greenhouse.

pepper seedlings

Peppers seedlings. The first true leaves should start to appear soon.

tomato plants 6 weeks

Check out these tomato plants I started back on February 1st.  Don’t you think the stems look nice and plump? Since the Handsome Husband killed off my heirloom tomato plants last year when I was out of town, this year I planted a second batch of seeds last week for back up. Hopefully we will have a ton of tomato plants to set out and extras to donate if all goes well. We shall see.

zinnia seedlings

Zinnias. The leaves look so happy I want to squeeze them!

grow lights

This is what the set up looks like. I have 2 tables set up next to my desk so I can keep an eye on the plants and talk to them.

As soon as the weather warms up a bit I think I’ll try and figure out a way to camouflage an extension cord and bring the whole grow light set up out to the greenhouse though.

Having a bunch of grow lights on in the front room when it’s dark outside and having the neighbors drive by and then call you to find out why there is a glowing light peering through your blinds at 10 pm is a little awkward.

Ahhhh Ha Ha!

Living in the suburbs is awesome.


P.S. Are you using grow lights this year? If so, what are you starting from seed?

grow lights

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Mavis Garden Blog – Pictures of Tomato, Kale and Artichoke Seedlings

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seedlings grow lights

I thought I would give you an update today on how some of our seedlings are doing. I’m sure you know by now I am a big fan of grow lights. But the thing is, I’m running out of room. I can only fit 6 trays under my 3 lights.

Pretty soon I’ll have to start hardening some transplants off and moving them to the greenhouse. I still need to get some sort of heater set up out there, hopefully I’ll get around to it this weekend, we’ll see. I may also start a few seeds and prop them up against the sunniest windows in the living room too. I’m sure the HH will be thrilled with the news.

tomato seedling

I planted my first bath of tomato seeds on February 1st and the first set of true leaves are just starting to appear. I don’t know what it is about those first set of true leaves, but they sure make me smile. Maybe it’s because I know I’m only about 5 months away from biting in to a real homegrown tomato.

tomato seedling 1 week

I started my second batch of tomato seeds 7 days ago. They are cute too, but it’s not the same as seeing those defined tomato leaves.

kale seedling

This is kale. Whoop t do. After seeing {and later posting} this picture on facebook, I am determined to grow a giant, lush border of kale around the chicken coop. Not only will my hens enjoy pecking at the leafy greens from behind the fence {which I will totally allow them to do} but when the kale garden has reached it’s peak, I think I’ll open the chicken run and let them have one giant kale feast.

Although, I’m not exaclty sure how I’m going to weigh the kale if I do that. Hmmm. I may need to re-think this idea.

artichoke seedling 6 weeks

Any my artichokes! Take a look, they are doing a great job of acclimating to the great outdoors. I set the artichokes out for an hour outside the first day, and two hours yesterday. Today I will bump it up to four hours, and hopefully by the end of next week all 40+ artichoke plants will be living outside in the greenhouse until it’s time to plant.

Yee- Haw! Starting seeds is fun.

So, have you started any seedlings yet?

How is it going? Are you using grow lights or the windowsill this year?

Mavis wants to know.


This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Mavis Garden Blog – Grow Light Set Up and Pictures of Seedlings

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indoor grow light set up

Several of you have been asking me to post a pictures of my grow light set up. It’s nothing fancy. Just 3 sets of grow lights {2 were purchased last year} sitting on a few old tables in my office next to the computer. If the Handsome Husband had his way, these grow lights would be set up in the garage, in the greenhouse, or pretty much anywhere else out of sight.

But the thing is, I wouldn’t be able to SEE my seedlings everyday and track their progress if they were far away {out of sight out of mind}. Plus, I’d probably forget to water them as well, which of course, would not be good.

artichoke seedlings

Take a look at the artichokes! I planted these on January 2nd and their true leaves are just now starting to appear. I think it’s amazing how the packet of artichoke seeds I planted costs $1.99 each and I now have 51 little artichoke starts {I planted 3 packets}.

Most grocery stores sell 1 single artichoke for around $2.50 each. Holy cow batman! All I have to do is give these babies a little TLC and by the end of summer I will have saved a fortune. It’s pretty crazy when you break it down like that.

lettuce seedlings

The Mesclun lettuce was started on January 8th and is looking sharp. The lettuce will need to be divided up and transplanted to larger pots soon. I love that I can grow lettuce indoors anytime of the year.

onion seedlings

The onions were planted on January 1st and still look like aliens.

grow wheat grass indoors

And HELLO wheatgrass! This is my second planting and I had no idea wheatgrass was so awesome in smoothies. I should totally open my own wheatgrass juice bar.

Well, there you have it. That’s how I am starting my seeds indoors this year.

How and when are YOU starting your seedlings this year? Or maybe you’re not starting seeds, but buying starts at a local nursery this year instead. Either way you look at it, gardening is rad.

Peace Out Girl Scouts,

♥ Mavis

Mini Farming: Self-Sufficiency on 1/4 Acre By Brett L. Markham

Looking for a great gardening book?

Mini Farming describes a holistic approach to small-area farming that will show you how to produce 85 percent of an average family’s food on just a quarter acre—and earn $10,000 in cash annually while spending less than half the time that an ordinary job would require.

Even if you have never been a farmer or a gardener, this book covers everything you need to know to get started: buying and saving seeds, starting seedlings, establishing raised beds, soil fertility practices, composting, dealing with pest and disease problems, crop rotation, farm planning, and much more. ~ Amazon

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

How to Make a Succulent Terrarium

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How To Create a Terrarium

The Girl and I decided to make a terrarium the other day after having spotted 2 large shelves filled with mini cactus and succulents at the Home Depot. I don’t know about you, but I just can’t seem to stay away from that place no matter how hard I try.

We couldn’t resist the fat little succulent plants, and it’s nothing sort of a miracle we didn’t bring every single one of them home with us.

If you have never built a succulent terrarium before they are super easy to make, and really are a lot of fun if you enjoy indoor gardening. Oh, and did I mention terrariums are extremely low maintenance too?


How to Make a Succulent Terrarium

Select a container that has a wide opening. Your container can be virtually anything that has glass sides to view your plants. We wanted a specific look, so we decided to spend a little more on a container rather than use a glass vase. The Girl found this mini greenhouse at Target in the Smith and Hawkin Section.

Terrarium rocks

To get started, place about  a 2-inch layer of gravel on the bottom of your container to allow for drainage. Keep in mind you’ll probably want to use decorative rocks for a more finished look. We found these at Ikea for $0.89 a bag.

Terrarium plants

Next place a thin layer of activated charcoal where your plants will be. This will act as an air purifier since we are using a closed top container. Next add a bit of cactus soil {found at Home Depot} around the base of where you will be setting your plants. You’ll probably want to spread the soil over all of the rocks, but we chose not to, because our plants are tiny and had rather shallow roots. Remove the plants from their pots and place them in the soil.

How To Create a Terrarium plants

Next, add a small layer of sand, and then some small pebbles to cover the sand {but only if you have OCD like me and don’t want the sand to be visible}.

glass chicken

Finally, add an accent item like a figurine, a small vintage toy or a tiny glass chicken ornament your mother gave you for Christmas that you named Glenda.

How To Create a Terrarium

The #1 reason terrariums fail is because people over water them, so only water your plants every two weeks or so. Also, make sure you place your succulent terrarium someplace that will receive at least 5 or 6 hours a day.

Keep Calm and Carry On.


Tiny World Terrariums

For more ideas on building your own terrariums, check out out the highly rated book Tiny World Terrariums: A Step-by-Step Guide to Easily Contained Life.

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Mavis Garden Blog – Seedlings Update

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onion seedlings

Granex Yellow Onions – Planted January 1st, 2013

One of the things I want to be better at this year is documenting my garden in real time, from start to finish. A sort of photographic journey as I plant, sow, and harvest my backyard bounty.

I think so many times when we read books and magazines on how to garden, it seems so overwhelming. All we really want is someone to reach out from behind the pages and give us a helping hand. To show us HOW TO DO IT, and not just tell us how. And that my friends, is what I hope to accomplish this year with all these silly little garden updates and pictures of mine.

artichoke seedlings

Green Globe Improved & Purple Romagna Artichoke – Planted January 4th, 2013

Like I’ve said many times before, I am not an expert, just some crazy lady who really enjoys gardening and has the space to do it. So if you find yourself in the comment section, and you know the answer, please, jump in and help us out if you can.

lettuce seedlings

Valentine Mesclun Lettuce - January 8th, 2013

Because with each others help, I think we can all have a successful garden, no matter what the size this year. I don’t know about you, but I am counting down the days until the heirloom tomatoes start to roll in.

Homemade salsa here we come!

In it to win it baby!  This year is going to be awesome!


For those of you who have wondered how I am able to start my seeds so early, I have been using the  Hydrofarm 4-Foot Jump Start T5 Grow Light System. I purchased 2 sets off at the beginning of the 2012 growing season, and my ability to start healthy seedlings has forever changed. I used to start my seedlings in the family room next to the window, and I had some success with it, but from here on out, I am totally sold on grow lights. I love them, and totally recommend them.

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

Indoor Gardening – How to Grow Your Own Sprouts

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how to grow your own sprouts

Last week I got a craving for an egg salad sandwich. But in my book, no egg sandwich would be complete without a thick slice of onion and some sprouts. So I decided to pull my Victorio 4-Tray Kitchen Seed Sprouter out of the cupboard, and get growing.

If you have never tried to grow your own sprouts before, you should give it a try.  Not only are sprouts SUPER easy to grow, but growing your own sprouts are ridiculously inexpensive as well.

how to sprout seedsDay 1

Before you can actually start your sprouts you’ll need to disinfect the seeds by placing them in a mixture of 2% bleach solution {1 cup water to 1tsp. bleach} for 15 minutes. From there you simply rinse the seeds thoroughly, and you are ready to go.

After placing about a 1/2 tablespoon of seeds on each tray, I stacked up the trays, added 2 cups of water to the top of the tray, and placed the tower out of direct sunlight. Then, I simply waited for the water to drain through the seed trays into the collection tray below.

I disposed of the water once it had drained, then repeated to “water” the seeds with fresh water every 12 hours until it was time to harvest them.

how to sprout seeds

Day 2

On the second day you can really see the seeds start to bust open.

how to grow sprouts

Day 4

By the fourth day the sprouts were ready to eat, but we were all out of eggs, so I let them grow a little longer.

botanical interests sandwich mix seed sprouts

Day 5

On harvest day I weighed the sprouts and was surprised to learn that I could grow 5 ounces of fresh, organic sandwich sprouts with just under 2 tablespoons of seeds. I’m not sure how much they sell sprouts in the stores for, but growing your own is totally worth it! Plus, if you have kiddos in the house, it’s a fun “learning” project on these cold, rainy, winter days.

Have YOU ever grown your own sprouts before?

If so, what are your favorite kind to grow?


how to grow your own sandwich sprouts

Victorio 4-Tray Kitchen Seed Sprouter {I LOVE mine!}
Sprouts – Sandwich Mix

This post may contain affiliate links. These affiliate links help support this site. For more information, please see my disclosure policy. Thank you for supporting One Hundred Dollars a Month.

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